Friday, October 30, 2009

How India Inc. Can Decimate the Maoists

Images play a powerful role in creating and nurturing perceptions. This is what I thought while watching television footage of the ‘hijacking’ of the Rajdhani Express by Maoists barely 150 kilometers away from the crumbling Red Citadel called Kolkata. And I couldn’t help ask myself a simple question: Are the Maoists also winning the Propaganda War? You need only common sense to know that terrorists and Maoists try to gain strategic advantage in two ways: one is through bullets, bombs, beheadings and bestiality; the other is through images, words and rhetoric that justify cold blooded violence as an “insurrection against injustice”. On both fronts, the Maoists seem to be doing rather better than the State. When you put an articulate person like Arundhati Roy, who is armed with a clever choice of words and a visceral hatred for India, you will get propaganda of the type that any red blooded Maoist would die for.

This is clearly not good news for India and Indians. And anything that spells trouble for India and Indians will spell trouble for India Inc. It is time business leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs and market mavens started thinking of the number of consumers and the extent of possible business and profits that they will lose if one-third of India is gripped by an unending night of Red Terror. It is time for India Inc. too to pitch in with its bit of help in what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rightly describes as the most serious threat to India’s internal security. Sure India Inc. cannot fight one part of the war that deals with bullets and bombs; that is for the State to do. But it can do something really concrete and dramatic. And India Inc. has a huge advantage over diatribe a day do gooders like Arundhati Roy who only have hatred, rhetoric and angry words to throw. India Inc. can – if it really wants to – walk the talk with money and also unleash a powerful propaganda war that can unhinge the very foundations of Maoists.

The market capitalisation of the Indian stock markets is now about $2 trillion. It could be much more if you add personal, private and private equity wealth. Why can’t industry leaders decide that 1% of this market cap be used to create a corpus to provide education and employment opportunities to poor people living in the 200 districts of India infected by the malignant virus of Naxalite violence? We are talking about a corpus of $20 billion (and it will be a unique public-private partnership since many public sector companies in which the State has a majority stake are listed!). Create a trust and have people like Nandan Nilekani be the trustees. The Trust can comfortably generate $2 billion a year in profits. That works out to about Rs.10,000 crores. When distributed with the right checks and balances, it means Rs.50 crores for education and employment opportunities for youth in each of the 200 Naxalite infested districts. And imagine the positive signals this will send when India Inc. unleashes a ‘propaganda’ war to highlight the positive power of this corpus to transform lives.

Utopian? Surely less Utopian than the ideas of grasshoppers like Arundhati Roy who jump from cause to cause? And who knows? Maybe she will be inspired to contribute a small fraction of the millions she has made by peddling poverty, injustice, state terror, exploitation and corporate greed!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Here are the real Nobel Prize winners

You would think that the Nobel Prize has been given to Osama instead of Obama; such has been the ballyhoo and brouhaha generated over the act of edifying the first Black President of a country that historically treated blacks as slaves and chattel to be traded in the American version of Mandis. But then, surely Obama deserves it more than the now deceased former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin who was once designated a “terrorist” by the British! And much more than another deceased soul (may his soul rest in peace) named Cordell Hull who – as American Secretary of State – refused exile to God knows how many Jews who wanted to escape from Nazi Germany. All of them subsequently died in concentration camps. But for whatever it is worth, here is the Business & Economy list of Nobel Prize nominations for next year across categories:

peace: This was a very, very close contest. In one corner stood two brothers who have completely redefined the concept of brotherly love. In the other corner stood a ‘brother’ who has completely redefined the very concept of ‘neighbourly’ love. In one corner stood Mukesh & Anil Ambani and in the other corner stood the Chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba Hafiz Saeed. Ultimately, it was clinched by Saeed for his actual demonstration of ‘peace’ and ‘love’ during 26/11

economic sciences: Yes, the prize is not for ‘economics’ but ‘economic sciences’ since virtually all economists across the world have been mesmerised by the delusion that the study of quirky human behaviour is an exact science. There were many contestants for this prized prize – most belonging to the political and corporate class who understand ‘money’ like no one else. After much deliberation, debate, wrangling and mud slinging, the nomination was conferred upon the honourable Sharad Pawar for taking economics even beyond the frontiers of science. How else can you explain an inflation rate of zero percent and less when the prices of sugar, oil and vegetables have soared by more than 100%?

