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In a video conference in mid-2014, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan told employees that he wanted to hire talented external candidates and improve the quality of research at the 81-year-old central bank.

The proposals, described to Reuters by three officials who heard Rajan speak, would hardly seem out of place in any major institution on the planet.

But in the storied halls of the RBI, where staff have to pass comprehensive examinations to join public service and spend decades slowly moving through its ranks, Rajan's ideas were seen by some staff as...

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