You talked of how “profit” has acquired a negative connotation in India. Do you believe there is a way to change this?
We have to somewhere acknowledge the fact that Indian enterprises have made significant contribution to the country’s growth since they came into being and, in particular, after the liberalisation of the economy in the early 1990s. Global corporations have grown out of India and in real terms, millions have prospered. The problem is that the benefits of these reforms haven’t reached a large set of people, mainly in rural India, and that is why there is talk of the ‘other India’, or the rich-poor divide. So, profit gets looked upon as an extension of greed. We must change this perception, and the State should work towards ensuring equitable growth. The industry is willing to support this cause.
You spoke of a more streamlined manner by which governments and the private sector can function together without stepping on each others’ toes. Do you really think this is possible?
Of course. Both the government and private enterprise can bring their strengths to the table and complement each other. Take the example of the telecom sector and see how the entry of private players has seen proliferation of affordable services in every corner of India and at the same time ensured revenues for the government. The government can create an environment that promotes investment through transparent processes and regulations and leverage the private sector’s knowhow, efficiency and capital to drive growth. This will give it sufficient time to focus on promoting equitable growth without getting involved in the operational dynamics.
Transparency in funding of political parties is something that has been the subject of many discussions of late. Should funding be made more transparent?
There is nothing wrong in an individual or corporation contributing to a political party in a democracy. A lot of individual donors and corporations have created electoral trusts for donations to political parties and this should be seen in this correct light. Yes, the political parties should create a transparent system of donations. The larger parties are doing that to some extent and I am confident that going forward, we will see more transparency in this area.
What about lobbying? Are our lawmakers mature enough to handle it? Does it not promote unfair competition?
Lobbying is a somewhat overdone term. Industry groups and NGOs always engage with the government on issues and largely because it is their right to voice their opinion. Sometimes this freedom available in our democracy gets misused by vested interests. But in today’s environment of free media and better awareness, this also leads to healthy debates on issues and hopefully a balanced outcome that suits all stakeholders.
What is your prescription for the future?
I would say India needs the next generation of reforms that create a transparent system and promote inclusive growth.
Kaushik Kashyap is an Assistant Editor with Tehelka.