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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dark days ahead

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma, a retired senior civil servant and ex-governor of West Bengal, an erudite man whom I respect for his balanced views and innate sense of decency (not a common thing these days) has hit out bluntly and harshly against Narendra Modi and Reliance Industries, the latter by name, at a major high-level gathering: see this.

Even if we discount some of the fire and brimstone because of the consideration that his brother Rajmohan is contesting the elections on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket from East Delhi, the content of his speech bears reflection, and that too with furrowed brows. Certainly a somewhat more serious issue than IPL auctions and gay ‘rights’ and the ‘permissible’ length of skirts, if you know anything at all about how the world works and have got your head screwed on right. And this bears repetition: I am not a card-carrying member of any communist organization.

The world is run by power. If you belong to the comfortable urban ten per cent and count on daddy’s savings and connections to see you through every little crisis you don’t feel it bluntly every day, but that doesn’t change anything. In the contemporary world – and by contemporary I can go back to ancient Rome – power stems largely from money (even to organize large and significant ‘revolutionary’ organizations you need big money, as the Maoists know, and Arvind Kejriwal is beginning to find out). There are times when the spirit of rapacious capitalism has run amok (and please, capitalism has only partly to do with introducing new techniques and gadgets, it’s much more about getting control of banks, wage rates and natural resources like land, iron and oil…ask the Rothschilds, Krupps, Rockefellers, Abramovich-s and Ambanis), using government only as its executive committee in Marx’s memorable phrase, as in mid-19th century France and Britain; at times governments have asserted their independence somewhat more strongly, as in Lincoln’s or FDR’s USA, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, when, to be honest, results have been mixed: enormous advances have been made, such as the abolition of slavery and fixing minimum wage rates and social security provisions and near-universal basic education and health care, but the costs have been tremendous, the record of oppression too brutal,  no use whitewashing that.

Be that as it may, since the demise of the Soviet Union and China’s sharp rightward turn in the early 1980s, which coincided with the Reagan- and Thatcher eras in the Anglo-Saxon world, rapacious and unabashed capitalism has been on the rampage again, with the entire globe as its playing field, quite the way it was in the days of the East India Company, except that no MNC today would dare to think aloud of invading any recalcitrant country to bring it to heel, else Google would have done that with China already. Some countries are gaining/hurting more as a result, but one fact is undeniable: whether it is India or the US, economic inequalities are widening rapidly and vastly as money gets concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. There are fewer than 1000 billionaires in the world, and they control more money than 99.9% of the human population (and to think that the chief argument against communism is that it concentrates power into too few hands!). That means barely a thousand people control mankind’s destiny, more or less. The system is still running because a) it has allowed a few million people to become at least millionaires (even some journos, doctors and teachers among them!) b) it lets at least a billion people to live in relative comfort and freedom while dreaming that they too or their children might become millionaires someday, c) through the pretence of upholding democracy and liberal values, combined with circuses of every variety (remember the Roman emperors and their ‘bread and circuses’?)  it keeps the vast unwashed masses quiescent: so what if we live in slums and feed on leftovers and can’t afford heated bedrooms, we can watch Miley Cyrus or Katrina Kaif ‘dancing’, can’t we? But now even the rudiments of democracy are under threat, if the likes of Gandhi are to be believed. India – and, strangely enough, especially India’s youth (or is it very strange at all, overwhelmingly pinheads with no sense of history as the bulk of our youth are, even those who come out of engineering college these days…?) seems hell-bent on ushering in an era of in your face authoritarianism, while crony capitalism seems on the verge of taking over all the country’s silver. Any vision of India 2020, anybody?

P.S.: A reader sent me this link after reading this post. Remember, it has been well said that in a democracy people get the kind of government they deserve. Moon Moon Sen, puppet in Mamata Banerjee's hands, casting her vote in the Lok Sabha as ordered in the hope of wangling little favours out of Narendra Modi's PMO, which in turn is remote controlled from the Reliance boardroom: why ever not?


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda
As always thank you for sharing your views. The state of affairs is appalling to say the least. Occasionally, I have been reading the news relating to the elections and I must admit it is not a pleasant reading. It fills me with immense shame at times that such a travesty is happening in the name of elections. Given that any news about any place is now common knowledge, most times I am uncertain when asked about India’s election by outsiders. There are candidates who are openly not interested in the job, you have mostly non-issues being discussed and debated and most alarming of them all as you say the strangely resurgent India’s youth and their ambitions. People just don’t expect any accountability from elected representatives at all and hence they don’t care whom they elect or whether they would do anything solve the basic problems that still make the nation suffer.
As you say, in urban society it is all about their purchasing power without the basic realisation what they are purchasing. Judging by the intolerance spreading around the world I wonder what is in store for India? The problem assumes scarier proportion when you are not certain whether most Indians in positions of authority are credible or not.
Kind regards

Hemen Parekh said...

Wrong Business ?

Talking about Narendra Modi's " Crony Capitalism " , Rahul Gandhi said ,

" During 12 years of NaMo's rule in Gujarat , Gautam Adani's companies '
assets ( or did he mean , Market Cap ? or Revenue ? it does not matter )
went up from Rs 3000 crores to Rs 40,000 crores "

That is a CAGR ( Compounded Annual Growth Rate ) of 25 %

Now look at the assets declared by the Congress Candidates of the current Lok Sabha elections ( Let us not inquire re: Undeclared Assets ! )

Within 5 years ( from 2009 to 2014 ) , the average assets of these Congressmen , went up from Rs 4.87 crores to Rs 54.38 crores !

That is a CAGR of 62 % !

So , which is a better business ?

> Building Nation by building Ports , Power Stations , Infrastructure etc ?


> Fooling Nation by robbing its precious natural resources , such
Spectrum , Coal , Gas , Minerals , etc ?

> Not revealing the names of 50 individuals who have stashed away black
money in German Banks - and whose names , German Government has
provided 3 years back ?

> Promoting " Crony Relative-ism " when it comes to buying government
land for Rs 1 lakh / hectare and selling for Rs 100 lakhs / hectare ?

Gautambhai ,

Obviously , you are in the wrong business !

Switch over to sycophancy !

Enjoy a CAGR of 200 % !

Then , like late Babu Jagjivan Ram , don't file your Income Tax Return for next 10 years - and , if reminded , say , " I just forgot " !

* hemen parekh ( 24 April 2014 / Mumbai )