The media reaction has been pretty hostile. The general tenor is: industry has done pretty well by the country, it is government that has let us down. It is government that needs to do a lot more- in, say, education and health care.
In today's edit Business Standard (May 28) wonders whether the media reaction is a trifle excessive. It asks, "If the same speech had been made by, say, a suitable figure of eminence from the world of business (one can think of names like Ratan Tata and NR Narayana Murthy), and not by the Prime Minister, would the reactions have been different?"
Well, BS seems to have forgotten that a few years ago, Narayana Murthy had made one of the suggestions the PM made last week, curbs on executive salaries. He had proposed a reasonable ratio of the highest and lowest pay in a firm- say: 5:1. He was laughed out of court.
BS goes on to explain why there are no takers in the media for the PM's homilies.
The fact that the response has been so different merely because the speech was made by the Prime Minister, suggests two things. First, the level of frustration on account of what people see as the Manmohan Singh government’s failure to do that seems blindingly obvious in so many areas, is widespread and deeply felt. ...... Second, the days when people would accept lectures and sermons from politicians may be over. People in public life are no longer seen as occupying the high moral ground, from which they can give sermons to ordinary folk. Indeed, those in public life are seen as having failed the rest of the system, while businessmen have risen to the challenge of competition presented to them in the age of reform
I will have more to say on this later. For now, let me just say this: I believe the PM, who has a helicopter view of the landscape below, is entirely right in asking industry to be more mindful of its social obligations.