Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asked India's top industrialists to be sensitive to the adverse impact of the current economic crisis on the weaker sections of the society and sought their help in meeting the challenges.
"I have great faith and confidence in India's entrepreneurs and particularly in the wisdom and experiences of captains of industry assembled here today to meet the challenges confronting our economy," he told a meeting with them at his official residence in New Delhi.
"We need to be particularly sensitive to the impact of slowdown on the weakest in the organised as well as unorganised sectors. We must meet the challenge of job losses caused by the slowdown," the prime minister added.
Manmohan Singh had invited some 25 leading industrialists to hear their views on some of the key issues concerning the domestic and global economy and to help frame India's position ahead of his participation at the G20 summit in London April 2.
The meeting was attended, among others, by Ratan Tata, K. V. Kamath, Sunil Mittal, Rahul Bajaj, Sashi Ruia, Harsh Pati Singhania, Sajjan Jindal, R.P Goenka, Baba Kalyani, Tarun Das, Amit Mitra and Kumar Mangalam Birla.
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Reserve Bank of India Governor D. Subbarao and Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar were also present at the meeting that lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours, official sources said.
In his opening remarks, the prime minister said the challenges confronting the Indian economy can be understood and met only if all stake-holders supported each other with confidence, and with concern for the welfare of all.
The participants at Saturday's meeting said that the main concern expressed unanimously by India Inc was to do away -with high interest rates despite the sharp fall in inflation rates - and the prime minister agreed.
"With ample liquidity and low inflation, there is scope, perhaps, for a further moderation in interest rates," Manmohan Singh said. "Domestic credit flow for productive needs has to definitely be maintained at reasonable cost."
He said there was hope yet for revival, while pointing out that there were signs of improvement in some core industries like cement and steel.
"The rural demand for goods and services appears quite robust and the outlook in the agricultural sector gives room for optimism."
The prime minister, who will leave for London March 31, said there were great expectations from the world leaders to get crucial inputs from India on ways to tackle one of the worst crises in decades.
"The world today looks at India with respect and hope - respect for our calibrated reforms which have resulted in growth with justice and hope that India would be an engine of growth for the world economy," he said.
"I am confident we will all work together to fulfil these expectations, and secure the growth essential for our people."
Both the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) presented an agenda paper to the prime minister.
The industrialists also said that in times such as these, elections should not come in the way of crucial economic policy decisions and that the government must seek the Election Commission's permission in this regard.
They also said that India should use its pre-eminent position at the G20 summit to ensure that rich nations did not raise non-trade barriers.
"Protectionist tendencies, if not curbed, could be counterproductive in the long run and thus needs to be arrested before gaining ground, for demand generation," said Assocham president Sajjan Jindal.