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White-collar criminals getting away scot-free

Bangalore: Software icon NR Narayana Murthy has bemoaned that "elite" are going unpunished though they commit "huge crimes" in the country and saw it as "problem with this society."

When his reaction was sought on "large-scale white-collar crimes taking place in the country," the Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Ltd said there should be quick investigation based on data and facts and the media should not play it up.

"And there should be very heavy punishment which is commensurate with the benefit that those people have indeed gained. If you have quick, commensurate punishment, then things will be alright."

"Today, we have so many cases where elite…they just don’t get punished even though they have committed huge crimes. That’s the problem with this society," Murthy said.

He made the comments responding to questions from the media after a panel discussion on entrepreneurship and social change, organised by the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB), on entering its 10th year, at Infosys campus here last night.

Murthy did not discuss specifics but his remarks come at a time when corruption issues continue to dominate the country’s political landscape.

He emphasised the need for all businesses to enforce code of ethics.

"Whether there are scams or not, it’s extremely important to run your business legally, ethically. That’s the only way to run the business. It has to be done like that. There is no other way," Murthy said.

He said it’s "absolutely mandatory" to follow code of ethics because "that’s the only way." "It’s like saying: should I follow the rules of the road when I am driving. It’s good for you, good for others, for everybody."

On tackling corruption in general, Murthy said: "We will have to get more transparent, fairer and have more open set of rules and implementation of rules so that you know that there is no chance for corruption."

He also said that those who occupy positions in the eye of the public – whether they are corporate leaders, or academic leaders or politicians or bureaucrats or journalists – have to conduct themselves as good role models "for our children because we want a better society."

Murthy termed the present situation in the country as "enigmatic." While the country is experiencing 8.5 percent GDP growth and certain parts of the country are galloping making people happy, a significant part of India is still suffering.

He noted that 36 crore people are below poverty line, while 65 crore still depend on agriculture and related activities contributing only 20-21 percent to the GDP with their per capita income being a low Rs 15,000-16,000 per annum.

Murthy said for social change to happen, every child must have decent access to education, health, nutrition and shelter.

On his expectations from the next annual budget, he said it would be better if the government looked at issues like basic education, making basic healthcare available and also focus on areas such as shelter and nutrition.

Murthy argued that large-scale jobs can be created through entrepreneurship, which requires an environment espoused not by socialism or communism, but by "compassionate capitalism."

"It’s very, very important for us to create an environment where government becomes a catalyst, not inhibitor..where entrepreneurs spend very little time eliminating friction with various agencies.. where government becomes a transparent and efficient regulator..," he added.

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