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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

State And Business Class Show The Way


Very recently, at the Indira Gandhi 10th Annual Conference, Sonia Gandhi pleaded for “the state, business and labour onto a common platform in pursuit of a shared vision — the vision of a more equal, more caring society”. Is this sincere plea possible?

What divisions of society are they working with? Who are these State, business and labour people? Rahul’s very effective catch phrase of “two Indias” attempts to paraphrase the new Indian paradigm of the Esteem drivers and the Atlas bicycle riders. But to claim that India is only divided in two is calling a half filled glass of water a 12 year old bottle of scotch.

In fact, a single division would be an earth shattering achievement. Anyone reading this will know that Indian politics is fractured into a wildly complicated matrix of splinters that belong to caste, class and regional loyalties. Which is a head spinner. In fact, in this dumbing down age, I’m fast warming to this new idea of only three divisions.

Though it has to be said that Mrs. Gandhi’s usage of the term “platform” is unfortunate because these new castes would not be seen dead sharing a common platform, never mind a waiting room. It conjures up images, for me at least, of hordes of laborer’s waiting, with increasing impatience, for the Indian Economic Miracle Rajdhani Express, clutching tickets given to them by the Congress.

But they are increasingly resigned to the realisation that those tickets, to what is rightfully their passage, are worthless 60 year old I.O.U. notes. In return for no water, no education, no health and no electricity whilst the agents of the State made ends meet by slumming it out in Lutyen bungalows and London private hospitals.

The new business caste’s stoic social commitment? Will they answer Madam’s call for a much greater sense of social responsibility? If you asked them to share a platform with the labour classes they would kill themselves by laughing their guts out. Why in hell would they do that when you can bloody fly? You don’t get frequent flyer points for mixing with those types.

However, if there is a airline strike, which is known to happen, I can very clearly, with no degree at all of opacity, the State and the Business classes cozily sharing a common railway platform. This relationship is alive and kicking furiously. Jesus, get a room!

This unperturbed display of intimate relations between the State class and the business class has not escaped our leader’s attention. Mrs. Gandhi ominously said, “Graft and greed are on the rise.”

The wildly lucrative 2G spectrum and Commonwealth Games construction graft was a glaring example of how well the business and State classes work together. Kalmadi, reportedly, help bribe an unprecedented 72 States to secure the Games, displaying a legendary, God given talent for cementing the business, State relationship. Yes, finally a common indivisible vision! Yes, even the labour class was involved in the construction! A glorious victory march towards a more equal, more caring society.

Well, it’s undeniable Kalmadi and Raja, the former Telecommunications minister, are now equally filthy rich and equally caring about their country. In fact they’re probably so concerned about India that they will likely team up, buy a small Pacific country, with small change, and settle there.

But Mrs. Gandhi’s belief that the cancer is growing is wrong. The corrupt have never left the corridors of power and don’t increase in number. It is the sheer scale of easy pickings that has grown in every dimension, to a size that is sublime. ‘Commissions’ that have been made possible by the new economic powerhouse in amounts that can only be marveled at.

Ironically, Mrs. Gandhi’s proposed antidote to this divisive poison is to have “greater probity, more transparency”. A cleaned window to the gears of government and business practice. This may be counterproductive. The less the public know about the workings of this Government, the better the chance of re-election.

The hard to find positive side of the Orwellian nature of the Indian press coverage is that corruption scandals are far more likely to be reported than in the old days of Doordhashan rule. Importantly the audience reach of these televised corruption exposes’ increases exponentially every year. Deep into the remote heartland of backward States like Chattisgarh that are experiencing intense ‘insurgency’.

For Mrs. Gandhi’s plea for a more caring, equal society has been, in no small way, prompted by this view of increased corruption. She knows that a unified country, with one vision, can never happen with the business, State nexus unapologetically piddling in the village tank.

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