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'Reforms are not a mantra to be chanted'

May 24, 2007
In UP, Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, the Congress party is weak and everybody knows that," says External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherji on the party's dismal performance in UP.

In the second part of his interview to All India Radio and Kalyani Shankar, he speaks about how the Congress is learning coalition dharma, the pace of economic reforms and the status of the India-US nuclear deal.

Also see: Part I of the Pranab Mukherji interview

On whether the economic reforms are on hold

First of all, I would like to clarify one thing. Reforms are not a mantra to be chanted. Reforms are to be introduced. This is a constant exercise. It is a continuing exercise. Therefore, it is not correct to say whether it has been held back. Now you are talking of labour reforms.

Certain legislations are to be passed, which require consensus without which you cannot get the legislation passed. There are certain areas over which you could not reach a consensus and in a system like ours, which is responsible and responsive to public opinion, to the people's demand you will have to keep in view the requirement of the people and how to get it done. It is not merely a wish list.

If the legislation is to be passed it requires the necessary majority in the House. And for that you require consensus.

Executive actions also you have to implement it. Therefore, for a pragmatic approach, it requires what could be done. I still remember when P V Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister, was addressing a conference at Davos, he made it quite clear that if you people are talking about labour reforms, to you labour reforms mean fire and hire where in the job market there is always a short supply and people from different parts come in to fill up that shortage.

That condition cannot be equated with India. Sitting thousands of miles away, you cannot know what our requirement is. Therefore in a country like ours if somebody feels that the policy of hire and fire is labour reform, it is simply not acceptable.

Therefore, reforms must have a human face. And without that you cannot implement it. Therefore what is possible we are doing. Yes restructuring the public sector is required. And it is not correct to say that public sector restructuring is not being done. If the banking sector restructuring had not been done, today the public sector banks would not have made huge profits.

Most of the public sector units in the oil sector were making profits but today SAIL has been making profits; many other public sectors have been making profits. Without restructuring these things would not have been possible. Therefore, things are moving in the right direction. In trade policy, industrial policy, and fiscal policy -- major reforms have been done.

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi


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