All chief ministers must follow Narendra Modi to abolish permit raj: Rajiv Bajaj

Written by Geeta Nair | Mumbai | Updated: Feb 19 2014, 18:42pm hrs
Rajiv BajajBajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj says permit system does not serve any positive purpose of national or social interest.
Rajiv Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto, is passionate about change. He believes the old order needs to change if the country wants to do new things. In politics, he's an admirer of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal as well as supports the reformist policies of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. Though Bajaj was not at the CII event on Monday where Kejriwal spoke, he's met him personally and admires his courage and the leader in him. On the business front, he's a forceful advocate of removing the permit raj without which three-wheelers cannot be operated in the country. Describing this as a source of corruption, Bajaj cites the example of Modi who has done away with the permit system in Gujarat. Bajaj shared his views on the subject in a candid e-mail interview with FE's Geeta Nair. Excerpts:

Should the country do away with the permit system prevalent in the operation of three-wheelers, considering that it fills gaps in our public transport system and is also a source of livelihood Do you think it leads to corruption since it vests patronage in the state

Yes, absolutely, because this permit system does not serve any positive purpose of national or social interest. It is a blatant mechanism for unscrupulous elements to make money at the expense of the commonest people of India.

Gujarat has done away with it. Is it time for the rest of the country to free up sales

Yes, in Gujarat a three-wheeler sells at its intended price as there is no permit raaj and hence no black marketing of permits that causes the price to multiply 2-4 times. Unfortunately, this continues in Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu it is nothing short of robbing the poorest of our people, the auto driver in broad daylight.

There is a huge black market for three-wheeler permits across the country and this even exceeds the basic price of the three-wheeler. You have talked about it with the government but nothing has happened. Is there any way of dealing with the problem other than doing away with permits

All CMs must simply do what Narendra Modi did in Gujarat abolish the permit raj and let the balance of supply-demand find its own level. In Gujarat, three-wheeler registration happens for R3,000 whereas in Delhi it costs up to R3 lakh the humble auto driver and his modest customers are being bled by a network of local politicians hiding behind dubious financiers.

The Pune RTO has received around 20,000 applications this week for 880 three-wheeler permits Does this indicate a huge pent up demand in the market

It may the only way to know is to do away with this draconian permit raj.

You have said no automobile manufacturer can register a vehicle in any RTO in India without paying bribe. This is accepted as normal and nobody has spoken aga-inst it publicly. What made you come out so strongly against this practice

I said practically no automobile is registered in India till the dealer/customer pays something over and above the official charges. It is one of the many examples that remind me everyday of how corruption has, over time, been embedded in the tiniest aspects of a common man's daily life.

You have met AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. What do you think of his leadership and his ideas

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said: Courage is the first of all virtues, as without it we cannot act on any other virtue. Many of us have the same information, opinions, and ideas that Arvind does, but we don't do anything with it because we don't possess the courage that he does.

Do you agree it is time to challenge the status quo and stop doing things the old way

Renowned management guru Peter Drucker said: If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old. Note that he didn't recommend that you do something new, he insisted you stop doing something old. If we have to improve, be it our companies or our country, we have to put an end to some of the old stuff, foremost being corruption.

You think Kejriwal can make a difference

We must always bet on strong leaders in any sphere - from Mahatma Gandhi to MS Dhoni. Strong leadership aligns the energy of everyone towards a clear, meaningful purpose. I'm indifferent to politics and ignorant of AAP, but I resonate deeply with Arvind's ideology.

Do you think the way the quadricycle policy was dealt with was wrong and is symbolic of the way business and policy has been running in the country.

No, I don't because despite many industry heavyweights opposing it, we have received approval. I am grateful to all the concerned ministers, senior bureaucrats and other officers at the ministry of road transport, ministry of heavy industry, and ministry of law. In particular I thank telecom and law minister Kapil Sibal who has supported me on this matter from day one.