By Dr Jay Dubashi
I have a simple formula to deal with multinationals, or issues concerned with multinationals. Watch what they are saying or doing, and do exactly the opposite. This is what I used to do when the British were here – I was a small boy then – and make a note of what they used to say, and go and do the reverse. It always worked.
And it works now. The British have gone – and so have the Moghuls – but there are other foreigners, some of them with Indian names, but foreigners nonetheless. They run so-called multinational companies, which are actually foreign companies, but multinational sounds better and harmless. A company like Hindustan Lever tries to pass off as an Indian company but it is a foreign company, run by foreigners for their benefit, though it may have a few Indian names on its mast-head, just as the British Viceroy used to have so-called Executive Councilors with pucca Indian names whose main purpose was to pull wool over our eyes.
Every time there is some issue in which their bosses’ interests are involved, these underlings suddenly come to life, as they did last month when the Manmohan government wanted to shove foreign retail investment down our throats. About a dozen of them ganged up to issue a statement, which sang the praises of investment by foreign companies in retail trade, without batting an eyelid and with a straight face. And who were these people? Men who had served foreign companies all their lives and were in receipt of pensions from them. Some were former Reserve Bank Governors, but, for some reason, had cast their lot with foreigners. And there were the usual Bombay types in safari suits who spend their evenings in cocktail parties at the Taj in the company of visiting foreign investors, and go home and write long letters to financial and other papers singing the praises of guess what – foreign investors!
When the British were here, we had the ICS types, or His Majesty’s most obedient servants, whose one aim in life was to sit at the same table as Governors and, if possible, Viceroys. This was their nirvana. They had cut themselves off from ordinary Indians, and rarely spoke to them or had anything to do with them. They were, infact, brown Britishers in all but name, some of whom became Reserve Bank Governor, and some others advisers to Governors. Most of them lived very close to the government house, and watched the Union Jack flutter over the roots of hoi polloi every morning.
When the British were kicked out, these brown sahibs felt totally out of place in their own country, though some of them were offered jobs by Jawaharlal Nehru, also a brown sahib, and, as he himself described himself, the last Englishman in India. One way or another, we are still being ruled by brown sahibs, though the ruling party itself is being headed by a white sahiba, perhaps to remind the hoi polloi that the reign of white sahibs is not yet over.
Let me now come to the main point. The brown sahibs working for foreign companies, directly or indirectly, are always up in arms whenever the interests of their companies are threatened, or when they cannot be extended. For them, the entry of Walmart was a God send, for, at one blow, this foreign company would gather in its powerful hands, the sinews of India’s retail trade and make us dance to its tune. Walmart would certainly have brought down prices of onions and potatoes, but for whom? Not for the families living desperately in slums, not for the millions of impoverished millions in villages, but for the brown sahibs and their memsahibs, who would get down from their air-conditioned cars into air-conditioned malls to purchase a few kilos of potatos and French beans, and, of course, imported cheeses and sauces, without which the cuisine of brown sahibs is not complete. Most of us would not be able to afford to go to Walmart malls, for we do not have air-conditioned cars, and, of course, no chauffeurs, and we would have to trudge miles every day, or maybe two or three times a week, to purchase a handful of onions, or potatoes, which we now can buy anytime from our friendly grocer downstairs.
But why do I have to buy onion from a foreigner? Why is he here anyway? For a thousand years, we fought foreigners, first the Muslims and then the Europeans, and just when we have got rid of them and are settling down to enjoy our freedom, these foreigners are back again with their dirty wares, just as they came four hundred years ago, also in the name of free trade, and made fools of us. They are again trying to make fools of us, also in the name of free trade, and teaching us how to set up a supply chain, as if it was some kind of rocket science!
I am an Indian and I buy only from Indians. After all, there are 120 crores of us, and between us, we can do everything. We can grow onions and potatoes, we can build supply chains and cold storages, we can build roads and ships to carry the stuff, we can do our packing and we can set up malls, we can have our own co-operative banks to finance the business of buying and selling, and we can have our research institutes and schools and colleges. We are doing all this right now, and we shall do more in future. And we shall do all this because we are a free country and a free people, and we are amongst the most intelligent people in the world, and there is nothing we cannot do.
I despise these brown sahibs, these men in safari suits, who do nothing but kowtow to foreigners, and who believe that all the wisdom in the world has somehow been gifted to foreigners by some divine hands, that Indians are fools who do not even know how to market onions and tomatoes, and we are like illiterate children who have to be taught everything, that all knowledge comes from the West, and we are all fools. And, of course, the safari suits in Nariman Point know what is good for us, and we should take their word for it.
Well, we are not going to take their word for it, because we just don’t trust them. How can I trust a man who has always looked up to a foreigner, and forgotten that he is an Indian. This man is a traitor, like Jai Singh, and we know how to deal with traitors!