Eminent industrialist and former Rajya Sabha member Dr KK Birla says labour laws should be "liberalised" in the country. He also advises the government not to be in a "hurry to sell off good companies".
Dr Birla was speaking on 'The Industrial and Financial Scenario in India by 2020' at a function to mark 60 years of the Sangeet Kala Mandir in Kolkata on Saturday.
"Ailing companies should be given away, but companies with good production should be given a chance," he said.
While, Dr Birla urged the government to "have another Green Revolution in the country", he said a solution to the water scarcity in the country could be joining the rivers in the North and South.
Socialism over capitalism
Dr Birla recounted that after August 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru chose the Soviet Union's socialism over the United States of America's capitalism for the nation.
But he criticised the Licence Raj that followed. "From Licence Raj came control and from that corruption. Unfortunately, even today India is perhaps one of the most corrupt nations," he said.
Dr Birla recalled late prime minister Indira Gandhi telling him that nationalisation had been a wrong choice for some sectors.
"In the first 25 plan years, between 1951 and 1976, our GDP growth was less than three per cent. The economy was artificial and interest rates very high. Around 119 textile units were nationalised even without verifying if they were sick."
The early 1990s saw a crisis. The country witnessed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The economy was in the doldrums. Fiscal deficit had touched 12 per cent while foreign trade dwindled and foreign exchange and gold reserves hit a nadir in July 1991.
The new government, under prime minister Narasimha Rao and Union Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, then ushered in "a grand economic recovery in which the government and the industry joined hands," Dr Birla said. For the next 15 years, from July 1991 to December 2006, the economy witnessed steady growth. Dr Birla said of these, the last four years had seen pervasive growth, be it in terms of the GDP growth, savings or the share market.
What lies ahead?
Dr Birla estimated that in the next two decades, per capita income would grow from the present Rs 31,000 per annum to Rs 82,000 in 2021. Further, he said, India will become "more and more house-conscious," telecom industry would see a major boom, with telephones going up to 500 million from the present 70 million.
The quality of life would become better with newer therapies like gene therapy and stem cell therapy curing diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's in the foreseeable future. While dependence on oil would decrease, alternate sources of energy like nuclear power would take precedence, he said. Dr Birla also foresaw that retail market would grow to $800 billion from its present $300 billion.
Applauding the many Indians at the helm of multi-national corporations around the globe, Dr Birla suggested the country learn even from its rival, China. But he also cautioned against China's attempts to erect a dam on the Brahmaputra river on its side.