'Government should encourage more and more entrepreneurs in India'
'When you are in opposition, no party is interested in the progress of the country. This mentality of political parties in India is totally unacceptable'
'Instead of Make in India, the slogan should be, Made in India, by the people in India, by the companies in India'
As the Narendra Modi government completes one year in office, Rediff.com speaks to eminent personalities to analyse the first 365 days of the government.
C K Ranganathan (bottom, left), chairman and managing director of the $12.50 billion CavinKare, says though he sees signs of improvement everywhere, the Modi government has a long way to go to make the country business-friendly. In an interview with Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com he cautions that at the moment, one has to take what they say with a pinch of salt.
Now that the Narendra Modi government has completed one year in office, how do you look at the last one year?
However much you do, we will never find it satisfying enough. But if I were to look at where we were one year ago and where we are a year later, I will say that the economy is definitely in a better position now.
I would like to look at the performance from two angles -- one is the real effort put in by the government and the other, the result we see on the ground. If I have to evaluate the Modi government in terms of results, it is yet to show any but the indications are there that the economy is moving towards growth. It may take some time to get results but it is definitely moving in the right direction.
You are saying the government is moving in the right direction but people like (former NDA minister) Arun Shourie says it is directionless.
According to me, this government is going in the right direction. I am not talking for or against any political party. If you look at the earlier government, there was too much of policy paralysis. So, to bring the economy forward, this government had to effect many corrections. Regressive steps like retrospective taxation introduced by the other government, derailed the economy. Such steps had made the investor community weary of India. There was lot of negative sentiment about India then.
Do you feel the sentiment has changed? Is India investor friendly now?
I feel it is moving in the right direction. One thing the National Democratic Alliance government lacks is experience. Many of its ministers are first-timers. I feel we should give them some time to learn the job.
Inflation is down, budget deficit has come down and growth rate has gone up but people give credit only to the oil prices coming down.
You need luck also for that to happen. But I don’t agree with those who do not give any credit to the government in inflation coming down or growth rate picking up.
What I am quite pleased about is the way one man is going all around the world marketing India. There is lot of criticism about Modi going to China, South Korea and so on but look at the way the world has changed its opinion about India. This is a way to bring in foreign investment into India and make the country a manufacturing hub.
You told me the last time that more than Make in India, the Modi government should focus on Made in India…
Yes, I have a different point of view on Make in India compared to the government’s. I am not denying that Make in India will create many jobs but ultimately, what do you gain from this? We should help create more Indian brands. The slogan should be, Made in India by the people in India, by the companies in India.
The government took this decision as giving employment opportunities to the youth of India is of utmost importance, but I would say, the government should encourage more and more entrepreneurs in India.
The government has set aside Rs 1,000 crore for encouraging start-ups but do you think the ecosystem is conducive enough for start-ups?
I don’t think the ecosystem is favourable for start-ups. It will take time. The initiative is good but we will have to wait and see how it is going to help entrepreneurs and create a better ecosystem.
Most of the people are quite critical of the government and say it hasn’t delivered what it had promised. Do you agree?
The government does not have a magic wand to solve all the problems in one year. One year is too short a period to bring in changes. Why do you think a government is elected for five years?
And, look at the way the Opposition behaves in the Rajya Sabha. They only want to stall all projects. The same opposition, as the ruling party, wanted to pass some of the bills. When you are in opposition, no party is interested in the progress of the country. This mentality of all political parties in India is totally unacceptable.
The criticism against the land acquisition bill is that it is anti-farmer. Do you feel that way?
When the government says it is ready to openly debate and ready to scrap all that is detrimental to the farmers, why don’t you let them do so?
With the way the Opposition and the media went about spreading ills about the bill, a majority of the people think it is anti-farmer.
I am from a farmer’s family. I know how things are at the ground level. Do you think agriculture can provide jobs for the youth of the country? How many youngsters are interested in working in the agricultural sector? When the agricultural sector cannot even take care of the farmers, how can they give employment to the youth of the country? You need the manufacturing sector to grow to satisfy the aspirations of the youth.
Arun Jaitley said the policies they have put forward would make it easy to do business in India. Do you agree?
They have to go a long way to make the country business-friendly. They are marketing more than what they have done. I agree it is part of the game. You have to take what they say with a pinch of salt.
As a businessman, do you see any difference in the way business is done in India now? Like the government claims, has it become business-friendly?
I see plenty of hope and there are indications that things are changing. I say it again, we have to give the government time to bring in changes. For example, we have had so many governments in the last 67 years but it is this government that put coal into open auction. Look at the amount of money the government generated through such a transparent exercise; Rs 15 lakh crore (in February this year, Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal had said the coal auction, as well as the allocation, of the mines will fetch the respective home states Rs 15 lakh crore over a 30-year period.)! I applaud the government for showing courage to have an open auction. Gone are the days of crony capitalism and that gives me phenomenal amount of confidence in this government.
People like Narayana Murthy, Kiran Majumdar Shaw, say the government is going in the right direction. Do you also agree with them?
Absolutely. The intention is good and the direction in which it is going also is good. I am not saying everything has improved across all sectors; they have to go a long way but I see signs of improvement everywhere. I am very positive about the initiatives and directions of the government.
Let the Opposition learn to appreciate where it is due and let them join hands with the government to pass the major bills.
In the history of India, have you ever seen a prime minister going around the world marketing the country? It has to be appreciated. This guy has been working 18 hours a day and you can’t ask anything more from him.
Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj