New Delhi : With his government under fire for being pro-rich, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday urged industry to develop "corporate social responsibility" to make the country's growth process inclusive and help in creating a "culture of caring, sharing and belonging".
"The time has come for us to ask ourselves what we can give (India), back," the prime minister said as he addressed the annual general meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), one of the country's top business lobbies.
"We must forever end the debate whether our country's march of progress has benefited India and not Bharat (the traditional name for India now used to describe the have-nots who have not benefited from economic reforms)," Manmohan Singh said.
He asked India Inc to look closely at affirmative action, desist from non-competitive practices and fight the "cancer" of corruption that was "eating into the vitals" of the nation's body politic.
"I invite corporate India to be a partner in making ours a more humane and just society. We need a new partnership for inclusive growth based on a 10-Point social charter," the prime minister, who completed three years in office May 22, said in a passionate speech.
The third anniversary of his government was marked by political and media criticism that the reforms had benefited only the classes, and not the masses, with Manmohan Singh himself pledging to make economic growth, that is now an impressive 9.2 percent, more "inclusive".
"These are 10 areas in which industry leadership can go a long way to ensure our growth process is inclusive and broad-based. This is not an exhaustive list. You may wish to add to it and adopt your own charter for inclusive growth," he said.
The 10 points spelt out by Manmohan Singh, in his talk on "Inclusive Growth – Challenges for Corporate India" that kicked off the daylong annual session, were:
-Have healthy respect for workers and invest in their welfare such as health, children's education, pension and provident fund;
-Corporate social responsibility is part of India's heritage must not be defined by tax planning alone;
-Industry must be proactive in offering jobs to the less privileged at all levels of the job ladder;
-Resist excessive remuneration to promoters and senior executives and discourage conspicuous consumption;
-Invest in people and in their skills, offer scholarships and fill young people with hope in their future;
-Desist from non-competitive behaviour and operation of cartels by groups of companies to keep prices high must end;
-Invest in environment-friendly technologies since India's growth must be enhanced and its ecology and environment protected for future generations;
-Promote enterprise and innovation so that Indian industry can make the leap to the next stage of development;
-Fight corruption at all levels since the cancer of corruption is eating into the vitals of our body politic;
-Promote and finance socially responsible media, advertising and causes.
"The objective of such a social charter would also be to encourage a culture of saving and investment – a culture of caring, sharing and belonging," the prime minister said.
"We must end forever the debate whether our country's march of progress has benefited India and not Bharat," he said, adding: "The time has come for us to ask ourselves what can we give her (India) back."
The Prime Minister's comments came as the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, in a report released Thursday, said India would need to put in greater investments into its "physical and human resources" if it were to sustain its "impressive" economic growth rate.
"Rapid economic growth has also resulted in an improvement in social indicators such as poverty and infant mortality," the WTO said in its India trade review policy.
Nevertheless, Manmohan Singh said, India Inc had every reason to celebrate the success of the country's growth that has been the result of some prudent economic policies and has grabbed global attention.
"It is not by accident the average rate of economic growth has been 9 percent in the last three years," the prime minister said.
"These are the results of balanced, prudent economic policies," he said.
Manmohan Singh said it was not the result of good fortune or miracle that India was a trillion dollar economy, attracting foreign investment worth $20 billion and recording an investment rate of 35 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
"These are good times for the Indian enterprise. Your energy and enterprise are making its mark globally," he said, as who's who of corporate India listened to the speech with rapt attention at the Taj Palace Hotel here.
He said by reading about the growing number of Indian billionaires, Indian firms acquiring multinationals, the real estate boom, new holiday destinations and the soaring salaries of chief executives, he knew growth was benefiting India Inc.
"The world is beginning to look at us with respect. It sees Indian professionals and businessmen competing and winning on the world stage. You have every reason to celebrate this success, to reap its rewards, to live more comfortably."
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, targeted for economic reforms not benefiting the poor and the unbridled inflation that was hurting the common man, also talked about social equity and inclusive growth in his address.
"High growth means more inclusiveness. If high growth is not inclusive, then low growth is even more not-inclusive," he said, adding that it was imperative for manufacturing and services sectors to expand output at a faster pace to sustain the current economic growth.
Speaking at the final session, Scott Bayman, president and CEO of GE India, lauded the direction of the Indian economy, saying "It is India's time and India's future is coming into focus".
Bayman mentioned four main events, namely the telecom revolution, confidence of the Indian Industry, presence of Indian consumers, and civil aviation that indicate India's spectacular growth story of the recent decade.
These four big events show that India is part of the changing world order, both politically as well as economically. Bayman said that India should be seen as a bridge between the Middle East and Russia on the one hand and the Asia Pacific region on the other.