PM's chai pe charcha with Business Honchos

Industrialists expressed concern over rising perception that the entire business community is being targeted over scams and wanted the slow-moving state bureaucracy shaken up to boost housing in prime minister Narendra Modi’s first-ever interaction with India Inc’s top CEOs in the financial capital of Mumbai.

The no-holds-barred discussion, initially slated for one-and-a-half hours at the Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai, extended into a near-three-hour discussion with the prime minister holding unprecedented one-on-one-tea sessions with some leading CEOs after telling them he wanted to hear their criticism of his policies.

An hour-long presentation by the prime minister on his government’s achievements was followed by an honest and frank exchange of views.

One industrialist said that there is a perception that the business community is being targeted by the government thanks to intense reportage in the media about arrests and corruption scandals and wanted the government to clarify that only suspected criminals and offenders would be targeted. Another said that the bureaucracy at the state level is delaying much-needed work on affordable housing while a third wanted the government to step up defence orders to the private sector.

The PM listened to all this and also some praise over the work being done on Digital India and called for a one-on-one tea session with them.

Other industrialists present at the meeting included Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, RPG Group chairman Harsh Goenka, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh and Piramal group chairman Ajay Piramal. Top bankers including State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar and Kotak Mahindra Bank chairman Uday Kotak also attended the meeting.

The exchange of views was preceded by a presentation made by interim finance minister Piyush Goyal.

Modi also discussed many policy reforms and initiatives taken in the past four years. He emphasised the need to promote local manufacturing in areas such as medical devices, electronics and defence equipment. “If the 21st century is considered to be Asia’s century, then it becomes our duty to make it India’s century,” Modi said.

India’s capital formation to GDP — a measure of investment activity — was at 27.12% in 2016 down from the all-time high of 35.57% in 2007, according to the World Bank data.

Modi tried to promote India as the world’s next manufacturing hub aimed at creating millions of jobs and boost growth.

Modi said there is massive scope for private sector investment in the agriculture sector as it remains at meagre 1.75% at present.

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