The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India Inc push for slow growth

Mumbai, Oct. 8: Strength lies in numbers — but not in a billion-plus country.

A band of leading industrialists, corporate bosses and social stalwarts has come together to spread this crucial awareness and help the government stabilise India’s galloping growth rate.

Population First, a forum formed by Ratan Tata, Keshub Mahindra, Jamshyd Godrej, M.S. Swaminathan, J.J. Irani, Tejendra Khanna, Bobby Sista and a host of advertising professionals, plans to work with the Central and state governments. Its aim is to help achieve the goal of population stabilisation by 2045 — as spelt out in the National Population Policy 2000.

Set up with a seed capital of Rs 25 lakh from the Sir Dorabji Tata Charitable Trust, the forum hopes to enlist foreign agencies keen on bringing India’s population to keel.

Tata, who is nudging 65, was philosophical. “The effects may not be in our lifetime, but the benefits will accrue to the future generations,” the steel tycoon said at the launch. “If you want to give kudos to any of us sitting here, it is for breaking new ground. Perhaps, we will be remembered after our lives for the quality of life it will offer to our future generations.”

Sista, the brain behind the forum, heaped scorn on politicians who, he said, were responsible for the attitude “numbers are strength of our country”. The chairman and MD of the advertising agency Sista’s Private Ltd called it lack of patriotism.

“Criminally and callously they have destroyed the country for their own selfish ends for creating vote banks,” he said. “Can living with malnutrition and in squalor be strengths'”

The forum hopes to start sustainable human development programmes with focus on health and family welfare and also take up a campaign for male sterilisation. Sista plans to mobilise the entire fraternity of communicators — advertising professionals, television software producers and those in the entertainment industry on the one hand and owners of media houses on the other — to sensitise the masses about the crisis facing the nation.

Mahindra, chairman of automobile major Mahindra and Mahindra and one of the founder members on the Population First board of trustees, described the initiative as a culmination of “three long years of painstaking efforts and planning”.

The forum plans to enlist film stars and sports personalities and leverage the influence of the corporate sector. The idea is to bring pressure at every level to make politicians understand the enormity of the situation and not see population as merely vote banks.

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