“Free trade: cause of stagnation of business.”
Gustave Flaubert in A Dictionary of Platitudes.
Poor countries have had near unbeaten record success of being ruled by corrupt and despotic dictators whose crave for power is of neurotic proportions. But India alone has the fortune to have an honest man as the head of the state. A writer, a guru of our post-modern, psychedelic age elsewhere advising his ‘followers’, has so well expressed it: don’t do different things, do things differently. If none could discern the hidden wealth (pun intended) in the saying it is no fault of the Congress Party. They did. They heeded. They won.
Call it what you will, India has a rare fortune of being headed by a man whose conscience has been certified by doctors of senile economist – the World Bank and IMF. The task of this honest man as executive head of the state is to supervise and allow an otherwise corrupt elite to plunder the resources of the nation and apportion the wealth amongst their bhai-bhatijas (brothers and nephews). When it comes to sobriety and kindheartedness, there is none that could comparably stand before Manmohan Singh. Dr Singh is a sober capitalist and a kind-hearted profiteer – but he remains a profiteer and capitalist nonetheless.
In mid-2004 when he had assumed quite mysteriously the role of Prime Minister (PM), there was a sense of jubilation. In those days, the press never got tired to remind us that we have finally found an honest PM. It was the summer of 2005, our PM arrived amidst much media glare at University of Oxford. While delivering his speech he went on to congratulate the sahibs on colonialism.
He said, “today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian PM to assert that India’s experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too”. And then he went on to recount several distinguishing effects that a colonial state has. Manmohan Singh remains the lone head of any state affected by colonialism to have issued such an offensive and absurd statement.
The unfortunate narrative offered by the PM, fits quite well with the imperial historiography, a branch of learning where the entire rule of a colonial state and its repressive apparatus are rationalised. Dr. Singh, then of course maintained a stiff silence when he was reminded by some of the most eminent Marxist historians of the country that what he did at Oxford was not merely shameful but such praises were like adding lemon to an open wound.
If history is indeed a judge, then future historians will surely find the irony in his speech as a mark of an era that had already reimbibed imperialist values, so much so, that a visiting PM of a colonised country would go on to praise the policies of an imperial state that is based on brute violence and day light robbery. Given the evidence it is not particularly a difficult task to see as to what possibly they shall term him.
Manmohan Singh, we were told, is a kind man. He wept once inside the Parliament over the killing of Sikhs in 1984. A PM with eyes full of tears was all over the country’s press the next day. But the PM simply did not think it fit enough to constitute special fast track courts to bring the perpetrators of such genocide to justice. Instead as it happens, he continued paying lip service to it.
It was during Manmohan Singh’s tenure that one after another, public resources were privatised, a policy that both the Congress and the BJP endorse publicly. Railways, water, electricity, gas, petroleum, insurance, health, education, airports, construction works, and even Justice – in short all those basic necessities for living bare minimum life were handed over to the private players. The result is that today Reliance has created an artificial shortage of gas and CNG to peg the price up and indulge in hoarding, showing the middle finger to the rule of law.
This is part of public knowledge yet all these illegalities are protected in the sacred name of fre -trade. At a time when almost 77% of Indians live on less than Rs. 20 a day, the government of India in its last budget allocated a massive amount of Rs. 2,03,672 crore for defense spending including Rs 86,741 crore for capital expenditure.
The store house of Food Corporation of India is stuffed with food grain at a time when the conditions of life in the hinterland are near starvation. Jean Drez has graphically expressed it by saying that, “if all the sacks of grain were laid up in a row, this would stretch more than a million kilometers, taking us to the moon and back” (As cited by Amatrya Sen, Argumentatve Indian, Penguin, 2005, pp. 213).
This is what this PM subservient to the diktats of private capital has given us: enormous production of food on one side and hunger and starvation deaths on the other.
I am reminded of a passage from Thomas More’s Utopia wherein he laments: “Consider any year that has been so unfruitful that many thousands have died of hunger; and yet if at the end of that year a survey was made of the granaries of all the rich men that have hoarded up the corn, it would be found that there was enough among them to have prevented all that consumption of men that perished on misery; and that if it had been distributed among them, none would have felt that terrible effects of that scarcity…”
It was under Manmohan Singh’s government that scam after scam rocked the country. In fact, one can compile an entire encyclopedia on corruption – the 2G (the grand daddy of all scams: Rs 1.76 lakh crore), Coal scam (Rs 1.86 lakh crore), Chopper scam (Rs 3,600 crore), CWG scam (Rs 70000 crore),S Band Scam (Rs. 2,00,000 crore), Cash-for-vote scam, Tatra truck scam, Adarsh scam, IPL spot-fixing scam, Satyam scam, stealth deal scam, Railway bribery scam (Rs 90 lakh).
This is what a world bank sponsored PM has given all of us –a decrepit nation whose elected representatives live a life of obscene luxury while the people left without resources are turned into criminals.
While speaking about Manmohan Singh, one cannot forget his famous Indo-US nuclear deal which was passed despite widespread concerns. The deal with US meant that India was compelled to take a stand against its traditional friend Iran. The Prime Minister’s insistence on alignment with US and other neo-imperialist powers from the relatively wiser non-alignment policy is indication of larger effort to overhaul the country so that foreign capital can enter and operate ‘safely’.
Manmohan Singh is not a weak PM as the BJP has asserted for years now. He is a man who smiles and does what he is asked to do: he is a dream PM for any party who believes that the right to loot and plunder natural resources is a fundamental right in this country.