For someone who opened the floodgates of liberalisation, which put the individual ahead of the “State” at the centre of the Indian universe, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a most incredible speech on Thursday at the annual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
# While attempting to enhance profits, the private sector should function within the bounds of “decency and greed” and show some self-restraint.
# The business community should resist excessive remuneration so as to reduce conspicuous consumption.
# He warned that “showing off the riches through ostentatious parties is as good as insulting the less-privileged and stoking social unrest.”
# Corporate social responsibility should not be defined by tax planning strategies alone. Corporates should factor in the needs of the community and the region.
No doubt, these are the kind of stately things to say for a Prime Minister at stiff business meets like these. But is Manmohan Singh barking up the wrong tree?
Can the State dictate the profits of business houses in this day and age? Can corporates in a competitive atmosphere get the best talent without dangling big cheques? Can the State prevent individuals from enjoying the fruits of their hard work and talents? And after creating jobs and paying due taxes, should businesses try to run society?
Is a sage economist being sagacious enough in recognising the simmering undercurrents in a Bharat that has been left out? Or is he echoing the deep anguish and desperateness of a Congress which, after coming to power on the back of the aam admi, is losing in state after state?
In other words, is he trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube?