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Change can’t be forced on people, says Manmohan Singh

“Honest businessmen and genuine entrepreneurs must never be allowed to feel harassed by the petty revenue official,” Dr Singh said.

There is no room for authoritarian impositions from above, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned on Friday, adding that such actions are leading to a loss of faith of the business community in the government, apart from creating hardships and pain for the vulnerable sections of society.

“As Prime Minister, you have to factor in the political and social implications,” Dr Singh said while speaking at the The Hindu Business Line Changemakers Awards.

“No innovations in the public policy realm can succeed without a reasonable consensus about it. We have opted for a democratic path for ourselves. There is no room for authoritarian impositions from above.”

“Perhaps I may be allowed to add that it is the responsibility of the leadership of our country to temper the harshness of change, especially for the more vulnerable sections of our society,” Dr Singh added.

The former Prime Minister said that it was the task of statesmen to take the citizens into confidence and explain to them the need for a particular change, since it is never easy to make citizens accept deprivation, however temporary it may be.

“Of late, some negative perceptions have been manufactured about business leaders,” Dr Singh added. “The business community, big and small, has been made to feel the wrath of coercive agencies. A hostile narrative has been built. This will sap not only the confidence of our business leaders, but it will also create doubts in the minds of foreign governments and business leaders.”

“Honest businessmen and genuine entrepreneurs must never be allowed to feel harassed by the petty revenue official,” Dr Singh said. “Unfortunately, trust between the government and business is somewhat been eroded.”

He also spoke about how social policy becomes acceptable when it seen to be fair and equitable, and also about how the social compact between the government and the people must be just and even-handed.

Also speaking at the event, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the context of the Goods and Services Tax that any transformative change would have teething trouble. But he added that the reform was long overdue. Speaking about the priorities of the government in the future, he said that there were four major areas where the priority should remain – rural, defence procurement, health and education, and infrastructure.

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu added that moving from a 7% growth rate to double-digit growth was entirely possible. He said that the majority of the jobs are being created in the services sector rather than in manufacturing.

Finally, about external trade, Mr Prabhu said that India has a stake in the World Trade Organisation and that a modernization of the WTO was need to help aid India’s growth.

The awardees included the petitioners against Section 377 and the GST Council, joint winners of the Changemakers of the Year Award. The social transformation award went to Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, the digital transformation award to eNAM, and the iconic changemaker award to Bezwada Wilson. The young changemaker award went to two nominees, Anju Verma, and Kush and Arjun Pandey.

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