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Guide the country, PM tells Birla

delhi Updated: Dec 11, 2007 02:49 IST
Aloke Tikku
Aloke Tikku
Hindustan Times
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India is on the threshold of a new era of industrial development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday while releasing the autobiography of Dr KK Birla, and hoped that the well-known industrialist would guide the country through this new phase.

“The experience and knowledge that he has will be of great value to the younger generations of our business leaders,” Singh said while unveiling Brushes with History: An Autobiography.

The foreword of the book, dedicated to the late Birla patriarch GD Birla, has been written by Congress president and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. She was the guest of honour at the book release at the Prime Minister’s residence.

Senior Cabinet ministers including Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy and members of the Birla family attended the function.

Singh said the life story of Dr Birla told us why Mahatma Gandhi had enunciated the idea of trusteeship. The business philosophy of the Birlas has always demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to the welfare of all Indians and to the progress of our country, he added.

“... the events that he recounted, the glorious freedom struggle of our country and the role of the Birla families in that freedom struggle is something that the historians will and have recorded handsomely,” Singh said at the end of what he described as a fascinating speech by Dr Birla.

Dr Birla took a walk down memory lane and spoke of his close encounters with leaders of the freedom struggle, like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and the many occasions when he took to the streets to protest against the British rule at their call. Like when he, as a nine-year-old, and his brother came out on the streets of Kolkata, shouting slogans against the Simon Commission.

Singh credited Dr Birla, and the Birla family, with much more. It was a testimony to GD Birla’s vision that he along with other business leaders authored the famous “Bombay Plan” of the 1940s that outlined the role of the government and responsibilities of business in the modernisation and development of India.

Several decades later, the Prime Minister recalled the support Dr Birla had extended to the policies he had introduced as finance minister in 1991 to liberate Indian enterprise.

Many business leaders were worried, apprehensive and nervous about the changes and preferred to live in a secure world of permits, controls and quotas and came to be known as members of the famous “Bombay Club”, Singh said. “But Dr Birla understood the importance and the relevance of what we were doing and I valued his support then as I value it now,” he added, pointing out that the last wave of industrialisation in India had started soon after, in the 1990s.