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“Regulators are like General Physicians. They Know a Sector Through and Through”- Gopal Jain, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

In an Interview with BW Businessworld, Gopal Jain, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India talks about ‘The Policy Dialogues for Future India’ and more

Tell us why a legal stalwart like you decided to come up with the initiative of ‘The Policy Dialogues for Future India’?
The idea is to create a platform that brings together the decision makers, regulators, policy makers and adjudicators to start a dialogue on the catalytic role they all can play for Indian economy. For each of them to know what the other does, so they all can work towards a common national objective of economic development. After 15-20 years there has come a shift in the policy making at the political level that will translate into the vision of ‘Naya India’ (New India). This emanates the need for a discourse amongst the concerned stakeholders i.e. a regulatory policy pe charcha.  
What is your vision for ‘The Policy Dialogues for Future India’? What do you hope to achieve from it?
The single most important objective is having harmony amongst the decision makers; so that we can have a common vision for new India. Decision makers are collective partners in economic growth and development. They all represent institutions of governance; therefore, it is pertinent that they all come together and speak in one voice. This shall ensure clarity and predictability to stakeholders. Regulators are guardians and trustees for citizens. If we can get the delivery system going and get the stakeholders viable this can initiate a new beginning.
Which sections of society do you hope to engage in these policy dialogues? Why is it important to engage with them?
It is across the society. Regulatory policy and adjudication virtually cover the entire spectrum. I would use the word stakeholders- who are the beneficiaries, eventually regulate and initiate policies for the benefit of people. There are two ways of looking at it first, let’s take any sector for instance the utility sector. If you want round the clock power you need generators in place. Generators that are hale and hearty. They will generate electricity. Then you need to have a good transmission system and a distribution licensee. So that what they generate eventually reaches the end user. So the end user is going to be the beneficiary of that. I am trying to map the stakeholders and bring in the linkages between all of them. So that there is a seamless flow of quality services and at the same time stakeholders like generators, transmission and distribution licensee are all incentivized to engage in the activity which is required. That’s how you build up a mission round the clock and affordable power with viable stakeholders.
Which is more important according to you – human development or economic development, and why?
Human development and economic development are connected. Economic development is towards human development. It’s not one at the cost of other. Its two sides of the same coin and we require both. For example, when you use the word capital it could be financial capital or intellectual capital. Capital cuts across both ends of the spectrum. The point of this whole debate and discussion is if we get the key infrastructure sectors, the key regulatory sectors alive, kicking and functioning. It eventually benefits all the users and stakeholders who are the ultimate beneficiaries. All policy and regulations, at the heart of it, always has the benefit, advantage, concern of the user. There is a link and a bridge between these two.
What is your view of India’s present and India’s future?
In the present that we’ve seen a slew of measures. Confidence building measures manifest intent the government has shown. We need to give a robust FDI policy, automatic route what I call hands off. Let’s stimulate the climate of investment. If investments come sectors do well, it generates jobs so it’s a very clear intent that they have given- that we want to trigger a cycle of investments. We are looking at multiple sectors, Mining for an example has opened Digital media. So these are all confidence building measures, which is step one. Delivery and implementation is the most important aspect when I look at the future. These have to translate on the ground because unless and until the benefit of policy flow to the stakeholders it’s only an expression of intent. So, the conversion and translation of this, what I call delivery and implementation on the ground, is what is required and will determine the future of India. We are now in a regime of ease of doing business. It must reflect in light touch regulation, forward looking policy and harmony among all the decision makers this will trigger a platform for take-off of the India story . We must make a transition from where we are today and a discussion, dialogue and debate may stimulate that.
How can regulators play a more important role in economic growth, and in creating ‘Naya India’?
Regulators are like a general physician. They know a sector through and through. Stakeholders approach the regulator with their side of the story and what I call is regulatory filing. They are a repository of information about a sector. Similarly, a General Physician is in the best position to diagnose and make a prescription. Regulatory powers are dynamic so that they can meet changing dynamics in any economy. There are domestic trends and there are global trends wherein a regulator possesses a bird’s eye view and an insider view of a sector. The regulators possess a vast repository of power backed by various Acts. This can be used for the benefit of the sector, economy, nation, and the stakeholders. In my view, a regulator is best placed in conjunction with holding hands with the policy makers; they together provide the framework. On top of this, there exists an adjudicatory framework which must then recognize and support the work of experts on regulatory policy. All of them must play a supporting role in the larger vision for ‘Naya India’ and the future of India.
What are the regulatory and policy changes that you look for in the ‘India of the future’?
The focus must be on resolution; the new thinking must be solution oriented. The regulators must think individually as well as collectively that they must resolve the issue. This is my proposed solution after due deliberation. That’s step number one. Secondly, each of them must have an approach where they create a framework to allow market forces and market structure at play. But you provide this outer perimeter so that there is fair competition amongst the stakeholders. However, there should not be space for micromanaging their journey. Each person must be given the freedom to function and to deliver on key deliverable. A light touch approach or what is called a feather light approach versus a heavy-handed approach is important. Lastly, all the regulators are in a political economy; at present, the mood of the nation is a mood of reform. So, it is a very good opportunity for them to throw up their hands and say that we can make an impact and a contribution. Resolution and innovation are the two things that I would focus on.

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