Lord Swraj Paul is a British tycoon and philanthropist of Indian origin but he considers himself” 100% Indian and 100% British:’ And both countries consider him as theirown. In 1996, the then-British Prime Minister John Major appointed him a life peer. Years earlier, Indira Gandhi’s Government had honoured him with Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award.In a free-wheeling conversation with Blitz1NDiA, he talked about, among other things, ties with India, his life journey, and the Indian economy. Despite his tremendous charitable and philanthropic work, he remains humble. As he says, “I do my bit, and may God help me:’ Following are the excerpts from the interview:
“I consider him (Prime MinisterNarendra Madi) an honest man who almost eradicated com,ption.”
“Both organisations (Commonwealth and UN) are playing an important part working in having countries together.”
BLITZINDIA To begin with, what is India in your eyes? How would you like to describe the country of your birth?
LORD SWRAI PAUL India is, was and will remain a wonderful, lovely country. I am very proud to be Indian and in spite of the fact that I am British by nationality, I never fail to say that I am 100% Indian and 100% British. In 1997, I shocked a BBC TV journalist by answering the same.
BIHow do you view India’s development story over the years?
LSP India has developed wonderfully well over the 75 years since Independence, and in my view, it will continue to do so. By and large, Indians are hardworking and honest people.
BIIndia is now shaping itself as ‘New India’ in terms of development. What is your comment on that?
LSPIndia, as with any other country, is always “new;’ year by year, and to me, is as good as any and will remain so.
BIHow do you see the present leadership of India? Or, to be precise, what’s your take on PM Modi’s style of working?
LSPGreat. PM Modi is doing a wonderful job, he is down to earth and the voters like him.
BIWhat are your views on the Indian Government’s initiatives like Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make-in-India?
LSPI really do not know what exactly is involved with these initiatives. However, a lot of initiatives are taken. At least one doesn’t hear any protests against them, though people in India do protest very strongly when they don’t like something
BIHow do you view the Indian economy from a global perspective?
LSPThe Indian economy is as good as any other, given its population and shortage of finances. It has also done as well as any other country during the COVID pandemic which has impacted economic progress.
BIYou have been witness to India’s progress on the global map for over seven decades now. What are the significant changes you would like to point out?
LSPThe progress made over the years is very visible and everyone in the world recognises and praises that.
BIIndia is making its presence felt on international platforms and is aiming to become a new power centre on the world stage. What is your view on this?
LSP I personally think and have said so many times that India is a power centre on the world stage. I hope the new Blitz India will educate most of the Indian people who can’t see it.
BI You have had the privilege of observing many Indian prime ministers in action. How will you compare the working of Prime Minster Narendra Modi with that of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi?
LSP I like this question. The first time I was asked this was on Parliamentary TV – but
in a little different way – “Lord Paul, who do you think has been the best Prime Minister of India?”My answer was simple. By and large all prime ministers we have had have done a good job. Some better, some a little less.However, my own judgment is Jawaharlal Nehru. I wouldn’t put him in the category of just any prime minister. Of course, he had great help, support and guidance from Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Taking Nehru out, the best PM so far has been Mrs Indira Gandhi. She was a great leader who stood for India, and made sure every country in the world knew that India had a prime minister and a leader, thus elevating India’s prestige.By the way, just for information, Mrs Gandhi and her government awarded me the high honour in India, the Padma Bhushan, which was supposed to be given to Indian nationals only, and by that time, I was British by nationality. When this was pointed out by the civil servants, she said: “Swraj is Indian and will remain Indian so go ahead and approve:’ To me, this was an even bigger honour than receiving the Padma Bhushan.
BI How, do you think, is the world responding to Prime Minister Modi?
LSPVery good, very respectful. I consider him an honest man who almos eradicated corruption
BIWhat sort of changes are you looking for in the political leadership and the bureaucratic set-up in India
in the 21st century?
LSPEvery country is always looking for change for the better in every direction. India, its leadership and its people are striving hard, and good luck to them
BIHow do you see the relationship between India and the UK?
LSPGreat, and becoming greater. Every prime minister from the ·sos until now on both sides has been striving hard. We are seeing the results.
BIHow will you compare the Indian economy with US and UK economies?
LSPThe Indian economy is doing as well as it can. Industry is progressing now, corruption is reducing. One cannot compare it with the economies of different countries.
BIHow do you think the Indian economy will make a stronger presence on the global platform and be better aligned with the global economy?
LSPI think the Indian economy is doing as good as it can, and will continue to do so.
BIWhat, in your view, is the role and relevance of the Commonwealth and the United Nations in the present scenario?
LSPBoth organisations are playing an important part in having countries working together. There are always issues but for all the years they have existed they have always managed to work together. Long live this relationship.
BIPM Modi talked about UN reforms recently, and he was backed on this by most member nations of the global body. What is your observation?
LSP It’s a great honour for India; I was proud when it happened. Credit to MrModi, the Indian people and credit to all the other countries which saw the fact that India is a great country.
BIYou have achieved phenomenal success in business sphere. How do you look at traditional and new business models?
LSPLuck, hard work, and honesty
BIHow has been your experience in manufacturing and trading segments?
LSPGreat in manufacturing, thanks to my engineering education at MIT. You have to trade in both buying and selling if you want to be a success
BIWhat are your thoughts on philanthropy and charity? How deeply are you involved in these? What is your message to the new generation in this regard?
LSPI do my bit, and may God help me.
BIWhat are your views about women empowerment?
LSPAs you know, in the Hindu religion we believe that mother is a Goddess. That is why we have always worshipped mothers right from birth and that is what has made India strong.Just to remind you and your readers that when MrModi became Prime Minister, the first thing he did was to touch his mother’s feet and ask for her blessings
BIWhat is your message to politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India? And what is your advice to India’s youth?
LSPNever give advice to politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India. It can only hurt you.
BILastly, why does London have a special place in your heart? How would you like to describe your personal and professional experience in the UK?
LSPGood questions and I am glad you asked them.
Please work hard, get a good education and be honest. The world is at your feet.
I owe it to the British people, the British Government and Her Majesty, the Queen, for giving a young man, a highly experienced engineer and businessman, the chance to come to London for his daughter’s leukaemia treatment where after three years she died.
I started a business borrowing £5,000 from a small bank, and today Bull Moose Tube in the US and Caparo in the rest of the world is a successful business, 100% owned and at 90 years old I am still working 16.5 hours a day. Thank you for giving me this opportunity!
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