Bribing by big businesses common, says Bajaj

Ratan Tata's take on ethics yesterday triggered a debate among industrialists and union ministers. The Tata Group Chairman had said that he did not want to bribe his way into launching an airline.

Big corporate houses would find it easier not to be corrupt than small ones, but they still give money to get their jobs done, Bajaj Auto Chairman Rahul Bajaj said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's India edition, adding "They (corporate houses) should not."

"Nobody asked me (for bribe). They don't have the guts to ask. They know me, my family background," he said within a day of Tata Group Supremo stating that he did not want to bribe Rs 15 crore to a minister, as had been suggested by an industrialist, to start an airline in India.

Industry Minister Anand Sharma offered to act against the corrupt, if any specific instances were brought to his notice.

"Let me make it clear that this government is led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a man of intellect and integrity.

"As India's commerce and industry minister, I can firmly make a statement that I not only believe in, but am firmly committed to the institution of integrity, transparency and dignity," he told reporters.

Asked about Tata's statement, Sharma's Cabinet colleague Vilasrao Deshmukh said: "We need more transparency. I think the government is committed to that." Asserting that corruption was all pervasive in India, Bajaj said: "Bigger firms should have the guts not to give money."

In a question-answer session after delivering a lecture yesterday, Tata had said that amid his efforts to set up a joint venture with Singapore Airlines, a fellow industrialist had said: "You are stupid people. The Minister was asking for Rs 15 crore. Why didn't you pay the money?

"I did not want to go to the bed knowing well that I set up an airlines by paying Rs 15 crore." Ratan Tata's predecessor, JRD Tata, had set up the first commercial airlines of India 'Tata Airlines' in the 1930s and that was later in the 1950s taken over by the Government and turned into Air India.

Asked about Tata's stance, Industry Minister Sharma said: "I have high respect for Ratan Tata because of his stature and his contribution."

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