The government needs to arm regulatory bodies with unflinching powers, to make sure stringent punishment is meted out for corporate fraud. This is the only way to increase corporate transparency in India, according to experts at the India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum.
“India needs to set the agenda to cleanse the system and award people, who excel in ethical practices,” said Richard Boucher, deputy director of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Moderating the discussion, Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor, Tehelka, said the belief that transparency results in responsibility and ethics is the new axiom in India, where trendy descriptions of the subject often dominate public forum debates but yield no results. “Some of India’s biggest projects, as a result, remain mired in controversies,” she said.
Chaudhury found support from celebrated classical danseuse and activist, Mallika Sarabhai, “Our icons are thieves and robbers. Cleaning of the system has to be a collective effort of the nation, starting with reduction in corruption and an attempt to make corporations transparent.”
But India’s lengthy court hearings have often delayed the process, rued Sarabhai.
Agreed CV Madhukar, director, PRS Legislative Research, who said not many in India understand the deviousness of white-collar crime. “Nobody ever gets caught,” he said. “I can’t find a single incidence of somebody who went to jail (for a white-collar crime) for 200 years.”
India’s main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has already started a campaign against the ruling coalition, calling it the country’s most corrupt government.
But some felt all was not lost yet. Saurabh Srivastava, chairman of CA Technologies India, argued that India has offered icons, especially in his market (information technology or IT), who are lauded for their innovation and entrepreneurship. “The answers are going to come through a new breed of entrepreneurs -- they will make what was happening before unfortunate.”
“How many of the top 100 Indian companies were there 30 years ago?” asked Srivastava, ignored an instant prodding from Sarabhai who said not all 100 top Indian companies offer faith in the ethical end of things.