On social media

24 December 2012

Almost A Jallianwala

But it was a manifestation of the "functional anarchy" that India is known to be, which unravelled in central Delhi this week, as non-violent demonstrators bore the brunt of a frustrated police force

I am managing to write this post with immense difficulty in typing as my right hand that received a big blow from a policeman's lathi last evening is reluctant to cooperate in this necessary exercise of reporting the eyewitness account. I was surrounded by five Delhi Police and RAF personnel who dealt massive blows all over my body in a fit of rage even as I kept screaming that I was a peaceful protester exercising my democratic right. I am not joining the demonstrations today because a few more hits in the same parts of the body will render me motionless, while I am entrusted with the task of organisation building.

The day before yesterday, 22 December, we were squatting around the canopy at a distance of about half-a-kilometre from North Block where Rajpath ends, in the evening, with many fellow activists taking turns to deliver speeches outlining the problems with the society in general and the legal recourse in particular. Specifically, our demand was to the Members of Parliament to convene a special session to enact an effective law against the scourge of sexual and other attacks on women,

At a distance along the walls of the North Block, there were many demonstrators holding placards, demanding justice for the victim of the horrible gang-rape that was perpetrated on a young paramedic student Sunday night. Apparently, they did not have a leader. Going by the faces, they looked young enough to be students of universities. Going by the lingo, they all hailed from upmarket locales of the city who are normally not given to expressions of public outrage. This was obviously their first venting of frustration at the lack of adequate security for women in the Delhi society.

Mix of confusion and fear as the police attack unprovoked
A while later, some cops emerged from the ramparts and walked in a queue along the walls near the Parliament House. Immediately, hurling of expletives and invectives followed from the side of the young, leader-less protesters. The landscape there is so spic and span that no miscreant, even if s/he wanted to, could lay her/his hands on rocks lying here and there, and hurl it at the policemen. At the most, there could have been some half-empty mineral water bottles. Yet the provocation of abuses and innocuous plastic bottles was enough for the law enforcers to retaliate. They rushed towards the Rajpath corridor to Rashtrapati Bhavan, holding sticks high and beat up whoever came their way indiscriminately. My left thigh received a blow even as I was updating my Facebook status via mobile.

A while later, Vishnu Som of NDTV was caught with his pants down as the assembly of protesters stopped him mid-way into his act of concocted reporting, wherein he was claiming the police had to take recourse to violence because of ample provocation from the demonstrators. The heckled reporter perhaps still suffers from the hangover of the 1990s when his employer was a production house making programmes for Star News, where unfettered pro-establishment apologism of the presenters and wanton heckling of all representatives of the opposition ruled the roost.

Punishment disproportionate to the 'crime'
Later at home I came to know that some protesters had turned unruly earlier that morning. Scenes of stone-pelting one wonders where they got the rocks from were played on TV. The question that arises from the day's events is whether the police, an instrument of the state, is supposed to be a tool of wanton retribution. When the violent lumpen elements of the morning could easily be separated from the peaceful demonstrators of the evening, what was the need for the lathicharge?

The next morning, we heard demonstrations were allowed at India Gate, though all Metro routes approaching the venue were sealed by the authority. I took an auto-rickshaw to reach the spot, which took a tortuous route, circumventing all the police barricades on the way. It dropped me at the crossing of Ashoka Road and Firozshah Road.

Virility of the impotent
As I walked towards India Gate, encountering inquiries from stray policemen as well as battalions on the way, who made me move in thoughtless directions, I came across a group of young and middle-aged women exclusively women, mind you wailing in pain at the junction of Rajendra Prasad Road and Ashoka Road. They were howling in protest for being mercilessly beaten with sticks for doing as much as raising women's lib slogans damning the establishment. Some senior policemen were trying to placate the protesters in vain and the rest of the armed force was cutting sorry faces as the women questioned the sheer impotency in the execution of brute state power on unarmed, dignified lady citizens.

Leaving this ramshackle car unattended was a ploy
The scene near Hyderabad House on the circumference of India Gate appeared like a prelude to a genuine people's movement, which switched from a ruckus to organised demonstrations. There was a short-lived sign of the authority's intelligence as it had left a long-abandoned, vintage police jeep on the spot on which some ruffian-like elements were venting their anger, smashing it with sticks. Student demonstrators, who were otherwise conducting a signature campaign against atrocities on women, were pleading with the unwashed masses for restraint, but to no avail. As the vandals quietened, several members of the recently established Aam Aadmi Party (of which this blogger is a member) made people sit in circles on the road. Anguish-ridden speeches of women, whose female kin had tales of woe to tell, followed, interspersed with Kumar Vishwas's ample display of oratory skills and Gopal Rai's revolutionary demagoguery; the latter has interestingly developed in his political philosophy an engaging mix of nationalistic, non-violent ideals suffused with the training in communism he received during his formative years.

The speeches and slogans continued for about two hours after which boredom must have got the better of the leaders of the congregation. They mooted the idea of walking up to Rashtrapati Bhavan in a queue, or holding hands. Unfortunately, neither order could be maintained for long, as the crowd marched, brisk-paced, towards their just-assigned destination.

