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Interview with Manvendra Singh, Sachin Pilot, and B.J. Panda

As India races towards superpower states, there are still some 40 million that are still mired in poverty. What are its leaders doing to narrow the gap between those that have benefited from the economic rise and those that have been left behind.

Three young and dynamic MPs speak about their optimism on overcoming problems of poverty and ethnic strife that still beset India, and how it is reaching out to nations in Southeast Asia to expand its trade, specifically in the areas of energy to supply its rapidly growing industries.

The IndiaCIA The World Factbook
Interviews with Manvendra Singh,
Sachin Pilot, and B.J. Panda,
Yuli Ismartono [time 31:28]

12th December, 2006

Yuli Ismartono: Welcome to another edition of THE LEADERS. I am Yuli Ismartono from AsiaViews, here in New Delhi, India -- an emerging power house in Asia -- for an exchange of views with a number of prominent leaders.

Today we meet with three young and upcoming India's members of parliament to discuss India's phenomenal economic growth and its impact domestically and in the international world. They are Mr. Manvendra Singh from Rajasthan, Mr. Sachin Pilot from Rajasthan and Mr. B.J. Panda from Orissa.

Gentlemen, thank you for taking time off from your busy schedule to do this interview. There is great interest about India in Southeast Asia. So we will be discussing how India is doing. We know it's doing phenomenally, but we also hear of some problems remaining so let's start with Mr. Singh.

YI: Mr. Singh, despite India's phenomenal growth, millions in the country are still mired in poverty. What can be done to alleviate poverty in India?

Manvendra Singh: Well, one thing is to ensure that job creation continues to happen. And that the process of economic growth, economic liberalization and the globalization theme is essentially for that reason, that jobs continue to get created. And if you see India in 2006, go back 60 years when India was a newly-independent country. And if you compare what India was like that at that stage, in that period, to what India is now, it's an achievement we should be proud of. We shouldn't be debating whether we did the right thing or the wrong thing but the fact of what India was back then and what it is now. India can only change the living conditions of the people if the economy changes and the entire infrastructure of the country, which is not to say that everything has been done. But certainly the process is on. And the focus must remain on ensuring that more and more jobs get created.

YI: What about the farmers who complain that they are being forgotten, that with the plan to establish more economic zones they will be at the lower end?

Manvendra Singh: Economic zones are generally created in areas where land is not fertile. I admit there are some places where land is of quality and can sustain agriculture. But the condition of farmers does not depend only on economic zones. It's a question to do with reforming agriculture and we had a pretty effective land reform process for many decades, which ensures that land does not remain in the hands of only a few. There was distribution of land, unlike in other countries in the neighborhood, in the end which made aspects of agriculture unviable, reforming the entire agricultural process. The sector has to be looked in a different way.

YI: You come from Rajastan, you represent Rajasthan. How is the province doing in terms of dealing its poverty?

Manvendra Singh: We depend on three large industries, essentially. One is tourism. Tourism is a sector which employees people across the scale, from taxi drivers to camel drivers to tour agents, to people working for the travel industry, car agencies. So it covers a vast space. The other industry which Rajasthan is really big on is jewelry for export and finished products. That's a huge sector and the third industry is expanding rapidly, is handicrafts. The industry involves a lot of labor and because it requires labor it is highly developed. It is also a rapidly expanding industry though there was a period when it was under threat from mass Chinese goods. The threat lasted for just one or two years, then there was bias across the world after the realization that the quality remained on hand-made products rather than mass machine products.

YI: Mr. Pilot, I'd like to ask you now, we had from critics here in India the focus of development programs is being misplaced, for instance that issues on environment, water resources management are being ignored. What is being done to maintain a sustainable growth?

