Nothing should be given for free, says Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy

The Infosys co-founder also said compassionate capitalism is the only solution for a poor country like India to become a prosperous nation.
Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy (File Photo | ANI)
Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy (File Photo | ANI)

BENGALURU: Software industry icon N R Narayana Murthy on Wednesday said "Nothing should be given free," and suggested people availing services and subsidies provided by the Government should be made to contribute back to the betterment of society.

The Infosys co-founder also said compassionate capitalism is the only solution for a poor country like India to become a prosperous nation.

"When you provide those services, when you provide those subsidies, there must be something in return that they're willing to do. For example, if you say -- I will give you free electricity, then it would have been a very nice thing for the government to have said, but we want to see the percentage attendance in primary schools and middle schools go up by 20 percent, then only we will give you that," Murthy said.

Speaking at the 26th edition of Bengaluru Tech Summit 2023, here, the IT industry veteran said that in other words, nothing should be given for free and that there should be a contribution of the citizens towards making a better society.

"I am not against free services being provided. I fully understand, as I also came from a poor background once upon a time. But I think we should expect something in return from those people who received those free subsidies to take a slightly bigger responsibility towards making their own future generation, their own children and grandchildren, better in terms of going to school, you know, performing better.

That's what I mean," he added.

Murthy was speaking during the 'Fireside Chat' moderated by Nikhil Kamath, Co-founder, Zerodha at the Tech Summit.

On whether there is an appropriate level of taxation, he said, in a country like India, where there's a large mass of poor people, the evangelists of capitalism must accept that they have to pay a higher level of taxation, because there are so many public services that the government will have to provide for the poor people "In order to create efficient, corruption-free and effective public goods in our country, the taxation will have to be obviously higher than what you see in developed countries. So, I personally would not at all grudge, if I have to pay a higher level of taxation," he said, Murthy pointed out that a per capita GDP of USD 2,300 puts India about twice that of what is called "low income countries" by the United Nations and other bodies and said, "we are still far away from being called a middle income country where the per capita GDP is somewhere between USD 6,000 to about 12,000 to 15,000."

Explaining about his transformation from being a strong leftist to a "determined compassionate capitalist", he said compassionate capitalism is the only solution for a poor country like India to become prosperous and not socialism and communism.

He said he believes that capitalism based on the twin pillars of free market and entrepreneurship is the only solution for any country to solve its problem of poverty.

To a question on his suggestion to the government on enhancing the per capita GDP, Murthy said political leaders should study China very very carefully.

"China which had all the same problems as us, has reached a GDP five or six times that of India's.

So all that I would humbly request our political leaders is to study China very very carefully, and then see what are the good things that we can learn from China and implement here, so that India too advances at the same pace as China, and becomes a nation that has reduced the poverty of its people," he added.

However, he also noted that there is a difference between China and India, as the latter was a colonised country for 1,000 plus years, and both countries have a different model of governance.

Congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government for the National Education Policy, Murthy said it is a step in the right direction.

"Given that Dr K Kasturirangan was the chairman and people like Manjul Bhargava were part of that (NEP), I have tremendous hope that it will show us a path towards becoming better," he said.

Murthy also suggested that political parties, intellectuals, academics and corporate leaders come together to think of practical solutions that can boost the foreign direct investments.

To make Bengaluru better, he suggested a good public governance system, starting more English medium schools, and improving infrastructure in the city with alacrity.

Speaking about infrastructure and completing metro services to Electronic City and other parts of the city where there are more number of companies on priority, he said, "people in that infrastructure industry must work three shifts."

Stating that he has noticed people working at least two shifts in other countries with high aspirations, he said, "we want to be better than all those countries. So, ask people what are the requirements they need to work three shifts and complete the work in time and provide them that."

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