At a time when there is very little criticism from India Inc on the government’s economic revival plan, top industrialist Rajiv Bajaj said the country’s Covid-19 relief package misses the ‘wow factor’ in comparison to western nations.
In an exclusive interview, Bajaj Auto MD and CEO Rajiv Bajaj told India Today TV News Director Rahul Kanwal that his counterparts in the west have received direct help from their respective governments. “They have just one word to describe the support they are receiving. They say Wow,” said Bajaj.
Bajaj said he has been talking to his counterpart Stefan Peirer, who is the CEO of Austrian motorcycle manufacturing company KTM AG. He was told by Pierer that his government is reimbursing 85 per cent of employee costs.
“That’s the kind of very direct and substantial benefit that people are receiving in other countries,” Bajaj said.
“Unfortunately, we are not seeing this here in India.”
When asked what the government should have done better to deal with the immediate crisis, Bajaj said putting direct money in people’s hands, especially from poorer sections, is the need of the hour.
“Not just the migrants but even the others who have been displaced. I have read that 12 crore people have lost their jobs. That’s a huge number,” Bajaj said in an alarming tone.
For businesses, Bajaj said it is not possible for the government to handhold everyday operations but, he feels the government can “surely” offer some support in terms of employees wages.
He stressed on the need to help MSMEs immediately as they have been badly hit by the 50-day plus lockdown announced by the government to shield India from coronavirus.
‘Big businesses not speaking up’
Rajiv Bajaj also expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that big businesses are not speaking out about the crisis the industry faces in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am not very happy about the fact that big businesses are not speaking up. They are not conveying their view, as we should in a free country about what we think is amiss and what needs to be done,” Bajaj said during the interview.
“In this country, it seems that only the young, the poor and the ladies will speak up, but big names in business, sports and entertainment never speak up,” he added.
“Maybe they do not deserve a stimulus.”
When asked to elaborate on his views, Bajaj went on to add that he has been warned several times to not express such views in public, but added that he always did so because he “lives in India and not in China”.
“When I am sometimes counselled by people to not express such views in public, I always say that I have always believed that the reason I live in India and not in China is that I feel that I am free to give my opinion. It is objective, based on facts and I have no malafide intention,” Bajaj said.
“If I am not comfortable speaking up, then I should move to North Korea or Venezuela.”
The top industrialist then went on to highlight the difficulties that exporter and manufacturing-heavy businesses are facing and said these issues need to be addressed urgently.
He said the administration should “come to terms with the reality” and added that integrated businesses will continue to suffer unless the entire chain, ranging from manufacturing to distribution is opened.
‘India’s lockdown over the top’
Comparing the government’s lockdown exit strategy with many European countries that are now reopening businesses systematically, Bajaj said India’s lockdown has been over the top.
“When it is becoming clear that the cases will continue to rise because this is a virus, impervious to the lockdown. The virus is going to hang around,” he said.
Bajaj said he does not get the logic behind further extending the lockdown, giving an example of Maharashtra, where the lockdown may be extended to May 31.
“I just don’t get it. I have asked a lot of people in the state’s administration about the parameter and metric they are waiting for and what will motivate them to unlock,” he added.
Bajaj spoke about several other issues businesses are facing, especially those linked to the auto sector. For more insights, click here to watch the full interview
ALSO READ | 24 migrants killed, 36 injured after trucks collide in UP’s Auraiya
ALSO READ | How India’s total lockdown has fared so far
ALSO WATCH | Rajiv Bajaj on mega stimulus package, lockdown and more