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Enough is enough, says Premji on corruption

Last updated on: January 27, 2011 09:40 IST

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Noted industrialist Azim Premji, who was named for the coveted Padma Vibhushan this year, has said he is 'extremely disappointed' with the performance of the government at the Centre.

Wipro chairman Premji, who along with a number of eminent personalities had recently written an open letter on a 'governance deficit', said they would focus on the "complete breakdown in public governance across the board."

"I am extremely disappointed. I think it is a national calamity and is personally very devastating because one had so much confidence when they (UPA-II) came in," he said when asked whether the present government was "unable to deliver".

"But I think, it has reached a point of catharsis. And when something reaches a point of catharsis, there seems to be no alternative but to change. I am optimistic...," he said.

He said the group (of eminent personalities) would follow up the matter with "fairly concrete" action recommendations as to what can lift the level of governance and make it more focused.

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Image: Wipro Chairman Azim Premji.
Photographs: Reuters
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"We think it is important. We focus attention on the complete breakdown in public governance across the board, whether it be government, or businessmen, or traders...," he said.

"One has reached a point in public governance where one has to take stock... Enough is enough, we have to reform ourselves. If we don't do that, we are not going to leave children behind us proud of the country, despite 8-9 per cent (economic) growth."

Recently, a group of prominent personalities, including Premji, Mahindra & Mahindra chairman Keshub Mahindra, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, former RBI Governors M Narasimham and Bimal Jalan, among others, had expressed concern over a series of scams that pointed toward a "governance deficit".

In the letter, they had asked the government to deal with burning issues like corruption urgently.

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Photographs: Reuters
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"We will make concrete recommendations to the government and we will pursue them with tenaciousness...," Premji said.

On the award, he said: "I am quite honoured. It is a prestigious award. I am humbled to receive it."

He said the signatories to the open letter have identified a few steps that can result in the highest standards of governance.

Citing the example of "sacrosanct" regulatory bodies like Sebi and the RBI, Premji asked, "Why can't we make something like that in environment? A regulatory organisation separate from minister or secretary?"

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Photographs: Reuters
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He, however, said they did not get any response from the Indian government on the open letter.

"We did not expect a response, but there have been individual meetings with some people. Our objective was not to antagonise the government, but we want them to implement... We are in a state of limbo."

On the issue of black money stashed abroad, he said, "Every country that has some scent of it (black money) is going after it. Its an issue of public morality which is at stake here."

"What you need is tenaciousness. The United States has the tenaciousness to go after people who are involved in it... When pressure builds and builds... you have to have change, because you have a situation of catharsis," Premji said.

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Photographs: Reuters
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At the World Economic Forum, speakers were almost unanimous in their view that the centre of gravity in the world economy is shifting in which the West is struggling to keep up with the turbo-charged emerging markets.

The old rich world can't take its prosperity for granted anymore and it will be overtaken by hungrier powers if it fails to do some strategic planning about the new reality.

Premji said it's good for the world economy if the developed countries understand the new reality fast enough.

Asked if countries like India are fed up with the constant lecturing by the West, Premji said the West needs to give up its double standards -- one set of parameters for the emerging nations and the other for the US.

It's good, he said, that multinationals are waking up to this new reality. Citing the example of Ford Motors Company, he said the company recognised the power of the huge consumer class in India, but wanted to design a car for India by sitting in Detroit.

"It's good such companies have understood that you can't push a product down India's throat any more. Look at the success of Ford Figo. It worked because Ford was thinking about a new car for India sitting in India," Premji said, adding that's the new reality which MNCs can ignore only at their own peril.


Photographs: Reuters
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