Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Industry captains write a letter - addressed to nobody

A group of 14 prominent and highly respected citizens, which includes the likes of HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, ex-ICICI Chairman N.Vaghul, Wipro Promoter Azim Premji, ex-RBI Governor Bimal Jalan, Mahindra & Mahindra Promoter Keshub Mahindra etc have come out with an “open letter to our leaders  expressing grave concern at the ‘governance deficit’ in government, business and institutions. They have voiced their concern on issues such as rampant corruption, widespread discretionary decision making, ‘extraneous influences’ and the like.

Read the full letter here or the news reports here.

It is true that Manmohan Singh’s Government is proving to be one of the worst governments in recent memory, with failures not just on the political front (terrorism, naxalism, Kashmir, North - East etc), but also on the economic front. One would have at least expected better economic management of the country with an economist Prime Minister at the helm. Instead, food prices are doubling every few months.

But what to make of this letter written by the captains of the industry?

Agreed, these individuals themselves may be clean, but only the most na├»ve will believe that they are unaware of what is going on in the highest echelons of power. The nexus between politicians – industrialists – bureaucrats – journalists has been well known, and stings like Niira Radia tapes amply prove that everyone is hand in glove in looting the nation. Instead of writing a letter, which is addressed to nobody in particular (an open letter “to our leaders” – why not say to whom?? Who are “our leaders”, what is their name??), these people should come forward and make open disclosures exposing the corrupt. The investigating agencies will be under pressure to investigate and find out the proof. For example, in one of the Niira Radia tapes, ex-CII Chief Tarun Das has talked about Kamal Nath (Minister of Road Transport & Highways) “making his 15%”. Obviously, Das knows what he is talking about. Why can’t he go to the CBI, or the ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau) and lodge a complaint? Is Deepak Parekh not aware of a single instance of the builder – politician nexus? Why has he not exposed them? What has he done to stop the flow of black money in the real estate industry?

Agreed, these individuals are themselves citizens with high standards of integrity. But this “open letter to our leaders” means nothing to me. In fact, the very fact that the letter is not addressed to anyone in particular, such as the Prime Minister, or “Madam”, or whoever else “our leaders” are, shows an intent to remain in the ‘good books’ of these very leaders who are responsible for this ‘governance deficit’.

To me, this letter is a farce that will achieve little other than a couple of claps from fellow journalist friends. Let them not fool us that these guys have done something great. Let us not clap at this farcical exercise.

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