Blame the Corporates

This piece was originally published on CRI as “Dont Blame the Corporates” on June 7, 2011.

Blaming the corporates is the favorite hobby of left liberals in India. The narrative built by left liberals to blame corporates for every problem that has existed or exists is quite amusing and sometimes entertaining as well. S Vardarajan, a senior journalist, Associate Editor of The Hindu and Ramnath Goenka Award winner, writes yet another disappointing opinion piece in The Hindu along this very line of attack of Left Liberals – “Blame the corporates”.

Every newspaper including The Hindu survives on Corporate advertisements. The Hindu, S Vardarajan and his associates at the Hindu definitely do not practice what they preach, if recent events concerning The Hindu itself are to be taken as a yard stick. But for now, let us see what Siddharth Varadarajan, the award winning journalist has to say in The Hindu op-ed:

He starts off with a recap of the recent events and doesnt leave any doubt in our mind that he is not going to support Ramdev Baba’s stand against corruption. Well reasons could be debated. This author believes the reason is Baba Ramdev’s saffron robes.

I have spent the past week repelled by the spectacle of a weak government entering into improbable contortions over the naive and somewhat bizarre demands of Baba Ramdev.

Notice the word “Bizzare”. Pray, why didnt he find Lokpal bizzare? More on that later.

He goes on to say

Everybody with any sense agrees that corruption is a serious issue and that all efforts must be made to end the curse of black money. But it is meaningless and even nonsensical to demand the framing of a new law to confiscate black money when we do not know where this money is, how much it consists of and who it belongs to.

Agree on the topic of confiscating black money. But lets read the fine print. It is absolutely right to demand confiscating black money stashed abroad. Reason? Manmohan Singh promised just after Ram Jethmalani filed a PIL in 2009 on black money issue that he would confiscate black money stashed abroad. That too MMS promised to the extent that he would do it within 100 days of coming to power. What happened to that promise? Probably S Varadarajan conveniently forgot about it. He seems to have assumed that everybody else forgot. He was wrong. In fact, Manmohan Singh cheated public on this issue saying he kept his promise. This happened as early as July 2009. He said:

In a brief response to a question by Prakash Javadekar of the BJP on the Congress promise during the election campaign to get back the money within 100 days, Dr. Singh said that “action has already been started” by his government.

S Varadarajan doesnt ask Manmohan, the man with impeccable character “kya hua tera wada”. This question may sound naive but then this is the season of naivete. If movement for “lokpal” is not naivete, then what is? We digress. Let us continue.

In this op-ed what takes the cake is S Varadarajan’s innuendo to kill Corporates in India. It is very easy to blame the corporates for every problem in India. However, Corporates solve problems. Corporates take up issues. For instance, The Hindu wouldnt have or rather couldnt have solved the problem of getting to choose the best bus service from one place to another in the country among several bus services available. But a corporate service called solved it. Same goes with several travel services. Nano is an example of a low cost car option. Constrast this with Government of India. $10 and $35 laptops are laughed off in electronic markets as ignorance and engineering blunder. BSNL cant get ready with 3G services in time because of which Government blocks other service providers to start 3G services until BSNL gets ready.

If you go by S Varadarajan’s narrative, it would sound as if the only problem that India faces is corporates, which is again a typical Left Liberal disease. Read what S Varadarajan writes: (this is the most amusing and entertaining part of the op-ed)

The problem of corruption is not simply one of law but of will. The hold of black money over the economic and political system of India cannot be ended so long as the government lacks the political will to actually crack down on the printing press which generates it: corruption. Defined broadly as the abuse of political and corporate power for personal gain, corruption is the glue which binds this country’s political and economic elite at every level of governance from the block and district up to the Union. Corruption is not an abstraction. Every crore that a politician or bureaucrat may have secreted away as “black money” in Switzerland or elsewhere is organically linked to the tens of crores of rupees in both “black” and “white” money outside and inside India that businessmen generate by getting favourable treatment. Corruption was an integral part of the “license-permit raj” of Nehruvian socialism. But it has grown to frightening proportions in our liberalised free market economy. Politics and business have come so close together today that it is sometimes hard to tell the two apart.

Read those parts formatted in bold very very carefully. I would like to call this type of writing – Subtly Ideological Sounding Virtually Logical – subtly directed toward Ideological root while sounding almost logical. S Varadarajan blinds us of the complete definition of corruption, sounding logical in conclusion, while directing us to his ideological root. Put the two lines together:

Definition of Corruption:

Defined broadly as the abuse of political and corporate power for personal gain, corruption is the glue which binds this country’s political and economic elite at every level of governance from the block and district up to the Union.

Therefore cause of corruption:

Corruption was an integral part of the “license-permit raj” of Nehruvian socialism. But it has grown to frightening proportions in our liberalised free market economy.

Lets try it again in lay-man terms.

Definition of corruption:

Politicians feed Corporates and Corporates feed Politicians, finally ending up in abuse of power.

