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Walmart and Jahangir’s Love Letter

November 28, 2011 3 comments

What’s common between Jahangir and the UPA govt? They both licensed two large corporations. What did they get in return?

Has India been sold out? Graphic by Parag Tope; published on November 28, 2011; at quicktake.wordpress.com; copyright with artist. Click for image.

Has India been sold out? Graphic by Parag Tope; published on November 28, 2011; at quicktake.wordpress.com; copyright with artist. Click for image.

Two recent news stories about opposition to FDI in retail, highlight an issue that is relevant in a historical context.

News Story-1

The government had taken a Cabinet decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and increased the FDI in single-brand to 100 per cent. Sushma Swaraj later tweeted that “Parliament is in session and the government announced a decision of such far reaching consequences outside the parliament.”

“It is contempt of the House. They should have discussed this issue in the Parliament and taken a decision in accordance with the sense of the House. They bypass Parliament. We cannot accept this,” Swaraj said. (via ndtv.com | Govt’s FDI decision contempt of House:Sushma Swaraj)

News Story-2

BJP leader Uma Bharti on Friday threatened to set on fire Walmart store wherever it opens in the country to register her party’s protest against allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail.

“I would personally set afire the showroom when it opens anywhere in the country and I am ready to be arrested for the act,” Bharti said, condemning the decision of the Union cabinet to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail.  (via ibnlive.in.com | Will set Walmart store on fire: Uma Bharti)

Large Corporations need Large Governments

A corporation’s complex ownership structure and contractual obligations are impossible to sustain without an active involvement and protection from the government.  In order for corporation to sustain itself, the government needs to expand its functions, hire more personnel, and raise more revenue.  Whether or not the corporations pay that extra revenue, the problem remains that the government needs to expand itself as more corporations come into existence.

A license or government approval, then gets an implicit “protection” from the government, thus creating a romance between Big Government and Big Corporations.  The present UPA government has extended this “license” to Walmart by going around the parliament, which was going to oppose the motion, like eloping lovers.

Jahangir’s Love Letter

This romance is not new – Jahangir, the Mughal Emperor, had also written his own love letter.  Not to Anarkali.  That love, we are told, remained unconsummated, but his letter to James I, King of England, expresses a different kind of love.

After decades of piracy in the open oceans, English East India Company (EEIC) wanted a foothold on shore and were literally “fighting off” competitors such as the Portuguese.  EEIC, a state sanctioned monopoly, had the backing of James I, King of England, who sent Thomas Roe to “request” the Emperor of Delhi for a “license.”  History is unclear as to what discussions took place between Roe and Jahangir, and what नजराना (gift) was offered to Jahangir, but romance was clearly in the air.  Shortly after, Jahangir wrote a letter to James I:

The letter of love and friendship which you sent and the presents, tokens of your good affections toward me, I have received by the hands of your ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, delivered to me in an acceptable and happy hour; upon which mine eyes were so fixed that I could not easily remove them to any other object, and have accepted them with great joy and delight.

For confirmation of our love and friendship, I desire your Majesty to command your merchants to bring in their ships of all sorts of rarities and rich goods fit for my palace; and that you be pleased to send me your royal letters by every opportunity, that I may rejoice in your health and prosperous affairs; that our friendship may be interchanged and eternal. [Emphasis added] (source)

What was that “object” that was presented to Jahangir that his eyes were “so fixed” that he “could not easily remove them to any other object?”  Jahangir’s “love and friendship” with the EEIC was apparently cemented with promises of more “rich goods that were fit for his palace.”

An affection that was purchased with a gift and promises of more gifts from a large Corporation.

Has the the present day UPA government received such gifts and promises of more gifts from the future?

Corporations and India

While Mughal rulers and Indian governments have shown an affection for gifts from corporations, Indians themselves, don’t take too well to large corporations, especially foreign ones.  The Anglo-Indian War of 1857, also lit a fire to the English East India Company.  The leaders that lead the war against the English, made a five point Proclamation of Freedom, under the name of Bahadur Shah.  Three of the five points were about economic freedom.

An excerpt:

Products such as textiles, indigo and other articles that India has exported in the past are now a complete under the control of the English. This leaves only the trade of trifles to the people, and even in this, they are not without their share of profits by means of high customs, stamps, and bureaucracy that is entrenched in limiting freedom in trade.

My government will abolish these fraudulent practices and open the trade of every article, without exception, both by land and water, to all Indians. (Tatya Tope’s Operation Red Lotus, p. xxix)

The EEIC was was shut down while the war was still in progress.

गुण, कर्म and Liberty

Many on the “right” side of the great divide, consider any opposition to Walmart as “protectionism” that is reminiscent of India’s days of socialism.

Most of these people on the “right,” fail to understand that the phrase “free market capitalism” is an oxymoron.

In a true free market, competition will prevent accumulation or aggregation of capital, making “capitalism” moot.  In a true free market economy, power is not derived from “capital” but from individual effort and ability – from one’s गुण and कर्म.

Only in Indic polity is there a triad of freedom.

Karl Marx on the opium trade

June 7, 2011 1 comment
Faced with a labour crisis after slave revolts, Europe (specially England) needed alternatives for a new 'slavery' model. A fugitive theorist - Karl Marx. Capitalists and capitalist nations of Europe loved – especially the USA.. Click for bigger image.

Faced with a labour crisis after slave revolts, Europe (specially England) needed alternatives for a new 'slavery' model. A fugitive theorist - Karl Marx gave a model for 'slavery'. Capitalists and capitalist nations of Europe loved – especially the USA.. Click for bigger image.

Marx on the Opium trade

Some 150 years later, Karl Marx’s commentary on the opium trade remains relevant.

Much loved by the capitalists of his time, Karl Marx analyzed opium trade well.

Nurtured by the East India Company, vainly combated by the Central Government at Pekin, the opium trade gradually assumed larger proportions, until it absorbed about $2,500,000 in 1816. The throwing open in that year of the Indian commerce gave a new and powerful stimulus to the operations of the English contrabandists.

In 1820, the number of chests smuggled into China increased to 5,147; in 1821 to 7,000, and in 1824 to 12,639. Meanwhile, the Chinese Government, at the same time addressed threatening remonstrances to the foreign merchants, punished the Hong Kong merchants, (with) more stringent measures. The final result, like that in 1794, was to drive the opium depots from a precarious to a more convenient basis of operations.

The trade shifted hands, and passed to a lower class of men, prepared to carry it on at all hazards and by whatever means. Thanks to the greater facilities thus afforded, the opium trade increased during the ten years from 1824 to 1834 from 12,639 to 21,785 chests.

The year 1834 marks an epoch in opium trade. The East India Company lost its privilege of trading (and) had to discontinue and abstain from all commercial business whatever. It being thus transformed from a mercantile into a merely government establishment, the trade to China became completely thrown open to English private enterprise which pushed on with such vigour that, in 1837, 39,000 chests of opium, valued at $25,000,000, were successfully smuggled into China, despite the desperate resistance of the Celestial Government.

We cannot leave without singling one flagrant self-contradiction of the Christianity-canting and civilization-mongering British Government. In its imperial capacity it affects to be a thorough stranger to the contraband opium trade, and even to enter into treaties proscribing it.

Yet, in its Indian capacity, it forces the opium cultivation upon Bengal, to the great damage of the productive resources of that country; compels one part of the Indian ryots to engage in the poppy culture; entices another part into the same by dint of money advances; keeps the wholesale manufacture of the deleterious drug a close monopoly in its hands; watches by a whole army of official spies its growth, its delivery at appointed places, its inspissation and preparation for the taste of the Chinese consumers, its formation into packages especially adapted to the conveniency of smuggling, and finally its conveyance to Calcutta, where it is put up at auction at the Government sales, and made over by the State officers to the speculators, thence to pass into the hands of the contrabandists who land it in China.

The chest costing the British Government about 250 rupees is sold at the Calcutta auction mart at a price ranging from 1,210 to 1,600 rupees. But, not yet satisfied with this matter-of-fact complicity, the same Government, to this hour, enters into express profit and loss accounts with the merchants and shippers, who embark in the hazardous operation of poisoning an empire.

The Indian finances of the British Government have, in fact, been made to depend not only on the opium trade with China, but on the contraband character of that trade. Were the Chinese Government to legalize the opium trade simultaneously with tolerating the cultivation of the poppy in China, the Anglo-Indian exchequer would experience a serious catastrophe. While openly preaching free trade in poison. it secretly defends the monopoly of its manufacture. Whenever we look closely into the nature of British free trade, monopoly is pretty generally found to lie at the bottom of its “freedom.” (via Karl Marx in New York Daily Tribune Articles On China, 1853-1860 Free Trade and Monopoly; linking text in parentheses supplied; parts excised for brevity and relevance).

Where Marx comes alive – Pallavi Aiyar

August 9, 2009 1 comment

For greater good of the most many ...

