24 February 2015

The Rich want protection from the Masses

The Paranoid Rich
    In April last year, I wrote about Chidambaram's and Modi's common vision of building 100 new cities, even though they were in opposing parties in the election. I questioned and critiqued that step for its devastating effect on rural India (The 100-City Madness).
    What I did not expect, however, was that the government and academic elite would cobble together a scheme which is so wilfully depraved.
    We should be grateful to Shri Laveesh Bhandari for revealing these views during a recent seminar on 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making'. Now we know what these chaps really think and do behind closed doors.
    In his presentation paper, Bhandari, an economist, says:
    "When we build these smart cities, we will be faced with a massive surge of people who will desire to enter these cities. We will be forced to keep them out. ‎This is the natural way of things... There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing...
    "Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure"..
    This possibility of 'poor Indians' coming into smart cities worries Bhandari, so his search for a solution leads him to the concept of Gujarat's smart city GIFT, which is being built over 886 acres near Ahmadabad, a project sanctioned by Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister. Noting that GIFT has a SEZ status (Special Economic Zone), Bhandari goes on to advise:
    "The police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India.. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore just as GIFT is an SEZ, so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be".
    Elaborating on the "laws, governance mechanism, policing, rules of entry and exit" which will need to be framed, Bhandari further says: "The government will need to expand the degree of policing to make sure such enclaves are protected from the masses... and it will need to move forward on a spate of urban reforms - land controls, rent control, full effect of the 74th Amendment (empower and directly elect mayors who will have full control over municipality and police), etc."
    And finally, towards the end of his presentation, he says in conclusion: "..smart cities by definition will become enclaves where a different set of laws will apply than the rest of the country".
     This paper was part of a seminar held in Mumbai on 29 January 2015. The keynote speaker was Shri Shankar Agarwal, Secretary to the Un‭ion Ministry of Urban Development. Three other senior IAS officers heading metropolitan authorities in Mumbai, Bangalore and Raipur were also present. So also was the Vice President of GIFT City. And the international partner was the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
    Therefore, this is not just one disoriented person venting his fear and frustration of the 'masses'. This is part of an orchestrated stand being developed by the Indian government and elite - the whole plot is unfolding in front of our eyes. Urban Development secretary Shri Agarwal also told reporters: "We are working on the guidelines and we expect the framework will be ready by 28th February." So should we anticipate that this madness will be announced by Arun Jaitley in the budget later this week?
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    In the present, quite nasty, economic period, I feel we have to pay attention to two new words that we must understand and add to our vocabulary:
    1. plutocracy
        . a state or society governed by the wealthy.
        . an elite or ruling class whose power derives from their wealth.
    2. oligarchy
        . a small group of people having control of a country or organization.
    I must share another reason for my despondency at this development. I have met Shri Laveesh Bhandari a few months ago and I can state that he is not an evil man - if this was an isolated view of a freak, we could simply dismiss this whole thing. But Bhandari is actually voicing what I feel many educated, urban, elite could be thinking today.
    A paranoid rich class scheming together a fiendish plot - that is not good news for the nation, and is a matter of grave concern. We desperately need an economic re-education but that will not be possible within the modern framework. So may I remind readers of three more Indian philosophical words so that we can jog them back into our vocabulary:
    . nyaya     dharam     . satya
    By understanding the essence of these, I feel that the disease of modernity can indeed be cured -  because Economics without Philosophy will will ruin humanity.
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link to pdf file which contains the seminar content: