Prof. MD Nalapat
ALL human beings are in essence equal, being offspring of the same all-powerful force described so evocatively in the Gayatri mantra. In ancient times,when India was in the lead rather than making up the tail, there was no such thing as a “backward caste”, as both Lord Krishna and Acharya Valmiki could testify. It was only later that caste became associated with the accident of birth.
The Kshatriya ran the state and ensured quality governance, while the Vaishya conducted businesses and made a lot of money. It would have been inconceivable in the days of classic Sanatan Dharma for a ruler to concentrate on the creation of wealth for herself or himself. Similarly,it would be improper for a trader to seek political or administrative office.The separation of Money from Governance ensured the success of the system, a state of affairs that began to be negatively affected once fundamental changes began to get introduced into the core philosophy of Sanatan Dharma, such as “caste by birth”.
Today,the situation is the exact reverse of what it was during the classic days. Individuals enter politics to make money and make this objective the cornerstone of their actions.The disappearance of the dividing wall between statecraft and commerce is what has resulted in the abysmally low level of governance seen in this country. Once princes put personal wealth as their top priority, the resulting weakening of the machinery of state smoothened the way for invaders who were open from the start of being focussed simply on plunder. For much more than a millenium, India has endured the horror of being ruled by those seeking not “maximum social advantage” ( in Hugh Dalton’s words) but “maximum personal advantage”.
Not only in India,but across the world, those in power see authority as a means towards enrichment. As a consequence, policies get skewed in favour of a few at the expense of the many. Coming back to India,we find that those industries where politicians have significant (if hidden) stakes are protected from internal and external competition, so that those in power running such businesses can continue to make monopoly profits. In the field of national defence, it is a matter for extreme shame that a country as blessed with brainpower as India has to rely on foreign countries for 83 per cent of its core defence needs.
Because those in power seek to control every aspect of every sector or at least those sections where personal profit can be made, the DRDO has been made to treat as untouchables domestic private industry. Had this criminal policy been altered, by now India would have been as self-sufficient in critical defence items as China has become during the past decade.
Instead, foreign companies feast while the population starves. It is ironic that the “simple” A K Antony has presided over the largest volume of foreign imports ever seen in the field of defence. An average of a hundred thousand crore rupees is getting spent on defence imports,usually for items that would have been useful in the wars of the past, but are next to useless in the wars of the future, such as cyber attacks.
Swiss estimates speak of $1.2 trillion in illegal bank deposits by Indian nationals in foreign banks.These days, because so many political leaders and senior administrators have relatives who are foreign nationals, often money stolen from the people is kept in the name of such relatives. In many instances,these either steal most of the money in turn,or lose it in bad investments,thereby spurring netas as babus to make still greater hoards of ill-gotten wealth.
Much is made by Transparency International and such other agencies of the corruption in India, and they are correct. What they fail to add, however, is the fact that much of this ill-gotten cash gets recycled through financial institutions based in New York, Zurich,London and Frankfurt, not to mention Macau. Almost all the leading merchant bankers—the very culprits who caused the 2008 financial meltdown which resulted in the loss of $6 trillion in assets worldwide —have as their clients the benamis or representatives of leading Indian politicians and bureaucrats.
This is the reason why foreign financial companies have been given benefit after benefit,incentive upon incentive,to do business in India.After all,it is the money of the very decision-makers giving them such concessions that is being recycled by such NATO-based financial institutions.It is such selfish logic alone that enables such atrocities as the Mauritius route to continue to exist through regime after regime
Unless a firewall get created between the business of politics and business itself, corruption and maladministration will continue to drag down the future of the people of this ancient land. Those involved in business should stay in that field of activity rather than get into politics the way they are doing so these days.Those in politics who are involved in business ought to give up one or the other. Indeed, relatives of politicians and bureaucrats holding high office ought to be monitored carefully to ascertain whether undue influence is being used. Indeed, having a relative at the top should serve as a handicap rather than as an advantage to a businessperson. There are at present a few restrictions on the eligibility of individuals to stand for election. Taking part in business activity ought to be a ground for the barring of entry into politics and administration. This may seem draconian, but it is less so than the Jan Lokpal favoured by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.
Even in a country as obsessed with the pursuit of wealth as the US, there are laws designed to ensure that those in high office place their investments in a “blind trust” so that they will not know which sectors they have invested in. Should that knowledge be present (as is the case in India), the temptation to increase value through tweaking of policy will become difficult to resist.An example of the buying of large plots of land, followed by the making of state investments close to the property, so that prices may be enabled to rise severalfold in a short while. Many projects in India have been located in unsuitable places,only because powerful people owned nearby land, or indeed the very land where the project was situated.
The wall between Commerce and Politics that was present during ancient times needs to be rebuilt. Else,a penchant for business will turn politicians into politricksters, a breed that is multiplying in India with the speed of cancer.
(The writer is former editor of Mathrubhoomi and Times of India and presently columnist with a number of publications).