B Muthuraman - We want the industry to adopt a code of governance

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 27, 2011

By Ruchira Singh & Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: Indian industry faces a potential slowing in terms of investment, both domestic and foreign, and rising raw material prices, but these are not as serious as the growing perception among most people that “big business” is corrupt. India’s most powerful business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), must fight this perception, and leading the charge is new president B. Muthuraman, a former managing director at Tata Steel Ltd (he is now the non-executive vice-chairman of the company. Muthuraman, who joined Tata Steel in 1966 as a graduate trainee, has already come up with a plan—a code of ethics for industry. In an interview, he spoke about this code, and how he thinks India can continue to grow rapidly.

What is this new code of conduct of ethics for the industry you plan to come up with?

I talked about two codes. One is the code of conduct for all companies in terms of governance. The other one is (a) code of affirmative action in terms of supporting the schedule castes, scheduled tribes...

What was the trigger for these?

Affirmative action is necessary... The trigger is (that, in) India if you want have to growth, it has to be inclusive growth, with all sections of society (included). We see a lot of social unrest, and the basic cause of all...that social unrest is the inequality of opportunities present, and we need to rectify this, a mistake of several thousand of years.

What’s your view on reservation of jobs for people from the scheduled castes and tribes in the private sector?

Things done voluntarily are a better way of achieving the result. Reservation is something which I don’t want anyone to get forced into. I want a situation where companies proactively engage themselves in doing things that make reservation unnecessary.

You have spoken of an amnesty scheme to cure tax evasion. This was implemented some years back, and there was a lot of political opposition to that. Do you think that if your idea is implemented by the government, it could bring back those feelings in people?

If you have an amnesty scheme, it must be the last one. People who don’t declare (income) and get found out must be punished. Only if there is a fear of punishment will it (an amnesty scheme) work well.

Corruption seems to have become a mass movement, with the common people coming out and voicing their disgust towards it. What does CII plan to do to tackle this problem?

CII has instituted a council —what is called the council for governance and transparent practices. And what we want to do is for industry to adopt a code of governance and practice this code.

What would this entail?

For example, many companies in India have an ethics counsellor. The chief ethics counsellor’s job is that he or she talks to the employees and there is a whistle-blowing policy which is encouraged in those companies. Some of these things are good practices. I would like see (all) companies...adopt these practices.

You have said that 8-8.5% economic growth is almost a given this fiscal, and if some 100 mega projects come up this could touch 10%?

Yes.

Which sectors would these projects be in?

They have to be largely in infrastructure, which will, in turn, aid other things to come.

Realistically speaking, how many of these do you expect to go through?

We have to select the projects alongside sitting with the government. Once this is agreed upon, we have to set up a control room to make sure that every quarter someone reviews (the projects) and problems are solved. We are in the process of discussing this with the government—(for forming) an industry-government body.

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