My Thoughts and Expressions
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

New Land Bill: Not a Zero-Sum Game

Image Courtesy: Google

It is unfortunate that the debate over the new land acquisition rules is being reframed in the context of the so-called ‘rich-poor’ and ‘industrialist-farmer’ divide.

Those who are giving this issue a divisive colour in the pursuit of narrow political ends are actually doing a great disservice to the nation.

In the hullabaloo, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that the larger agenda in front of the country today is poverty eradication.

For that to happen, we need to create public infrastructure, which will provide the necessary fillip to the Make-in-India program, which in turn will boost manufacturing and job creation in the country. Our attempts at lowering poverty and bringing prosperity to rural areas will fail if there is no land available for infrastructure to come up.

What the Modi government's land bill aims to do is make the acquisition of land for infrastructural projects easier by moderating some of the restrictive provisions in the previous land acquisition law of 2013.

Standard Chartered Bank had estimated that if land buyers have to mandatorily obtain consent of 80% of landowners, as stipulated previously, the process would typically take 4-5 years. No wonder then that infrastructure projects worth over $100 billion remain stalled, robbing the economy of millions of potential jobs.

As it is, India is ranked 142nd out of 189 countries in the World Bank's 'Ease of Business' list. Persisting with such restrictive rules would spell disaster for the government’s efforts to kick-start the investment cycle and catapult India to a strong growth trajectory.

Farmers Interests Will Be Protected

Those opposing the new land acquisition bill are making it out to be a zero-sum game in which the government can either benefit industry or the farmer.

The government has actually taken an approach that balances the interests of farmers and the ease of land availability for development projects.

However, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to paint a misleading picture of an “anti-poor” and “pro-industry” government colluding with ‘Big Business’ to usurp farmers’ lands. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In fact, the new land bill increases the likelihood that landowners will be compensated fairly, not only in terms of their land but also in terms of their jobs and livelihood. It seeks to not only ensure compulsory employment to one member of the family affected by the land acquisition but also proposes a hassle-free grievance redressal mechanism for them.

A Development Agenda for our Farmers

What India needs today is a development agenda aimed at lifting small and marginal farmers out of poverty. They need to be empowered, their children need to be educated and given the opportunity to compete for mainstream jobs. They have to be given the chance to improve their quality of life.

For farmers to prosper, people and resources need to be reallocated away from low-productivity segments to more efficient ones. One of the ways to do it is through co-operative farming. Small agricultural holdings need to be merged to form larger co-operative units to allow for adoption of mechanised cultivation.

They also need to be encouraged to move up the value chain. With food processing gaining importance in India, there is an opportunity to do exactly that. As food processing as a sector is more labour absorptive and less capital intensive vis-à-vis textiles and apparel, investment in this sector can lead to the large-scale employment thus pulling many out of the rut of subsistence farming.

However, if all this is to become a reality India will need to build the necessary infrastructure. So, I think it is time to update former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan of ‘Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan’ to ‘Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan, Jai Nirmaan!’

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Why Women on Board Make Smart Business Sense

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Is India Inc.’s new found enthusiasm to have woman board members a reflection of changing mindsets or mere tokenism?

Media reports suggest that more than 250 companies appointed women directors on Tuesday to meet the SEBI’s deadline. In fact, many companies have appointed wives, daughters and sisters of promoters and top company executives as directors in a desperate attempt to be in compliance. Is this the right approach?

India passed a law in 2013 mandating publicly-listed companies with five or more directors to have at least one woman board member.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Initiatives like Enactus addresses a gap in the Indian Education system

Recently, Enactus India had organised an Event in Bengaluru. In this video, are my thoughts about the initiative. Watch it!

Friday, 6 March 2015

BUDGET 2015 - India Needs a Booster Dose for Health for All

Finance minister Arun Jaitley concluded his Budget 2015 speech with a quotation from the Upanishads, “Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niraamayaah” (May everybody be happy, may everybody be free from illness).

Monday, 2 March 2015

Australia & India: Combining Technology and Entrepreneurship to Innovate the Future

Image Courtesy: ANU Website

I am indeed honoured to deliver the 17th Dr KR Narayanan Oration instituted in memory of the late President of India, a great statesman and a close friend of Australia.  

At a time when technology is transforming the world we live in, I would like to take this opportunity of sharing my thoughts on how our two countries can collaborate to leverage technology and innovate a better future.  

The full text of the speech can be viewed on SlideShare:

#Budget2015: High on Vision! The Flight Path is Clear!

Image Courtesy: Google

The Finance minister’s budget speech was very compelling. He gave me an impression that he has broadly met everyone’s expectations. The fine print of the budget needs to be carefully analysed to understand the impact that this budget would have. Now, it is about delivering what is required to achieve the key points of the 2015 budget proposal, which doubles up as a very good vision document on the direction of the Indian Economy.  I think the Finance Minister has touched upon a lot of key areas, but now it is about delivering on the positive proposals put forth in this budget.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Wanted: A Budget That Will Deliver Decisive Action & Innovative Thinking

Striving to jumpstart an economy growing at nearly the slowest pace in a decade, India needs Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to deliver a path-breaking Union Budget – a bold statement that is visionary in scope yet granular in its objectives.