For greater good of the most many ...

perhaps nothing exemplifies European socialism more than the maze of regulations governing the retail trade in Belgium. It took a panel of five young government officials from the Directorate for Regulation and Organisation of the Market, armed with pages of notes, to explain the main highlights of these to me.

This is what I learnt: In Belgium, shops can only legally go on ‘sale’ twice a year, in January and July. It is only during these periods that shops may sell goods at below cost or ‘extremely reduced’ profit. For six weeks before the sales period, shops may not advertise price reductions.

Although offering discounts (as long as these do not amount to a loss) is legal at other times of the year, for a month before the biannual sales, textiles, shoes and leather products may not be discounted at all. Moreover, the sales are reserved for the ‘seasonal renewal’ of stock, so products deemed non-seasonal may not be included in the sale. Sofas, for example, are considered seasonal but antiques are not.

To implement all of this, two hundred-odd inspectors from the Directorate wander around the country inspecting and many complaints regarding non-compliance are also phoned in.

The rationale behind this mountain of red tape is the protection of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which it is believed would go bankrupt if big retail were to be allowed to dump in an unrestrained manner. (via Pallavi Aiyar: Where Marx comes alive).

Europe has come a full circle!

The State has slowly and surely, completely taken over. The hard-fought liberties, the Magna Cartas, the Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, have been in vain. The people have just stepped up to the dias and handed over all the power back to the State. The much touted Renaissance and Reformation have all come to nought.

For the Rest of the World, what is truly a cause of anxiety is that the East seems to be embracing Western political ideology and constructs with reckless enthusiasm – in their quest for ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’. And the public sector behemoths may yet cause some damage.

Remember the East India Company – a public sector company.

Too much, too soon? – Abheek Barman’s blog-The Economic Times

July 22, 2009 1 comment

By sheer chance, India was colonized by the British and not, say, by the Dutch or the Portuguese. That chance happening made sure that many Indians speak and write English, something that’s useful when English has become the dominant language for science, technology and business. (via Too much, too soon?:Folk Theorem:Abheek Barman’s blog-The Economic Times).

Satori

O, Master Abheek! I didn’t realize this, till the pearls of wisdom from your bountiful pen, burst forth in all their resplendent glory.

But for your profound and wonderful insight, I would have remained a backward and ignorant Indian. Now, I am only backward Indian. At least, I am no longer ignorant of the blessings of the Great English Language.

Till Indians learnt English, they could not speak to anyone else in the world at all. Indian trade must have been zero till the Great White Man came and taught us English! The trade in spices, cotton, metals, textiles, ships I now know is just blatant untruth. Otherwise before our Great White Masters taught us English from 1830 onwards, India could not have traded with the world at all.  Or Indians must have used sign language like deaf and dumb mutts (apologies to the acoustically challenged) – fit to be beggars.

How can we backward Indians ever, but, EVER repay this debt, O Wise Soul? Please enlighten me, O Master!

That chance happening

Rarely do such momentous happen by chance, Mr.Barman.

It was the British success in India, that made English into the most widely spoken language in the world for the last 100 years. It is also the huge subsidy given by the post-colonial Indian Government which has made India as the the world’s largest English-language administered country in the world. And the second largest English speaking population.

Not the other way round Mr.Barman.

The history behind the British ‘success’ in India

After being sidelined by the Papal Bulls, (favoring Spain and Portugal), it was Britain which was first off the block. After Vasco da Gama’s discovery (for Europeans) of trade route to India (1498), round Africa, the British started with the English East India Company (1600). And the first to obtain a royal firmaan in 1612.

The Dutch followed in 1602. The Danish Opperhoved initially started in 1616 and was reborn in 1732, as Asiatisk Kompagni. The Portuguese organised themselves as chartered company in 1628. The French came with the French East India Co. in 1664. The Swedes joined the rat race in 1731 with Svenska Ostindiska Companiet. The Italians came in as the Genoa East India companies. The Hanseatic League had its own operations.

In North America, the Hudson Bay Company (Compagnie de la Baie d’Hudson in French) was given a Royal Charter in 1670 by Charles II. It practically owned Canada when the Dominion of Canada was formed – and is the oldest surviving company in North America.

English rule over India continues …

Over the next 250 years, from the formation and the firmaan, till the eve of the 1857 War, the campaign for the conquest and colonization of India was funded by the earnings from the vast slave economies of the Atlantic islands (Cuba, Haiti, West Indies), the loot from North and South Americas, – and later Australia and Africa.