Therefore cause of corruption:

Corruption was integral to license permit raj in Nehruvian Socialism. So it was controlled and controllable. After liberalization, it grew out of control. Ergo, cause of corruption is Liberalization of Economy.

Subtly directed toward his ideological root sounding virtually logical. So what are we missing?

We are missing two main points:

  1. While defining Corruption: By limiting the boundaries of corruption to corporate-politician interface, S Varadarajan plays the good cop and tries to sound as if he is the agent of people’s good will. Corruption doesnt arise from only the interface between government and corporates. Corruption arises at the interface between Government and people also.
  2. Providing Context to Corruption in the background of Black Money issue: Why would anyone want to stash money away from India – a) Heavy Taxation b) Because he/she used illegal means to obtain that money and is afraid of being caught.

S Gurumurthy, in a recent speech in Bangalore on Black Money issue said

There was a minister in Madhu Koda’s government whose justification to money he accumulated through corrupt practices was that he invested that money in India while Black Money stashed away in Tax Havens is not even being used as investment within India. [Not Verbatim]

Of course, S Gurumurthy used this example to explain the reason why Black Money is more dangerous than other results of corruption, while corruption in itself is a severe problem.

So underlying points 1 and 2 above, it seems that when one finds a loophole to work through one of the interfaces – people-government or corporate-government – money starts flowing illegally from one side to the other. As the bulge of this money grows, the need to keep this money safe from the eyes of law arises. That is where the money turns from Corruption Money to Black Money. Simply blaming and curtailing the corporates will not do.

But then how do you fill these gaps? New laws? No, says S Varadarajan. So what does he propose as the way out? Lokpal.

S Varadarajan opposes the idea to have a law to stop flow of Black Money abroad  but finds a “Strong Independent Lokpal” acceptable. S Varadarajan writes:

A strong Lokpal Bill may help remedy the situation somewhat but only if the ability of the government to interfere with the investigation or punishment of well-connected individuals is ended. Here, it is instructive to see what happened in a recent case decided by the Lokayukta for the Delhi government, Justice Manmohan Sarin.

One finds the phrase “strong lokpal” quite comical. Is it some kind of a chemical solution to be strongly acidic or lightly acidic?

The idea of Lokpal fails at many points. Why? Several commentaries on this point are already available. To summarize them:

First we had Government. Government turned corrupt. Thus Administration turned corrupt. Government set up Anti Corruption Board. ACB turned corrupt. Then we had Central Vigilance Commissioner. Recent events proved CVC is not so sacrosanct after all. So we want Lokpal. What if lokpal turns corrupt?

When Lokpal turns corrupt, probably we would require “Lokpalpal”. And so the story goes on.

Left Liberal mind is as easily decipherable as a piece of shabbily written c code. All left liberals unanimously support Lokpal bill. So does S Varadarajan. The idea of “authoritaah” without “accountabilitaah” provides another nice loophole at government-people and government-corporate interfaces. If Lokpal is seen as “Watchmen”, as Allan Moore would ask “who watches the watchmen?”

The example that S Varadarajan cites to suit his needs for supporting a “strong lokpal” is another syndrome that a left liberal mind suffers. Myopia it seems could manifest itself even if eye sight is perfectly fine. Lokpal, however strong it be, is not crowd intelligence. Lokpal is just another small group of individuals, who are so called achievers in social life. Once set in motion, no one knows the trajectory of growth or decline of lokpal, simply because it has never been tried anywhere before. Crowd intelligence has to be given a chance. The only legal, self correcting and self controlled form of crowd intelligence is Electorate. This is probably the reason why Constitution calls “Electorate one of the legs of tripod of indian democracy while the other two are Executive and Judiciary”. Constitution doesnt propose lokpal, it doenst propose CVC or ACB either. It proposes a simple set of rules. However, S Varadarajan wouldnt care for all that nonsense! We need strong lokpal he would say. Put in other words, parallel authoritaah!

Toward the end, S Varadarajan indulges in his regular RSS-BJP bashing. The very question that one would ask all the time,

Why is it that L.K. Advani, who was the second most powerful man in India for six years from 1998 to 2004, woke up to the problem of black money only after his government was voted out of power?

Yeah right. Why was S Varadarajan not asking for “a strong lokpal” during NDA tenure? Even agrees that Corruption has existed for a long time. No, please! Let us not get the message lost in the rhetoric. Mr S Varadarajan would like to probably answer why Manmohan Singh promised to bring back black money stashed abroad in tax havens.

Blaming the corporates for all these problems and associating Black Money issue and Corruption with liberalization of economy is absolutely wrong and uncalled for. Putting fear in politicans’ mind that corruption is equal to loss of power and that electorate will not tolerate corruption is the only way to contain corruption. The recent Tamil Nadu election debacle of DMK clearly shows that Crowd Intelligence works. Crowd Intelligence must be given a chance.

Update: Upon soliciting a response, Mr S Varadarajan responded with this

@KVSarmaJ #don’twasteyourtimeandmine

That Mr S Varadarajan finds himself answerable to none is not news. However it was worth a try.


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