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Desperate Capitalism, Disparaged State, and Doctored Democracy

Thursday 19 February 2009, by Dev N Pathak


Satyam! Shivam! Sundaram??

The nation wakes up to the news of the day on January 16, 2009: The Prime Minister addresses the captains of industry, sending a message to India Inc. at the Trident Oberoi hotel in Mumbai. The content: ‘Everything is back to normal.. India is safe.. please come back.’ It is a day after the front page of almost every newspaper splashed the silent waters. Reports could not resist the analytical temptation and passed suspicion-laced comments. The bottom- line: an unequivocal mourning on the Satyam fiasco and reports on the endeavonr for recovery. The second bottom-line: It also informed us on the unveiled predilection of India Inc. for a leader of the nation in Narendra Modi.

The element of irony that a student of creative writing always seeks to learn by poring over tomes is ubiquity in our national dailies. It, however, does not amuse. Irony has become the scare-crow for all those envisioning hope amidst the hovering clouds of doubts. The Indian prude will have to reconsider the validity of traditional dictum before it is merely a straw in the ideology of innocence. The make-believe of ‘everything true is divine and hence beautiful’ is fractured enough to hold water. Satyam is not beautiful, and the newly unleashed intimacy between the corporate and the hardliners is not divine. And thus a news report reads ‘Kalam quits’ (The Telegraph, January 13, 2009). The former President was on the Governing Board of Emergency Management Research Institute, a non-profit outfit floated by Satyam Computers. Mixing the report with a bit of analytical conjecture, the wisdom woke up to a crescendo of crumble.

Chameleon Corporate

‘We the people’ grimaced with terror strikes targeting the nation’s underbelly. Satyam refuted it, as it were. After all, Truth is supposed to supersede lie (or half-truth). The underbelly is not shown with people charred in the enflaming RDX. Neither is it all about the decimating hope. It is to the fore when tyrannical unpredictability envelopes the economy. At least such a crisis proves that everything else is merely the superstructure around the core of the economy. The number of people dead and amputated is not equal to the tumbling economic edifice. Ironically, capitalism of our times makes us realise this. The death of the living is secondary to the death of the economy. It is scientific error to consider ‘economy’ for any (social) group of Robinson Crusoe/s, for the latter is never a group-entity. It is further erroneous to take Robinson Crusoe for any individual. As far as the economics of our time is concerned, Robinson Crusoe is not for any Tom, Dick and Harry. Beyond a pause, it is for the Tatas, Birlas, and Ambanis, and their ilk. Therefore, probably, a sulking Tata or a disgruntled Ambani evoke an instant inter-vention in their favour, by the Left, Right, Centre and their playmates who belong to perhaps nowhere.

The Tatas, ousted from Singur, drove the Nano car to Gujarat. Too swift to go unnoticed was Bhai Narendra Modi’s paving passage. The Bhadro Bhattacharjee lagged a notch due to people’s pressure and thus Modi won the competition by salving the wounded ego of the capitalist Robinson Crusoe. Hence, Ratan Tata exclaimed in joy at the speed and transparency in the settlement of the deal between the Tatas and the State of Gujarat, singing eulogies to Modi. The corporate-crib about the state succumbing to the people’s unrest is on at various fronts, one being SEZ is not possible anywhere the economic might wants. The corporate reasoning cannot figure out why the State turns mellow to the ‘people’. It seeks the highhandedness of the state, even a doctored democracy. In between, every gesture of philanthropy or generosity, the corporate sponsored social work, is to give it a janus-face. The one side of the face darkens and disappears as soon as the corporate interest is under threat. The half-side-faced corporate accomplishes the chameleon act and strides to unpredictable hosts. To correct, though, Modi was never an unpredictable host, for we know that the political rise of the Right is accredited to the Baniyas.

So the latest manifestation of the metamorphosis of the janus-faced into one side-faced, ready to play the chameleon act, is the conglomerate of the tycoons worshipping at the altar of Modi, consigning into oblivion their own stance they had expressed once upon a time.

All those who had gathered in the month of April in 2002 at a Confederation of Indian Industry meet in Delhi, have taken an about turn. Then the tycoons were unanimous in sullying Narendra Modi with charges of rape and murder. It began to change with the Tatas bagging quick favour, allocation of land and other logistics, to put up the manufacturing plant. All those who believe that Modi does it with propaganda and effecting effective orality would have to rethink and set their perspective right. It also takes place with a simple act of the state siding with the corporate. Or, in other words, it is an illustration of a disparaged state surrendering to desperate capitalism.

Anti-people Oligopoly

With Satyam’s nose-dive and revealed inefficient mechanism of regulation, the disparaged state looks clueless. Shifting the needle of blame toward Pakistan and partaking in war cry, post-terror strikes, is so much easier than answering the market giants. Penalising Ramalingam Raju is far more difficult in comparison to condemning the allegedly benighted Pakistan. Secondly, the global economic downturn has pressed both the state and the corporate to try expedient measures. Receding jobs in the IT industry blots the picture of the ICE-(Information, Communication and Entertainment) age that we so religiously conjured at the dawn of the new century. While IT measures are playing defensive, and the management institutes are launching new courses to fan some fume of hope, the twist in the politico-economic melodrama surfaces. The non-IT godfathers flex miscles and assert that they are the most powerful even in the post-modern information society. Suddenly post-Fordism, which every Social Science student learns about in colleges with great zeal, is a doubtful thing of the past. It is them who still wield the clout to persist and multiply. It is them who are the so-called beacon of hope and prosperity. Thus, it is them for whom the state must do everything.

No wonder, C.W. Mills envisions power elite in relation with the larger structure and suggests that change and persistence are for them by them.

The author, who is finishing his Ph.D at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, belongs to the Guest Faculty in Hindu College, University of Delhi.

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