20 September 2012

Democracy - Who Benefits?

Society is run by a Government; this has been accepted in our system called Democracy. This blog continues its efforts to understand modern Democracy, which can be seen as a bundle of contradictory actions, resulting in incessant conflict. Here, I would like to pursue the question we raised in the previous post, viz: 'who benefits from it'?
Here are some recent news items from newspapers, along with their backgrounds:
  • Indian government petitions supreme court to allow private companies to resume manufacturing the banned pesticide Endosulfan.
Background: The Indian supreme court has in 2011 banned the manufacture and sale of the toxic pesiticide Endosulfan after mounting evidence that it has killed and maimed thousands of children of farming families. The government is now asking for its re-sale.
Mind you, it is not the private toxic chemical manufacturers who are petitioning the court. It is the Indian government which is pleading on their behalf. Why? A little more research revealed another, older news item from last year: that Indian agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had lobbied for continuance of Endosulfan at an international convention in Europe which sought the global ban of this dangerous drug. Most nations were voting to ban it, but Sharad Pawar was seen lobbying on behalf of manufacturers (finally, our government was under tremendous pressure and agreed to 'phase it out' over two years).
Strange, isn't it? Not lets look at another news - this happened a month before the coal scam.
  • Prime Minister's Office (PMO) forces Coal India Limited through a presidential directive to change its Fuel Price Agreements (FPAs) to favour private companies.
Background: Private electricity generating companies want new terms in their Fuel Price Agreements with Coal India Ltd which will be loaded in their favour. CIL rejects this, and resists their pressures, saying this will not be in its interest. Private companies lobby with government; Ratan Tata and Anil Ambani meet the Prime Minister. The result: the government takes the extraordinary step in asking the President to isuse a directive forcing public sector CIL to act against its own interest, i.e. against public interest.
  • RBI governor says banks are pressurising it to change its policies.
Background: The economy is in crisis. Inflation is soaring. The poor specially are under tremendous pressure. The RBI has a responsibility to use its acumen to guide the right moves. The RBI governor, however, is saying in public that vested banking interest is lobbying with the government to force it do things against public interest (like diluting the Cash Reserve Ratio). Corporate associations like CII and FICCI, too, are lobbying with the finance minister to pressure the RBI.
So we are seeing that the government is using all its energy so that private business can make its profits. Is this happening only in the central government? Are the state governments better? When we research a little more, we find these news items:
  • The former West Bengal state government fought in court on behalf of business group Tatas against its own villagers of Nandigram.
  • Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha says she will open the controversial nuclear plant at Kudamkolam at any cost; sets police to attack peaceful protesters.
  • Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi says big business will have no problems in the state; acquires farm land quickly for corporate big fish.
So this is happening all over India. Democratically elected governments are seen favouring business regularly. Now, is this a new phenomenon? Maybe its only a temporary disease - is it? I probed this a little further backward and found that:
  • Five years ago, the government wrote a monster of a law to allow corporate companies to use all crooked ways to acquire thousands of hectares of farmers' lands - this was to be the beginning of an unimaginable corporate zamindari where they could 'own' cities called SEZs and even control the law and order departments within it.
  • Ten years ago, the Indian law minister goes to London and pesonally (and secretly) delivers an official note allowing the million-dollar frozen bofors bribe money to be withdrawn by Quatarochi (he has since run away with the money).
  • And 25 years ago, just a month after the Bhopal gas tradedy, Chief Minister Arjun Singh petitions the Bhopal court, asking its permission to destroy the evidence of gas samples collected - this was to support such a request by Union Carbide.
I have not gone further back, you may do so if you feel like it - the internet is a powerful medium. If indeed you should research, I suggest you include other countries as well, like the USA and UK, you may find much more evidence in older democracies.
What does all this indicate? What is the role of a government in democracy? Please note that I am not asking what should be the role of a government - then we will get into nice-sounding theoretical words. But being aware, seeing what is happening, let us face this question again: what in reality is a government in a democracy? And the answer to this, on the basis of evidence, is that the government in a modern democracy is an extension of private business.
There will an immediate temptation here to suggest that this is only an Indian problem, because our government is corrupt (which it is). The Indian government is certainly blundering its way and being corrupt quite shabbily; older, western demoracies have become more sophisticated in this game. What I am saying is that this is actually a generic problem of modern democracy itself. Governments are fronts for business and banking conglomerates. They are also openly declaring it now - they say that the job of government is to promote business. Governments all over the democratic world are giving away public assets and resources for private profiteering. Through the act of globalisation, such a generic systemic corruption is being exported all over the world, and extreme pressure is put on the governments of small countries to quickly toe the line. There are attractive rewards of course, in the form of bribes; the business sector sees to it.
Even as I am writing this, I see the following news item:
  • Study reveals that India's super rich collectively own $925 billion.
Background: According to a world ultra wealth report 2012-13, by Wealth X, a global wealth intelligence company, a group of 7,730 Indian individuals together have a personal wealth of $925 billion, which is about Rs 50,00,000 crore! This is just the declared assets, not counting the black money in Swiss banks. Globally, just 1.8 lakh wealthy people have a combined wealth of $25.8 trillion, or Rs 125,000,000,000,000 crore?! Add to this the already known fact that out of the top 100 richest entities in the world, less than 50 are nations! - more than 50 are private companies which have more wealth than hundreds of countries.
This is the truth about modernity. It is a crime against humanity.
Democratic society is a part of this modernity. It needs to be re-looked. For that, we will have to see and understand modernity itself.