What’s religion got to do with this?
The mechanics of divide et impera
Behind the man
Arvind Adiga (hereafter Adiga-bhau), ‘winner of the £50,000 Man Booker prize’ makes a complete hash in a lengthy book review. Reading Arvind Adiga for the first time, I am surprised at the man’s obtuseness. Adiga writes,
British Raj – The Golden Age
Indian businessman. Patriotic …?
Soon after WWII
Long list, Big names
The summer of hunger and poverty
The Ugly American
The Stick … and the carrot
Insult – but was there injury
Governments and tobacco
Globally four major companies and government monopolies control a US$400 billion trade in cigarettes. These cigarette monopolies, directly or indirectly controlled by governments, take away US$1 from every US$175 that people earn. China and USA are leaders in this extortion game.
Tobacco – India Govt.’s ‘innovation’
The Indian State also, on a much smaller scale, replicates this same mechanism. Since Indians consume tobacco in a traditional, non-industrial manner, the Indian State changes the method of extortion. Apart from tobacco, the main ingredient of bidis, is tendu leaf. Tendu leaf is used to roll the tobacco in. While tobacco farmers are exempt from income tax, adivasis have to sell all their produce to the State. For which the State pays them wages. A newspaper reports
Over the last two decades, the graph of tendu patta wages has shot up. This year, the Chhattisgarh government raised the wage rate from 70 paise to 80 paise per bundle of 50 leaves. But collectors like Bargu earned higher wages (Rs 1.05 paise) courtesy the Maoists. As the parallel authority in large parts of Bastar, they fix wages and even a system of wage payment.
For instance, officially, the state government’s minor forest produce federation auctions each lot of tendu leaves. Traders or contractors pay a sale price to the federation. A portion is sent to the federation’s field managers, who are supposed to disburse it as wages to the adivasis. But, in reality, the managers simply hand the money back to the contractor, who adds an extra wage amount fixed by the Maoists and sends his own staff to pay off the collectors.
“In our areas, we bargain with the contractor every year, and get a higher price for the adivasis,” says Gudsa Usendi, Maoist spokesperson. ”Last year, it was Re 1. This year it’s between Re 1.05 to Re 1.20. This way, we have stopped the exploitation of adivasis.”
That’s not an empty boast — but it’s only partially true. The Maoists have wrangled higher wages for the adivasis and expanded their support base, but they have also obtained higher levies for themselves. Most traders refused to divulge exact amounts, some reluctantly offered a rough range: 5-10% of the sale price. For one Rs 1 crore, that works out to Rs 5-10 lakh.
“The market of tendu leaves is not less than Rs 2,000 crore,” says K Sadavijaya Kumar, of the Association of Beedi leaf traders. Given that at least a quarter of the tendu growing areas appears to be under Maoist control, the amount of levies could run into crores.
By maintaining a monopoly over the ownership and sale of leaves, the state earns revenue. In 2009, Chhattisgarh Minor Forest Produce Federation made Rs 256 crore from tendu leaves. Rs 189 crore was paid to the collectors, and Rs 66 crore retained by the federation. (via Tendu leaves little hope for tribals – The Times of India).
And the Maoist- Naxalites are fighting with the State for ‘exploitation-of-adivasis‘ rights. From being owners of India’s forests, under भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, the adivasis have become wage earners. By this one single action, the State has impoverished crores of adivasis. Such are the reasons for Indian poverty – The Indian State.
- Bamboo is liberated, says Jairam Ramesh (hindu.com)
And the Maoist- Naxalites are fighting with the State for ‘exploitation-of-adivasis‘ rights.
Tobacco – a colonial addiction
Six companies and sundry State monopolies drive global cigarette consumption. These six companies derive more than US$100 billion dollars in revenues, globally. For many years they were advertising industries largest customers.These six companies are headquartered at former European imperial powers (UK, France, Spain), USA and Japan.
In recent years, dozens of cigarette manufacturing companies have consolidated under four major private corporations: Altria/Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, and Imperial Tobacco. State monopolies are also major cigarette manufacturers. The largest state monopoly is China National Tobacco Corporation, with a global cigarette market share that exceeds that of any private company. Because the European Union intends to restrict further mergers and acquisitions that increase a tobacco company’s market-share dominance, industry consolidation trends may have peaked.
