Leading industrialist Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej Group, Saturday warned that rising intolerance, hate crimes and moral policing can “seriously damage” economic growth of the nation. He was speaking at a leadership summit to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his alma mater, St Xavier’s College.
Talking about India being among the fastest growing economies in the world and Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announcing his vision of India becoming a $5-trillion economy, Godrej said, “But with the growth vision and dreams firing away, it’s not all a rosy picture as yet. One must not lose sight of the impoverishness that still massively plagues our nation, which can seriously damage the pace of growth going forward.”
“Unemployment is soaring at a four-decade high of 6.1%. It is a problem not only for India but a concern for most countries around the world. Rising intolerance, social instability, hate crimes, crimes against women, moral policing, caste and religion based violence and many other sorts of intolerance are all rampant,” he said.
Godrej also congratulated Modi for presenting a “grand vision” to build a new India and nearly double the economy to a $5-trillion giant over the course of his second term in office.
Godrej was the first leading voice in India Inc to speak out during Modi’s first term. In an interview to The Indian Express on May 12, 2016, he had pointed out that beef ban and prohibition in certain states were hurting the economy. “Some of the things are affecting growth, for example, the ban on beef in some states. Because what do you do with all these extra cows? It is also affecting business, because this was a good source of income for many farmers. So it’s a negative,” he had said.
“Prohibition is bad for the economy. It’s bad for social structure, for drinking doesn’t reduce. It gives rise to bad liquor, and then mafia. All over the world, it has been unsuccessful. In America, it has been unsuccessful. In India, we tried prohibition, but we were unsuccessful,” he had said.
On Saturday, Godrej said chronic water and air pollution, indiscriminate industrialisation, water crisis, growing use of environment-damaging plastics and crippling medical facilities due to the country’s healthcare spend being the lowest among its emerging market peers are among the other issues that need to be tackled on a war footing.
Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, his wife Sudha Murthy, Orchid hotel founder Vithal Kamat, former Thermax chairperson Anu Aga, Teach For India CEO Shaheen Mistri, Titanium Industries MD Vasanth Kini were among those at the summit.
Former Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said it was important to resolve the question on quality of official data, and this can only be solved by the government’s statistical system providing a credible answer. He was referring to the recent controversy over former CEA Arvind Subramanian’s research paper last month mentioning that India’s growth rate between 2011-12 and 2016-17 was overestimated.
“Inclusiveness must include benefits that go to the generations of the future,” he said. “During the UPA regime, in the first seven years, the average growth rate was about 8.5%… In its last three years, it did slow down. World also slowed down, but we slowed down more than the world did. Nevertheless, the economy grew at 7.5%. Within this period, the data clearly showed, the quality had gone down dramatically. We didn’t go as good as we wanted to in delivering quality basic services. The number of children in schools increased, the number of years they spent in school increased, but the learning levels weren’t improved,” Ahluwalia said.