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Take on graft, PM tells students

Calcutta, Aug. 22: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on budding managers to join the battle against corruption on a day Anna Hazare’s fast for his team’s version of the Lokpal bill completed a week.

Singh did not mention the Gandhian even once during his 30-minute speech at the IIM Calcutta auditorium but his message to some of the country’s best B-brains was clear.

“As managers, you can contribute to the process (removing corruption) by suggesting mechanisms that would increase transparency,” he said.

Governor M.K. Narayanan, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, chairperson of the IIM’s board of governors Ajit Balakrishnan and director Shekhar Chaudhuri listened as he spoke.

Singh’s speech touched upon the institute’s contribution to the field of management and India’s growth, but the main theme was his government’s resolve to fight graft, like demands for bribe, misappropriation of funds and lack of transparency in allocation of resources.

“I believe all right-thinking persons are agreed on the need to tackle all these forms of corruption. But I feel the complexity of the task is not adequately appreciated,” he said while delivering the Golden Jubilee Lecture at the management institute.

Singh asked his audience to understand there was no “magic wand” that could solve the problem in one stroke and made it clear agitation was not the right approach. “There are differences of views on details of the bill…. The (parliamentary) standing committee has the power to propose any amendments,” Singh said, adding the government was “open to a reasoned debate”.

Singh said although the Lokpal as an institution would help tackle corruption, the proposed anti-graft authority wouldn’t be able to curb the menace on its own. “It has to be supported by improvements in the pace and quality of judicial processes,” he said.

The architect of economic reforms in India denied that corruption was the consequence of the liberalisation process he had started as Union finance minister in 1991.

He said corruption had been eliminated in many areas that have seen reforms and cited industrial licensing, import licensing and rationing of foreign exchange as examples.

“We were once viewed as a slow-growing economy…. We launched a comprehensive but gradual programme of economic reforms…. India has transformed into one of the fastest growing emerging markets in the world,” he said, making it clear that reforms must continue.

But a “rosy future” was not a guarantee, he said, though he pointed out that despite slower growth during the 11th Plan, the government aimed to achieve a 9 per cent growth rate in the 12th Plan period.

Singh talked of challenges facing India, like closing the productivity gap with other Asian countries and building the infrastructure for inclusive growth. “They may be viewed as management challenges…” he said. “As managers, you can contribute to finding a workable solution and I urge you to get involved in looking for solutions.”

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