Ugly face

A news report to the effect that four senior managers of the Bangalore-based Infosys Technologies Ltd will receive annual remuneration packages of Rs.14 crore-plus for the year ended 2017-18, triggered old memories about asinine government rules and regulations governing managerial remuneration in Indian industry. 

Most latter-day readers of this publication are unlikely to be aware that back in the socialist heyday of 1970-90, the then ultra-socialist Congress government at the Centre had imposed a ceiling on managerial remuneration of Rs.7,500 per month on chairmen/ managing directors, and Rs.7,000 on directors of all public and private companies. In desperation, Ajit Haksar, the legendary chairman and CEO of ITC Ltd which in those days was earning a net profit of Rs.100 crore-plus, took early retirement to cash in his provident fund and gratuity aggregating some Rs.75,000, to build himself a home for his retirement and was reappointed chairman — a legally permissible initiative. But the entire neta-babu and jholawala communities, plus the press came down heavily on him. However, as editor of Businessworld in those years, I fully supported him and strongly criticised the absurd ceiling which had provoked a brain drain of top managers from India Inc. 

Nor have leaders of Indian industry freed from the ceiling on managerial remuneration who swag home Rs.15-20 crore annually, exhibited any gratitude for my almost solitary advocacy of their cause. In the early years of the new millennium when EducationWorld solicited modest ad support from them — all the professed champions of education reform — Ratan Tata, Narayan Murthy, N. Chandrasekhar, Rahul Bajaj, Azim Premji etc — pleaded poverty. Nevertheless, your editor remains a champion of private enterprise and free markets in the national interest. But there’s no denying, capitalism — especially Indian capitalism— has an ugly face.