Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday urged business enterprises to “necessarily adopt” the mantra of change even as he exuded confidence over the ability of young business leaders in India to cope with the challenges of change.

Singh’s exhortation to industry leaders came during his address at the BusinessLine Changemaker Awards 2019; he also gave away the awards at a ceremony attended by over 200 guests. The flagship Changemaker of the Year Award was presented to the GST Council and the petitioners against Section 377 of the IPC. When Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on behalf of the GST Council, stepped up to receive the award from Singh, it made for a rare and iconic moment, given that they come from two sides of the political aisle.

The Young Changemaker award was shared by Anju Verma, and Kush and Arjun Pandey. While Verma won the award for using education as a tool to improve the social mobility of underprivileged children, the Pandey brothers started the ScoutMe platform to scout for football talent. The Social Transformation award went to the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, which provides quality education in Maoist and Naxal-affected hinterlands. The Digital Transformation award was given to eNAM for enabling farmers to directly sell their produce in the market.

The glittering event was kickstarted by ‘Saxophone’ Lavanya, who kept the audience entertained with golden oldies. Commerce, Industry and Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu also addressed the gathering spelling out the Centre’s vision for increasing India’s growth levels.

In his address, Manmohan Singh said that young business leaders in India are full of confidence, full of josh , and full of inner strength to embrace changes in technology, communication and creativity.

At the same time, he raised concerns about the “negative perceptions” that have been manufactured of late about business leaders. “Business community, big and small, has been made to feel the wrath of coercive agencies. A hostile narrative has been built; this will sap not only the confidence of our own business leaders it will also create doubts in the mind of foreign governments and business leaders”, he said.

Singh said that the honest businessman and genuine entrepreneur must never be allowed to feel harassed by petty revenue officials. “Unfortunately, trust between the government and the business stands eroded,” Singh said.

Raghavan Srinivasan, Editor, BusinessLine , expressed the hope that the awards would go on to catalyse change. Later, in a conversation with the BusinessLine Editor Raghavan Srinivasan, Jaitley listed the priorities of the governments in the coming decade: rural India, clearing the backlog of defence purchases, healthcare and education and infrastructure.

The BusinessLine Changemaker Awards are powered by Volkswagen. Other sponsors include Tata Sons (Associate Sponsor), Qualcomm (Innovation partner); Dell Technologies (Digital Partner), Afilias (Dot Brand Partner), Anand Prakash (Gift partner) with Oriental Bank of Commerce and Casagrand (supporting partners).