Sachin Pilot: The most important thing for any country, especially a country the size and scale of India, is to create an environment that is investor-friendly. For many years, we had not open up our economy. In recent years we have seen phenomenal growth in our manufacturing and our services sectors, and that has been possible largely because there has been a very stable political and very investment-friendly atmosphere in the country. Now, as a country progresses, and we're agreeing at about 8.6 percent a year -- and I think it's a very fast pace of growth -- there are some areas where some people say that the government is not doing enough, but I think that's not true, because in India we have many states. And you brought up the issue of sustainable development, and climate change. I think these are all the collective responsibility of everybody. So I think it is the society, the federal government along with the state governments are very conscious of the fact that if we grow at the pace that we are growing, using our natural and other resources. We have a commitment to the larger global community. So the federal government is very conscious of this fact and no matter what policy we have, the program we announce, what other developments we do, there are a certain set of parameters that one has to meet and these are standards which are global standards in Europe and western countries we've taken from the fact that we have to grow. And as we grow, we have to leave for our future generations the same planet, the same country we inherited. So I think the younger people, people in government and in my party are very, very conscious of these facts. So, we still need to work a lot. I think when we talk about growth in India and China using up a lot of the world energy, and in doing so, we are also emitting a lot of carbon dioxide, CO2, CFCs. So, we know these facts but ultimately, it all costs money. So now the arguments come down to the basics: who is going to foot the bill. And I think India and its neighborhood will not shy away from its responsibilities towards a sustainable development.

YI: So you don't agree that environmental issues are not being ignored because we hear again and again that the government is not doing enough for it. For instance, water management in the rural areas especially, little has been done, and yet that is the biggest problem.

Sachin Pilot: In terms of energy consumption, three-fourths of 75 percent of India's energy needs are imported and by 2015, 90 percent of our energy will be imported. So we have tried to change our energy mix, to shift from coal, fossil-fuel and oil, and to shift to renewable resources. And now our energy comes from new sources. So that we have a mix. And I think it's wrong for the western world or the western countries to say that, having used up 200 years of the world resources daily for their societies to really deny those facilities and opportunities for people in our part of the world. But clearly, the globe, the earth belongs to everybody. And as we progress, we build our share, and I think we have to reach some sort of an agreement as to who is averse to development, and which countries, which governments cannot afford to pay and foot those bills because ultimately, it will all cost money. Green technology involves a lot of research and development, involves a lot of scientific, of new equipment and technology. And as I said, it's wrong for anyone to mandate that henceforth, if you need to grow, you need to grow in a certain way. Having said that, I also think it's our responsibility to make sure that we don't pollute the world more than what we have to. But we have to come to some sort of understanding which must be a global effort. It must be at the level of the north and the south. It really cannot be mandated from the capitals of the western world. But I think we can work together on this.

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Personal Plofile
Manvendra Singh Manvendra Singh,
Member of the Lok Sabha (Lower House) from the BJP party, representing the state of Rajasthan. A journalist by profession, Mr. Singh joined politics in 1999. He is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, Industry and member of the Parliament Local Area Development Scheme Committee.
Sachin Pilot Sachin Pilot,
Member of the Lok Sabha, from the Congress Party, representing the state of Rajasthan. He began his political career after getting his MBA degree from the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania in the United States in 2002. Two years later, he was elected to the Lok Sabha, where at the age of 26, he was the youngest MP in the country. He is a member of parliament's Standing Committee on Home Affairs and of the consultative committee in the ministry of Civil Aviation.
B.J. Panda B.J. Panda,
Member of the Raja Sabha (Upper House), from the BJD Party, representing the state of Orissa. He is an industrialist-turned-politician and holds a dual degree in engineering, and in management in communications from the Michigan Technological University in the United States. He recently launched his own website to reach out to the people -- the first every by any politician in his largely tribal state of Orissa.
Yuli Ismartono Yuli Ismartono, [Interviewer]
Yuli Ismartono is an executive editor at Tempo, Indonesia's foremost weekly news magazine. Ms. Ismartono, who holds degrees in political science and journalism, has been with Tempo for 15 years, mostly assigned to covering events around the Asia region and interviewing national leaders - such as former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung,Cambodia's King Sihanouk and prime minister Hun Sen, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and other newsmakers. She is currently in charge of Tempo's English language edition and managing editor of AsiaViews, an online and hardcopy magazine featuring news and commentaries from the Asia region, of which Tempo is a member and coordinator of the media group that publishes it.
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