There is a world beyond the Shenton Way, Bandra-Kurla Complexes and DLF Cyber City’s of the world. There is a peri-urban India and a rural India that might be influenced by its urban cousins due to the dominant, hegemonic discourse crafted by the elite but their world is still rooted in tradition and Asian values. As ‘Metros have been transformed in to financial products’ in the words the authors of the mightily influential treatise on development sociology in India: ‘Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India’, the role of the City as an overpowering entity is articulated as the village cedes control to the city and farmers lose agency in the process. A farmer with limited resources but most importantly dignity denigrates himself into a commodity in the market when the government or a private developer acquires his land hopefully for a fair compensation package. The new land acquisition bill makes robust Relief & Rehabilitation provisions for the Project Affected Families. The farmer does not have any other skill set apart from farming and money management is not one of them. It might be a barely literate famer moving from his second hand motor-bike to an Audi the next day, it will not be far way that, he will be a security guard at a shopping mall built on his land holding that he sold off (remember the Bollywood Film Shanghai?). This might be Jairam’s single largest contribution to the policy landscape of the country. Might delay projects and escalate costs, but the farmer is at the heart of the story and not the developer. The vulnerable and the marginalised should be the ones protected by the legislative architecture of the State and not act as an agent of the Capitalist classes. The line is often blurred beyond recognition with Industrialists populating both houses of parliament and siting on JPC’s with severe conflicts of interest. Great in one way as they have the ability of project execution but in another fashion take away the essence of grassroots commoner.
The semantics of the rhetoric of Mint Street unfortunately influences corporatized media boardrooms and sometimes North Block. Umair Haque, who writes a popular column in the HBS Blogs website recently wrote a hard hitting post on the ills of American Capitalism in what he captures as ‘Capitalist-Stan’. American Capitalism was known for its ability as a power social escalator for the mobility it used to provide for all irrespective of ones birth. Opportunity equality was the byword. In the present times, the cliques of the ‘Lords of Finance’ on Wall Street rule the finance arena, influencing public policy that a former Goldman Sachs CEO becomes the treasury secretary under Bush ’43. No wonder they are the highest campaign contributors to Presidential/Senate contests in the USA. Obama is no exception too. The decrease in social mobility in hyper charged globalised capitalism is not surprising as ‘only the folks with the correct connections and skill sets’ are able to crack the ivory towers oops the glass tinted buildings of Central Business Districts of Global Econohubs. It’s the same situation in India, as only 20% of engineering graduates being potentially employable. Many of the younger engineers I know cannot compose a proper mail in business English. English is the Lingua Franca is the Modern World of commerce. This is a pre-requisite as problem solving is in engineering. If you cannot communicate, then you do not know your stuff, if you cannot express.
‘Market-ism’ being the central ideological construct of the bankers and the capitalist classes has led to ‘Growth-ism’. This Growth-ism has led to the culture of the bottom-line and ‘Quarter se Quarter Tak’ (from one quarterly results reporting to the other) ethos.
Take the long term view, because concrete value cannot be created overnight. Mohenjadaro as Rome was not built in a day. Capitalism includes economic growth, and market is a vehicle for channelize the ‘animal spirits’ to create wealth. But capitalism is also about meritocracy and wealth creation. More importantly its about pursuing ones calling in the sentiments of Weber.
Growth-ism stands for parochial wealth creation unfortunately now days. When wealth is created, it is distributed for welfare of the poor, so that they can a more playing field can be created. This element is sadly missing from the conversation. I was on an Al Jazeera International’s show – ‘The Stream’ on the 9th of October 2013, speaking on an esteemed panel on the Food Security Bill. I spoke in favour of the bill that a welfare legislation is a public policy innovation and is a start, might be flawed but is a start. A policy pundit, a very knowledgeable Think Tank honcho and friend shouted me down espousing his beliefs in ‘Market-ism’. Market is a great slave but a terrible master; my friends from Dalal Street should understand.