More reports on: Economy - general

Retrospective tax on Vodafone was a mistake: Pitroda

20 March 2014

Sam Pitroda, the prime minister's technology advisorSam Pitroda, the prime minister's technology advisor, on Wednesday admitted that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government did ''mess up'' and took some wrong decisions, including the one to impose a retrospective tax on Vodafone.

The decision to retrospectively tax deals concluded overseas spooked the global investor community, which saw it as an example of inconsistent policy.

Speaking at a meet organized by Congress in Mumbai, Pitroda officially the prime minister's advisor on public information infrastructure, who is said to have the ear of Rahul Gandhi - said a range of much-needed reforms in the administrative, labour, political and legal fields couldn't be implemented because of a "lack of political will".

He blamed it, at least in part, on the "difficulty of running a coalition government". He also blamed it on the absence of 'HR' in government, saying "How do you hire people in government and how do you let go?" Pitroda referred to how bureaucrats get shuffled at frequent intervals, before they have a chance to settle in and be held accountable.

"Today in government, you can't fire anybody for doing bad work or no work," he said.

"You get a government of 40-year-old guys, they'll deliver; you get a government of 70-year-old guys, they won't deliver" a telling comment from one who serves an octogenarian prime minister.

Pitroda also said the Congress government deserves credit for ''phenomenal work'' carried out over the last 10 years.

''Not everything we did in the last decade was right. I own up to the mistakes. But mistakes happened because we did something,'' said.

He said that the failure of the Congress government was that it was unable to communicate the decisions to the lowest level. ''There may have been a failure of implementation and a failure of communication. People should have been taken into consideration while implementing the Food Security Bill or NREGA,'' he said.

Pitroda said that the ongoing ''noise'' is not just about an election, but it is about the core idea of India. ''I am very concerned that we are going far from the concept of India that was envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Subhashchandra Bose.

''At the time, importance was given to democracy, inclusion, concern for minorities and the poor, development on our own terms, equity and freedom. There is a difference between building a company and building a nation, especially in a country with so much diversity.''

He said that an organised campaign was being run with the media ''telling a lot of lies.''

''It reminds me of the campaign before the 1989 election where everyone said Rajiv Gandhi was corrupt and the Bofors scam became a big deal. It was a big lie. Gandhi lost the election and was killed later,'' said Pitroda who was Gandhi's advisor at the time.

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