Ruing that the debate on corruption against the backdrop of demonetisation is a throwback to “bad old days” of rich versus poor discourse under Indira Gandhi, CII President Naushad Forbes said wealth and dishonesty should be delinked and we should be respectful of “honest riches”.
In an interview to PTI, he said the corruption debate post currency recall has turned into the ‘rich versus poor’ narrative. “I think that’s wrong. It should not be seen as a rich versus poor debate. It should be seen as a honest versus dishonest debate. And the honest-dishonest debate is not rich-poor,” he said.
The association between richness and dishonesty is “very troubling” and a throwback to the days of the 1970s under Indira Gandhi, he said.
Forbes said that India has moved a long way in the last 25 years from the times when there was an emphasis only on rhetoric to an emphasis on new economy, and cautioned that it should not go back to 1970s.
“There is this association, that we sometimes heard, made between richness and dishonesty which is very troubling. It is a throwback to bad old days of Indira Gandhi… And the economy that we have moved to in the last 25 years, we should not go back. So the rich and dishonest, these two words should be delinked,” he said.
Rubbishing the contention that rich people are more dishonest than the poor, he said, “We should be equally respectful of honest riches, as we are of poverty.”
Asked what the government should do to disassociate itself from this debate, Forbes said, “From the government point of view, what people in policy and politics say, they should also be respectful of wealth and recognise that this is something people should aspire for.”
Asked why he calls it a throwback to 1970s, he said in those days government was not too impressed with the business class.
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“In the bad old days of 70s there was this general perception that richness was bad, industrialists were crooked… these generalisations. We have moved away from this feeling in last 25 years and we shouldn’t lose it.
“So, this rhetoric that somehow associates richness with dishonesty is very damaging to the country, we shouldn’t go back to the bad old days of 70s,” he said.
He said to disassociate from this viewpoint, industry has to emphasise that there might be a crooked industrialist, but a typical industrialist is not dishonest.
“The typical industrialist is an industrialist who is working in a honest way to contribute to the economy and should be respected for the wealth that results. That wealth in itself is something to respect when it is obtained honestly. That message is something that we have to work hard on as an industry,” Forbes said.