An interesting round-table at Tehelka – see here
. The representatives of the private sector start off with the usual gripe about unclear laws, poor implementation, leakages, populism and politics. Other participants fight back with arguments for people-centric policies, complaining of how public policies have come to support the interests of a small privileged minority. Tehelka clearly leans towards the latter view. The early part of the discussion does show where the fault-lines lie, though. Take for example, Hero’s Munjal’s back-handed compliment to NREGA:
But there’s another interesting phenomenon that gets overlooked. Many industries that resisted the government’s social programmes in the early days have now realised that these can help in building up a market. Some of these programmes have been very sensible. The NREGA, for example, has allowed millions of people to have a job and earn money. It is true, dole is not a good idea in the long term, and farms and factories in states like Haryana, Punjab, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where labour used to come from, are not able to get labour now. This means the cost of doing business in India has moved up
Harsh Mander counters:
I went to Raigarh recently, in Chhattisgarh, where I’d been a District Collector 20 years ago. It’s a forested tribal area. What I saw there — from one point of view — could be celebrated. The Jindals have huge power and mining projects there. “Growth” is certainly happening there, but the forests have been devastated and the tribals have lost their land. Is this a sign of the state’s success or failure? I think we need to at least problematise it
Towards the end, as all enlightened panels do (except on Arnab Goswami’s Newshour), the participants seem to respectfully nod at each other’s views and conclude agreeing to the need for a decisive and honest government policy, along with responsible corporate behaviour.
The big problem often is the boxes that we try to tick when we think of the private sector or the social sector and those who claim to represent the interests of these sectors. It is a flawed conception in the first place to think of the private sector as that excluding the interests of the common man – even if what we think of the private sector is actually the interest of ‘capital’. Even those who own capital will be foolhardy if they think they can continue to make profits while continuing to overlook the interests of society at large. I support private interests – the right of every private citizen to have access to opportunities to succeed. I also think that it is the duty of the government to ensure equity in access to these opportunities. Is it so wrong to seek balance, in views and in deeds?