Indian rulers and armies, without recourse to such wealth, fumbled. Indian polity and economy, weakened by the foreign slave rulers from the 12th-14th century (Slave dynasty, Tughlaks, Khiljis) and then the muddled ‘Indo-Saracenic’ rule by the Lodis and Mughals from Afghanistan (with Turkish and Persian advisors) left India in a weak position.

After the British were sent away

In modern times, within a short 70 years after British departure from India, the decline of the Britain has been slightly faster than the turn around in the Indian economy. Britain today, a shell of its former self – with its manufacturing hollowed out, its agriculture in shambles, its economy on the verge of being relegated to the Third World, it is a huge descent.

Much like Spain after Haiti. In a 100 years after Haiti, Spain flamed out. By 1930, it was in the throes of a Civil War. And in Spain today, prostitution is national industry.

Opposite directions

India, in the meantime, led by ‘men of straw’, has moved from being a ship-to-mouth’ basket-case, to a significant economic and political success. Yet, the British colonial administrators needed to prove that only they could rule over India. Indians were after all ‘men of straw … of whom no trace will be found after a few years’. After all, what more could be expected of a people, led by ahalf naked … fakir.

Could India survive without the British Raj?

Could India survive without the British Raj?

In 1947, when the British Raj was coming to an end, we heard that India would not survive without British ‘over sight’. Today, when Britain itself is on the verge of becoming a Third World country, one hears the echoes of the same message. If Britain was indeed so good at its job, why can’t they do anything to save themselves from this terminal decline. Why is English language not able to save the British?

What do we do about the Truth, O Master?

Modern econometric modelling shows that for much of the last 1000 years (at least), India has been a significant economic power. Till the 1900, China and India, this analysis estimates, accounted for 50% of the world economy. Statistical analyses showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900.

Truth, my Great Master Barman, must be banished from your very presence. It affects the very harmony of your sublime thoughts.

Such a inconvenient thing. The truth!

Colonial imaginings?

March 10, 2009 4 comments

It is also true that there was huge demobilisation of soldiers during the first half of the 19th century. Mughal rule was on its last legs and small rulers did not have the resources to maintain a regular army. Many of these men, Muslims and Hindus alike, did take to highway robberies. But thugs are a different story. Were they for real or were they just a figment of the Company Bahadur’s imagination? The question deserves an answer. (via Colonial imaginings?).

Indian history has become a two-trick pony

Produce Gandhiji or Nehru to blame or credit for anything in Indian history. That is the sum and substance of modern India’s approach to history.

The real tragedy here is not the colonial falsification of history. It is the abdication of the Indian academia in correcting colonial history. The entire Western historiography, based on a colonial agenda and racial superiority is not being challenged – at least not enough.

Amaresh Misras War Of Civilisations: The Road To Delhi; India AD 1857

Amaresh Misra's War Of Civilisations: The Road To Delhi; India AD 1857 (Click for larger image).

Perplexed … Angry … Disappointed!

Sometime back, another book, on the Ghadar Party is a demonstration of how Indian Universities are letting us down.

Ghadar Party has not got its due from our historians or even from the official chroniclers of India’s freedom movement. The author, Savitri Sawhney, is the daughter of Pandurang Khankhoje, one of the co-founders of Ghadar Party.

Parag Tope’s forth coming book, Operation Red Lotus, on the life and wars of Tatiya Tope; another non-specialist book on  Chhatrapati Shri Sambhaji Maharaj by Anant Darwatkar, are all non-specialists, trying to do the job that a specialist should have done a long time ago. While on the subject of thugee and dacoits, Parag Tope’s write up on the Pindaris is worth a read.

Most impressive is the work by Amaresh Misra – a film critic and journalist, who was moved sufficiently to research for a few years, because, “Since 1957, no Indian has written a comprehensive account of the Revolt. Indian historians have done a limited work”. His work, based on some excellent research and insights, is of course, let down by his referrals, to partisan political interpretations and Western political frameworks.

The truth behind Thugee

Another book reveals how ‘Thuggee and Dacoity Department’ established with William Sleeman as Superintendent in 1835, could capture no more than 3000 highway robbers – of which only 400 were executed. In nearly a decade! In a population of possibly 25 crores.

Artist: Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, 1902-1979 Published: Daily Mail, 4 June 1947

Colonial propaganda - Artist - Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, 1902-1979 Published - Daily Mail, 4 June 1947

Some of the most infamous, like Behram was attributed to have committed more than 900 murders – for which he never faced any trial, for murders he confessed to, even after being captured.

