Almost nine months after their first open letter, the group of 14 eminent Indians on October 3 dashed off a second open letter to the government. Apart from being more elaborate than the previous edition, the second letter acknowledges the existence of a strong nexus between corporates, politicians, bureaucrats and power brokers.
Signatories to this letter include former ICICI chairman N Vaghul, former HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, Godrej & Boyce Chairman Jamshyd Godrej, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Keshub Mahindra, Thermax Chairperson Anu Aga, former Reserve Bank of India governors Bimal Jalan and Professor M Narasimham, former Supreme Court judges Justice Sam Variava and Justice B N Srikrishna, distinguished chartered accountant Yezdi Malegam, A Vaidyanathan, who is a member of the prime minister's Economic Advisory Council, and Nachiket Mor, who used to be at ICICI but is now a social enterpreneur, and Dr Ashok Ganguly, former chairman of Hindustan Lever and a Rajya Sabha MP.
Dr Ganguly spoke to rediff.com's Prasanna Zore about the various issues mentioned in the second letter. Interestingly, he says, the concrete proposals -- to tackle coruption and governance deficit -- that were to come a few weeks soon after the first letter in January 2011 are "almost complete" and could be placed before the parliamentary committee.
Your second open letter to 'our leaders' talks about a number of issues related to governance and nexus between certain corporates and politicians, bureaucrats and power brokers. Have you go any response, feedback from either of these constituencies?
Nothing other than what you have read in the newspapers.
Have you got any feedback from the corporate sector criticising or praising your letter?
No, nothing from anybody yet.
Your letter talks about the need for the urgent passage of a "well-crafted" Lokpal Bill. What exactly do you mean by the term 'well-crafted'?
Deliberations are on right now. There is a parliamentary committee that is working on it right now. We are waiting for the committee to submit its report to Parliament and for Parliament to pass it after a thorough debate.
Would the group of 14 want the office of the prime minister, the judiciary and the CBI to come under the purview of the Lokpal?
The matter is before the parliamentary committee. We don't have a view on it.
Didn't it come up for discussion before you and the 13 other eminent people who drafted the second open letter?
No, we did not discuss these issues.
Would you approve of the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Team Anna?
I do not know any Hazare, I have no comments to make.
When we spoke last on January 20, three days after your first open letter, you had stated that within a few weeks your group will propose concrete suggestions to the government on how to tackle the issues of governance deficit and corruption. It's almost nine months after that and you have still not come up with anything concrete. Why this delay?
These issues had to be studied carefully and now we have almost completed it. When these issues come up for discussions we will submit our study to the parliamentary committee. Also, we did not want to jump up and down and go on sending letters. We thought of waiting till the time we would have something meaningful to say which we did, and now that we have something we have sent the second open letter.
You have mentioned that a 'strong nexus exists between certain corporates, politicians, bureaucrats and power brokers'. Why do you think so?
Why would you think so, with all that we read in the newspapers?!
So you are talking about the mining scam, the 2G scam...
We are not talking about any scams. We are talking about the cases that the Supreme Court is looking into.
Your January 17 letter was mum about this nexus. Is it an afterthought in your second letter?
No, this is not an afterthought. So many things have happened between (our) last letter and this letter.
You also want a strong act on the lines of the Bribery Act 2010 passed in the UK to stem the rot of corruption in India.
Something similar to it. It (The Bribery Act, 2010) is up to the people (the lawmakers) to study and adapt it to Indian conditions.
If such a law were to come into effect, would it help stave off corporate corruption?
I don't want to speculate on it. Let us see what happens. I cannot speculate what will happen (once such a law is passed), what kind of action will be taken (against corporates).
In your second open letter you have raised concerns about the impasse on environmental clearances. What do you make of the cases of corruption in the mining sector that are coming out in the states of Goa and Karnataka?
These are all sad events. I don't know whether our letter will have any impact on it or not.
What is your stand on the Mines and Mineral Development Regulation Bill that was approved recently by the Union Cabinet? It talks about coal miners sharing 26 per cent of the profits with the affected people...
Let it come before Parliament. I am an MP. Let the discussion take place.
As an MP would you support such a bill?
I will have to study it in detail to understand all the nuances of it. Sharing of wealth on which people reside is a normal issue which needs to be explored.