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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

Last updated on: August 18, 2011 12:31 IST

India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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At the end of this month, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh and his friends from India Inc - who had earlier collectively written an open letter to the Prime Minister and his political establishment - plan to meet once again and take their own crusade against corruption and governance deficit forward.

The broader sentiment of lack of transparency bothers most in India Inc, but they are yet to come out openly to support Anna Hazare's civil disobedience.

In private conversations, the polarised views are free-flowing, but on record most are diplomatic.

"Our leaders must now show responsible and strong leadership to steer us through a terrible storm India and the global community is going through," said Ajit Gulabchand, chairman, HCC Group.

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Image: Deepak Parekh plans to meet Prime Minister again.

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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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"Where I think the government is going very wrong is its inability to catch the popular mood. In a democratic set-up, everybody has a right to protest, to air a view. Hazare's team should also not be so rigid in their stand," says the CEO of an infrastructure conglomerate, who did not want to be named.

"The mass support of Anna Hazare is rooted in the general frustration and anger of the common people. Hazare is just a catalyst or a vent for this anger," said a Delhi-based entrepreneur, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Even outspoken corporate leaders did not want to get dragged into the specifics of Anna and his struggle.

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Image: Anu Aga will meet to decide the plan of action.

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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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Corruption is part of a bigger malaise of misgovernance, and so the group of 15 - including Parekh, Anu Aga and Keshub Mahindra - who had expressed their anguish in January, will meet to decide their plan of action than get drawn into any debate now.

But quite a few did speak out. Mohandas Pai, former director at Infosys, said: "Cearly, the government underestimated the sense of anger among the people of India. There is no trust between people and the government."

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Image: Keshub Mahindra will participate in the meeting.

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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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Industry chambers have spoken, calling for a balanced reaction from the government. They echo a popular sentiment that while Parliament has the right to make laws, individuals enjoy the freedom of speech and assembly.

"We strongly support any process or mechanism that will lead to good governance and weed out corruption from all walks of life," said Dilip Modi, president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

"Industry believes it has a strong role to play in fighting corruption and, therefore, we have already developed the first version of a Code of Business Ethics," said a spokesperson of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

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Image: Industry leaders say individuals enjoy freedom of speech.

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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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Marico chairman Harsh Mariwala, also chairman of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, is more realistic than many of his peers.

"Anna Hazare is a symbol. The fight is a bigger one on corruption. When you lose faith in the entire system, it becomes difficult for the common man to have confidence in the political establishment.

"But a Lok Pal Bill alone cannot solve all the problems. There has to be a much bigger overhaul of all discretionary powers," he said.

Cyber citizens from India Inc have been active for the past few days. Some have been pragmatic, some circumspect yet cautious, while some are outspoken as ever.

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Image: Harsh Mariwala says a bill alone cannot solve all the problems.

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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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"Let's not be bogged down with scams by a few. Let's hold our heads high and focus on the numerous reasons we have to be proud, independent Indians," tweeted the king of good times and Rajya Sabha MP, Vijay Mallya.

M&M's Anand Mahindra, a corporate leader behind many social campaigns, - seems to suggest the writing is on the wall for all to see.

"Democracy means no voice, however small, must go unheard. The anti-corruption sentiment is not a whisper - it's a scream. Grave error to ignore it," he warned.

Biotech's Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is appalled at what has been happening for the past 48 hours.

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Image: Vijay Mallya wants people not to get bogged down over scams.

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India Inc uneasy at Hazare standoff

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She tweeted several times in seeming despair. "The government is committing political harakiri - as they say, if you are in a hole, stop digging!...." and then added,  "The UPA Government has lost the plot - they have incited the entire country by putting Anna behind bars . The country-wide agitation against Anna's imprisonment can bring the Government down - they don't seem to understand how incandescent the issue."

However, the stoic silence of most others may seem odd as they were vocal in their reactions before, when Hazare first led his protest outside Jantar Mantar in April.

"We are sick of corruption," leading industrialist and Bajaj Auto Chairman Rahul Bajaj had then remarked.

But since then, the slugfest over a Lok Pal and need for a legal framework for it has become overtly political.


Image: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw says the government has lost the plot.

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