Most of these thugs were actually rebel peasants who were waging a war against the dispossession of the lands – like the Santhals, Bhils, Gujjars, etc.

How many innocents were killed on trumped up charges, I will not estimate!

Dysfunctional academia

Indian academicians and historians – especially in higher education, in non-technology, non -science related fields are big let down. Why are academicians (paid for doing this research) not doing this research? Why are non-specialists doing this job? My dissatisfaction is not a reflection on the non-specialists – but on the specialists.

Indian school texts have seen some basic spit-and-polish’ on the colonial text and syllabus. Of course, the dominance of English language in higher education must take a major blame for this.

Right and wrong-The Times of India

February 8, 2009 1 comment

Those who support the change on the ground that the amendment merely puts in the statute what is already a requirement of arrest and part of police practice ignore the fact that the amendment alters the emphasis significantly, and mandatorily provides that the accused “shall not be arrested in respect of the offence referred to in the notice unless, for reasons to be recorded, the police is of the opinion that he ought to be arrested”. The sad truth is that India has a surplus of legislations but a poor record in enforcement.

By contrast, due to a combination of emotional reactions coupled with some jingoistic formulations, the lawyers have clearly got it wrong in their criticism of the LLP Act. The Act seeks to provide for the creation and regulation of LLPs essentially as hybrid entities which retain the partnership model but are closer to corporations in design and function. (via Right and wrong-The Times of India, By Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Minister in GOI).

Abhishek Manu Singhvi is a Minister in the the current UPA run Government. He is a legal eagle – and the sophisticated face and spokesman for the Congress Party.

Wrong is right, Mr.Sanghvi …

When you are worried about abuse of power by the police, your concerns  are quite misplaced Mr.Sanghvi.The Indian Police is doing a good job – and they can do without your cynicism. So you are quite wrong when you are worried about the police abuse of power – with this amendment in law.

All the 5 indices (below) of crime management create a bias for a lawless Indian society and rampant crime. With these four indices, namely: –

  1. High gun ownership
  2. Low police-to-population ration
  3. Low prison population
  4. Highest number of poor people in the world
  5. Capital punishment as a deterrent

against a stable social system, how does India manage low-to-average crime rates.

With less than 25 people per 100,000 in prison, India has the world’s lowest imprisonment rate. Cynics may snigger at India’s ‘inefficient’ police or the slow court procedures as the cause for this low prison population.

That can only mean criminals are at large and India must, therefore have the highest crime rate – which is not true. India has low or average crime rates – based on category. How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population.

And what you think is a right move …

On the other hand, limited liability companies have created a huge debt mountains. What about expanding liability, instead of limited liability. While LLCs can have limited outward liability, they can create unlimited inward liabilities – in the way of debt, bonds, debentures, notes, paper, et al.

These two elements, limited liability and a separate legal entity, have made these Frankensteins different from any previous association of businessmen. The legal structure of corporations allow actual owners to hide behind a legal facade, without liability. These corporations have access to large amounts of fiat currency. Old debts are repaid by taking new debts. Competition is killed by raising entry barriers – which is again done by accessing huge amounts of debt. Some of this borrowings are irredeemable – and called equity.

Limited liability of the shareholders has meant that various stakeholders usually have little or no recourse – when things don’t pan out. Some stakeholders (usually shareholders and management) have access only to an upside, other stake holders, actually, finally take the risk. Such companies resist any attempt at accountability.

It is this ability to evade ethical practices and issues that differentiates these corporations from other business enterprises. From the massacre of millions of Indians during the 1857 War (by the East India Company), the many regime changes that corporations have pushed, the record of these organizations has been far from average.

Concentration Of Power

Newer methods to measure this concentration are devised. Today the most popular methods are the Fortune 500 listing and the Forbes listing. These listings finally demonstrate that half the world’s economic output is controlled by about 25,000 individuals. Add another 25,000 politicians and bureaucrats. We have about 50,000 people managing the lives of 5 billion people. Read this with the faceless entity aspect, it becomes more worrisome.

What Is Happening In India

Out of the 30 current Sensex stocks, which make up the Indian Benchmark Index, 15 started off as SME (small and medium enterprises) 20-30 years ago. These organizations today are lobbying (successfully) to ensure that other SMEs do not challenge and compete with these large corporations. Indian policy makers, apparently, cannot learn from successes.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi is so mixed up …

Just like his Government and party is …

The LLCs and LLPs are legal monsters that are the creations of the West to concentrate power and exploit their power.

SinghviSaheb – Get up and give up … your notions. They are mixed up.

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