An establishment stirred, but not shaken? The “G-14″ rails against corruption in India
An open letter from a group of 14 eminent citizens, quickly labelled the “G-14″ and blaming corruption as one of the biggest threats to India’s growth story, may be a case of a glass half empty, half full.
The letter was signed by leading industry figures, including Azim Premji, head of software giant Wipro, the chiefs of vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra, the HDFC mortgage lender and ICICI Bank. It also includes former central bank governors and senior judges.
They called on investigative agencies to clamp down on corruption and say a recent slew of graft scams, like the 2G scandal which may have cost the government up to $39 billion, have “deeply hurt the nation”.
The letter may be a welcome statement from civil society as India appears mired in corruption scandals that for many commentators signal how the second term Congress-led government is simply losing the plot.
It also signals how many in the business world, including foreign investors, believe corruption is simply getting out of hand under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is seen both as honest but unable to stamp down on corruption within his government.
So, on the one hand it may reflect a tipping point among ordinary, hardworking Indians fed up with daily front page stories of government figures milking the country’s nine percent growth rate and its global economic clout.
But one thing does stand out. Given India is facing a perfect storm of corruption scams — perhaps the worst in decades — who did only 14 people sign it?
The letter does not feature many of the titans of Indian industry. And to put the numbers in context, some 200 economists wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama over his stimulus plan. Former British PM Margaret Thatcher received a letter from 360 economists opposing her austerity plans.
So, why only a G-14?