Why Sundar Pichai finds his conscience in America, but Google searches for it in India

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The stand-out aspect of the ongoing bigotry and hatred of the white supremacists in America is the response of its thought leaders: in the arts and in business in particular, but also in academics and the media.

When President Donald Trump appeared less than forthcoming in condemning last week’s outrage in Charlottesville, the corporate czars he had appointed to his advisory councils resigned, prompting them to be disbanded.

Jeff Immelt, chairman of General Electric, minced no words: “The President’s statements were deeply troubling…. GE has no tolerance for hate, bigotry, racism, and the white supremacist extremism that the country witnessed in Charlottesville.”

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On an earlier occasion, the chiefs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Dell, all put their signatures against proposed legislation in Texas that was rooted in discrimination.

Even Google’s super-safe Sundar Pichai joined in.

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In contrast, Indian corporates, industrial and business houses have been happy to silently watch the lynchings of Muslims, the attacks on Dalits, the stifling of student dissent, the legitimisation of discrimination, the infringements of citizens’ rights, the rewriting of our history, under Narendra Modi‘s watch.

Even on an issue like demonetisation or the economy, which directly impact them, they have not had the cojones to speak up and speak their mind.

For every Anu Agha and Rajeev Bajaj, who valiantly stepped out of the line on Gujarat 2002 and Demonetisation 2016, there are scores of Adanis, Ambanis and Mahindras, ready to break bread with the bigots and hate-mongers, and write big fat cheques while singing paeans in praise of The Supreme Leader.

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In the likes of Rajeev Chandrasekhar and T.V. Mohandas Pai, they have fully paid-up drumbeaters and trolls ready and willing to shout down all who come in the way.

It is not difficult to guess why.

Everybody loves a winner. Chamchagiri is the gift that doesn’t stop giving. There are deals to be made. There are tax concessions to be obtained, NPA to be written off, dark secrets no one wants brought up.

When venom and vengeance are the dominant currencies in the public discourse, it is best to play safe.

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Harish Khare writes in The Tribune:

“The reason is simple: our corporate houses have never practised clean businesses nor acquired an ethical voice that would enable them to stand up to the politician.

“Even the best of our so-called entrepreneurs are aware of their vulnerabilities — and, these vulnerabilities are self-inflicted because of their greed, dishonesty, and illegalities. Perhaps each Indian corporate leader is content to prefer expediency over ethics.

“No society can achieve genuine progress, peace or national glory if its business community does not become a site and a source for good moral conduct.

“The American corporate leaders are quick to realise that if the demagogues are allowed to have a run of the place, they would end up reopening the settled equations and arguments which underwrite the society’s compact and cohesion.

“Any genuine business leader in India ought to feel that he and his company have a stake in the rule of law, a lawful society, and a just and fair social order. And, that he has an obligation to stand up to any demagogue who threatens to introduce violence and venom in our society.”

Any attempt to show anything called a conscience is quickly quashed in India in the name of “shareholder value”. Nothing matters, apparently, as long as corporates and business houses are doing all they can do increase EPS: earnings per share.

Are we to believe that American companies aren’t so bothered with that?

Read the full article: Our missing corporate conscience