Nov 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and India's struggle against corruption have much in common, but Occupy goes much beyond ..

The screaming headlines provide insight into the dichotomy that prevails in our society. This newspaper reported that in Chandigarh alone (in northwest India) Rs 80-crore worth of gold ornaments and nearly 800 cars were sold on the occasion of Dhanteras. Far away in Patna, Rs 400-crore were withdrawn on the same day from ATMs. It seems buying metals on this auspicious occasion had beaten all records.    

Most families consider Dhanteras to be an auspicious occasion to buy gold and silver. Unfortunately for them, the prices of these precious metals have gone through the roof in the last few months, making it difficult for many to buy even a coin of few grams. Completely unable to comprehend the reasons behind such high price-rise, many of them can be heard asking, “Why have gold prices increased so much”?

Little do they know that the unprecedented escalation in gold prices is only because of speculation in which just one per cent of the investors are raking in huge profits while 99 per cent end up paying through the nose. This in short is the essence of the slogan, ‘We are the 99 per cent’, that is sweeping across the continents. More than 950 cities in 82 countries have seen thousands of people streaming in to the roads, squares and the parks to protest against economic inequalities. What began as a silent sit-in by a handful of protesters in the Wall Street -- the financial capital of the world -- New York a month back, has now spread like a wildfire.

In India too, some groups, including the Communist Party, have launched of the Indian version ‘Occupy Dalal Street’ from Nov 4.

Well, before we follow the global trends let me take you back to the days when petrol price internationally had shot up to $ 140 a barrel. This was barely two years back in 2009, just before the world witnessed an economic meltdown. I remember even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that he wasn’t sure whether it was because of a slump in production or rise in demand. The fact is the stupendous rise in oil prices was not because of supply-demand constraints. It was simply because of speculation in trading. The companies which have invested in its stocks on the Wall Street try best to garner more profits.

Oil prices subsequently slumped to a low of $ 40 a barrel. From $ 140 a barrel to $ 40 a barrel certainly proves that demand had nothing to do with prices. It was all in the game of speculation.    

In lot many ways Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption looked similar. But while, Team Anna is crusading for the removal of graft from public life, Occupy movement goes much beyond and hits at the very foundations of the growing inequalities. Removing corruption will make available more resources for development activities, and as Swami Ramdev has been saying bringing back Rs 400 lakh crore of black money stacked abroad will make available abundant resources that can be ploughed back to fight poverty and hunger.   

Removing corruption is certainly the crying need. But what makes Swami Ramdev and Anna Hazare’s struggle against corruption and black money different from Occupy campaign is that while you may not have to pay underhand for getting admission for you child in a school or a university but you will still end up pay exorbitantly for the gold ornaments that you need to buy for your daughter’s marriage. You will still continue to pay dearly and periodically for hike in petrol and diesel prices. You will end up paying more not because of supply demand constraints, but because some people are raking in more money through speculations in trading. You and I eventually pay for the greed of one per cent people. 

Occupy movement is a global struggle for a decent living. It hits at the very fundamental of the growing economic disparities, the inequalities and injustice that prevails. 

For more on Occupy Wall Street, read what Noam Chomsky has to say:


Kannan G. said...

That's food for thought...thanks for the post.

Rahul said...

No hope for India now, Most of politicians and leaders are corrupt, no one willing even thinking to work for country, all look for money only.