The plot is getting thicker. I am waiting for the next twist in this mega soap opera. Yes, I am talking of the soap that is telecast every evening on prime time on most TV channels (some TV channels of course have been telecasting good discussions on other topics as well). The way corporate India has dressed up its PR agents, and lined them up as a rogue cast, every evening on the chat shows, I find it often very amusing, hilarious, and sometimes very irritating and disgusting. It has all the ingredients of a saas bahu serials, and of course a lots more.
For a number of days now, they found fault with the slow moving policies, which according to them lacked action. They talked of 'policy paralysis' and tried to play down the mega corruption that has hit the Congress-led UPA rule, and of course mentioned 'crony capitalism' as a matter of fact, and nothing more. Then came the news that 12 panchayats in Niyamgiri region had turned down the multi-billion dollar Vedanta empire to set foot, some of them were visibly angry. After all, how could a bunch of scantily-clad tribal stop the might of a business tycoon. So they ran down the Supreme Court which directed the public hearings, and blamed the judiciary for coming in the way of economic growth.
It didn't stop here. Many of them then questioned the delay caused due to the refusal by Ministry of Environment & Forests to grant them automatic clearance as a result of which some of the major investments were held up. They of course welcomed when Prime Minister set up a National Investment Board for fast-track clearance for industrial projects. And now I am told the Prime Minister has directed his officials to sort out all pending investments proposals and see to it that these are cleared before he departs in October to meet US President Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.
Isn't that interesting? Prime Minister of a so-called democratic country preparing to present a report card to the world's most powerful CEO? No wonder, the Indian economy is in doldrums.
All hell broke lose the day the Lok Sabha passed the Rs 1.25 lakh crore food security bill. All the corporate actors on the TV shows were visibly angry. Unmindful of the fact that the nation was watching them, they went on to lash out at the wasteful expenditure at a time when the economy is in crisis. Some of them even went to the extent of saying that the poor didn't need to be given cheaper food. Another, who is quite a regular on TV nowadays, and I don't know why, defended the Rs 30-lakh crore tax exemptions given to the industry in the past 9 years. After all, with such a massive subsidy, good enough to wipe out hunger from India, the industry has failed to perform. industrial output is in minus, manufacturing has been destroyed, and joblessness is on the rise. So hasn't this massive subsidy gone into a black hole, I asked.
And then the Sensex dipped for a day. This is a usual practice with the stock markets whenever they want to blackmail the government into submission. It dipped 569 points, and the next evening went up by 500 points. Blackmail, isn't it? But this came in handy for the rogue artists to use the argument of market sentiments getting a blow with the food security bill. I have never seen such a blatant, and disgusting expression of contempt against the poor. This is shameful indeed.
Yesterday, one of the regulars went a step ahead. He even appealed to the middle class to come out and vote strongly against such measures that provide a safety net to the poor. I thought it was akin to inciting the audience to go for a class war. Now this is getting too much. Even Ekta Kapoor would have been careful. But then, the TV soap opera has no boundaries. The only prevention or precaution that it takes is that it doesn't criticise the Corporate world. They are the holy cows. They need all the subsidies if India's growth story has to go forward.
Remove environment hurdles. Provide them tax concessions, tax holidays. Give them land free of cost, or make it available to them at cheap rates. Forget about rehabilitating the displaced, the markets will take care of them. This is a small collateral damage in the path to growth, we are told. In short, while the State gives the poor with a Right to Food, the State needs to give the Corporates a right to poison the environment, and also a right to open loot. So far this is the message I get.
The soap opera continues. Let us wait and watch for what happens next.