The tobacco industry includes some of the most powerful transnational corporate entities in the world. Tobacco conglomerates have diversified into many other industries, such as financial services, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, real estate, hotels, restaurants, communications, and apparel, among others. The tobacco industry is expected to continue increasing in size and power.
The global tobacco market, valued at $378 billion, grew by 4.6 percent in 2007. By the year 2012, the value of the global tobacco market is projected to increase another 23 percent, reaching $464.4 billion. If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have the 23rd-largest gross domestic product in the world, surpassing the GDP of countries like Norway and Saudi Arabia. (via Tobacco Atlas Online – Tobacco Companies.).
India’s small production base is a combination of two aspects. Indian social inertia against addictive substances and the Government on the other. Indian cigarette business, small as it is, was put in Indian hands during Indira Gandhi’s socialist days. BAT lost control of ITC, which was placed in the hands of professional Indian managers.
Chinese State Tobacco monopoly
Or Western powers pushing opium in China in the nineteenth century. After the opium experience of the Chinese, when Western trading houses, under State protection, using the garb of ‘free trade’, made China into the largest consumer of opium.
The Chinese Govt. has replaced opium with tobacco.
The second secret of the tobacco business is to be dominant in purchasing and cornering tobacco stock. For cornering tobacco stocks, Big Tobacco depends on Central Banks’ support – aka State support. For instance, ITC (and other major global tobacco purchasers) in India has a major presence in Guntur, where Indian tobacco trade is headquartered.
ITC’s over-sized chequebook buys it market dominance.
The Indian tobacco profile
India is the third largest producer of tobacco – after China and USA. India ranks 6th as a tobacco exporting nation, as most of tobacco in India is consumed by domestic consumers. Tobacco consumption in India follows traditional patterns, as a non-industrial product – spanning chewing tobacco, bidis (tobacco rolled in leaves), hookah, clay pipes and snuff. Indian traditional tobacco usage consumes between 75%-85% of total tobacco cultivation.
Indian tobacco consumption and control follows consumption patterns of psychotropic drugs. All the major drugs in the world came of India – opium is afeem, khus-khus पोस्त; cannabis is charas, ganja, marijuana, hashish. Heroin is a derivative of opium. Even, as Indians are significant (legal) producers, they are not high on consumption lists.
However, drugs never became a big problem in India. Unlike in China, or in Medieval Middle East (when drug crazed criminals called hashishis became assassins). All these drugs were introduced to the world by India – with records going back to 1000 BC. Similarly family and peer pressure plays an important role in controlling the less dangerous form of traditional tobacco usage in India. In modern times, Indian gold smuggling was funded by carriage and export of drugs.
Cigarette production consumes less than one-fourth of India’s tobacco production.
Until two years ago, non-filter cigarettes comprised 30% of the total cigarette consumption. But with an increase in excise duty on non-filter cigarettes from Rs 168 to Rs 819 per thousand from March 1, 2008, the demand for low-priced filter cigarettes has risen At present, the excise duty on a pack of 10 filter cigarettes is Rs 8.19, and VAT Rs 1.05. Thus, taxes total Rs 10 per pack. Illicit cigarettes are sold for less than this amount, leading the government to believe that either registered cigarette units are evading duty or foreign-made cigarettes are flooding the market from Myanmar and the UK The business of low-cost cigarettes is big in the country, especially in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. (via Article Window).
The expansion of manufacturing in cigarettes globally (see chart) is much like the housing scam in US and Europe. Banks made huge advances, created a bubble, and are now busy foreclosing these loans. The modern myth of Republic Democracy at work.
How maya works in real life.
- Australia takes on tobacco giants over packaging (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Big Tobacco’s Been Busy (fool.com)
- Philip Morris Int’l buys rights to nicotine system (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The unstoppable march of the tobacco giants (independent.co.uk)
- Tobacco giant BAT admits funding retailers’ campaign against ban on cigarette displays (guardian.co.uk)
- Yes, smoking kills – but not everyone wants to be saved | Tanya Gold (guardian.co.uk)
- FDA takes action against illegal marketing of tobacco products (gloucestercitynews.net)
- Why Gas Stations Love Cigarettes (MO, RAI, LO) (businessinsider.com)
- Smokers ignore health warnings, research shows (guardian.co.uk)
- World’s toughest antismoking laws set to pass in Australian parliament (telegraph.co.uk)