literature: If you believe that great literature transcends wretched reality in a sublime manner that borders on fantasy, then this one is a no brainer. The unanimous verdict was The Draft Direct Tax Code that has been circulated for debate and discussion. This masterpiece contains a sparkling gem that says that the market value of the plum houses that bureaucrats occupy in VIP Delhi will be added to their taxable income. Now if that does not border on fantasy, I don’t know what will.

chemistry: This one too was a no contest and was given unhesitatingly to the Marxist Boss Prakash Karat. The comrade will win the Nobel Prize for discovering a new DNA molecule that can be found only in unreconstructed Marxists. The molecule is famous for letting comrades acquire opaque blinkers when reality stares them in the face. And this molecule cannot be cloned.

physics: Absolutely no doubts about this one. It goes to the venerable Loh Purush L. K. Advani for gifting the Fourth Law of Motion – apart from the three gift ed centuries ago by Newton – to the world. This Law states that every action must invite swift and savage reaction in the form of expulsion; particularly if the agent is Jaswant Singh.

medicine: We nominate Raj Thackeray for this award, for his discovery that migrants really need ‘strong medicine’.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Indian habit of clinging on stubbornly

After a gap of ages, I somehow psyched myself to watch the recent One Day match between India and Pakistan. Believe me, it was not only a painfully gut wrenching experience, the manner in which the Blues lost told me a lot about what is wrong with both the political and corporate sectors in India; more political than corporate. Sure a game is a game and no big deal if India loses the odd match to Pakistan. Besides, haven’t M. S. Dhoni and his band of boys been delivering a string of famous victories in recent times? I accept all that; nor did I sink into despair when Pakistan won. What despaired me was the sight of Rahul Dravid trying to justify his relevance even though he is long past his sell by date in the One Day and the T-20 format. It was truly painful. Was this the same Dravid whose stirring Test match knocks in Kolkatta (2001) and Adelaide (2003) delivered India its sensational victories against Australia? It was all the more pathetic to watch Dravid batting along with Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir was all aggression and a ‘play hard’ attitude that was palpable. Gambhir was on a song. And then the poor man was run out because Dravid preferred to be ‘circumspect’ and India saw its chances being sacrificed at the altar of caution. Of course, even Dravid was run out in that match; and even in the match against West Indies that followed!

Many of you will argue that Dravid was playing his role to perfection. That his job is that of being ‘The Wall’, the sheet anchor who will hold one end up as the other more aggressive batsmen smash the ball around. Sure, you will say that being ‘circumspect’ is what a sheet anchor does. But then, there is a very thin line between being ‘circumspect’ and being plagued by the fear of losing both your wicket and your place in the side. Was Dravid really playing as the quintessential team man or was he playing like an ageing and insecure performer who knows deep down that his salad days are over and that he is in the team because of ‘other factors’? I mean, was Dravid – a batsman never known for his match winning prowess in the one day format – the only ‘sheet anchor’ available? If you were watching the match and saw the disgusted expression on Ganbhir’s face when he was run out, you would have instantly realised the huge gulf between the ‘old and circumspect’ India and the ‘new and never say die’ India? Poor Dravid was not even able to rotate the strike by taking singles!

This habit of clinging on to something long after your relevance and sell by date have vanished into thin air is also a classic habit of Indian politicians. Is it surprising then that despite the best eff orts of leaders like Rahul Gandhi, ‘realpolitik’ ensures that really old leaders hold the most important posts in the government? And mind you, ‘old’ is not something to do with age alone; it is about mindset and your ability to adapt to changing conditions. Look at how the ‘old’ Sachin keeps re-inventing himself!

Mercifully, India Inc now witnesses less of this problem – that of people clinging on long after they have stopped being relevant to the times.