Barely a kilometre away, there was a police barricade from where tear gas shells started being lobbed before the procession could reach the cordon. In no time, some delinquents retaliated with stone-pelting. I saw a big rock land on a cop's helmet. The Delhi University students around me identified three of the fiends as members of the National Students' Union of India, the Indian National Congress-affiliated students union. For me, a veteran of street protests since my Calcutta University days, this was plausible. Those days, as a sympathiser of the Congress, I had witnessed many a peaceful protest gone awry by similar machinations of the SFI and DYFI whenever the Chhatra Parishad organised a march to the Writer's Building.

I maintained my calm and walked gently, separated from the crowd. My calmness sent across the intended message to the beleaguered policemen, more so as they observed me taking care of the fallen demonstrators on the way as much as the cops who were hurt. I expressed dismay to the men in uniform as to why no ambulances were arranged for in anticipation of the day's events.

Quietly then, I walked to the Press Club and saw another band of about a hundred students leaderless again who were sloganeering with gay abandon. Police presence on this stretch was negligible. An NDTV OB van lay vacant and a reporter from a Telugu broadcaster was heard narrating incidents that unfolded before him on camera in front of Krishi Bhavan. I walked up to Rail Bhavan where I witnessed a subdued group, fear writ large on their faces, holding aloft placards that had messages to shame male chauvinists and government alike, with a reporter of a Bengali news channel interviewing them.

Till then, I had no clue as to where my fellows from the party were. I rang up two of them and learned that they had reassembled near Amar Jawan Jyoti. On reaching the venue again, the scene I witnessed would warm the cockles of any middle class citizen's heart that laments the numbness of the citizenry at large towards a callous administration not living up to the expectations of a modern democracy. A somewhat jarring note was struck by some hangers-on who made a bonfire of the wooden logs used for fencing the lanes of the India Gate lawn.

They perhaps looked like terrorists to the authority
The largest assembly was one exclusively of women. Some rather intelligent speeches emanated from the congregation. At a short distance, members of All India Students' Association, the students' wing of the CPI-ML (Liberation), were singing ham honge kAmyAb and its English version, "We Shall Overcome". Separated from them was the group called Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, demanding capital punishment for rapists. Almost a similar sentiment was being expressed by members of Bharat Swabhiman at the other side of the monument that resembles L'Arc de Triomphe of France. Overall, the people numbered about 10,000.

The Aam Aadmi Party's presence was in abeyance, respecting the critique from some political observers that the issue of rape should not be politicised. We were all instructed to stay scattered deliberately. Even during the morning dharna, some media persons had sniffed out the presence of a familiar Arvind Kejriwal and a known Yogendra Yadav; they had not invited them for sound-bytes. The police cordon in the evening was along the periphery of the lawns. All demonstrators, cutting across organisational and non-organisational lines, were absolutely peaceful as cameras hovered over the entire stretch.

Reminded one of Brig Gen REH Dyer's forces
It, therefore, took us by surprise when the police cordon began reducing its radius and approaching us menacingly. Soon the water cannons were unplugged. The heavy sprays did not spare even the television cameras and other equipment. Journalists who thought they were immune to the proceedings were in for a rude shock, as the policemen bashed them up with sticks deliberately. These semi-educated hooligans in uniform perhaps never watch TV, as was evident from the way many known faces on the screen as much as those citizens who were wholly non-violent were roughed up with impunity.

As I approached Tilak Marg to go back home, I found a constable limping badly. I made him lie on the pavement and massaged his bruised left knee that was apparently hit by a rock. Grimacing with pain, he wondered why the people were angry at them even after the quick arrest of the accused in the Sunday gang-rape case. I thought it was futile to explain to him that the outburst was not about this case alone; that people wanted to live safe for all times to come. I requested his officer to take him off duty and inquired if their van at least had some first-aid kit to take prompt care of the injured. The officer put up a silly smile in response.

Not entitled to protest
Tilak Marg was dimly lit. Dispersed demonstrators and pedestrians who were clueless where to catch the bus from were walking along the stretch maintaining quite some distance from each other. There was absolutely no signal from them that they could run amok any time. Some moaning was heard from a shelter on the way; some people peeped out of it and pleaded for an ambulance while a woman, whose son was whining, broke down. The young boy had fractured limbs. I came out of the shelter to seek the police's help.

What I got in return, after a few cops pleaded helplessness, was an entire batallion unleashed on me. Fortunately, the winter clothes I had on cushioned the blows on my back and chest. But when a lathi was about to land on my head, I raised my inadequately protected right hand in reflex action, which bore the impact of the hit. The mad cops relented after a while as the rest of the batallion had rushed away in search of more 'hunts' to whet their appetite for retaliation (to what?).

Pendant le roi, le déluge
The swollen right hand was difficult to carry all the way to ITO where I could finally get a bus after some waiting. I would place it once in the trousers' pocket and once in the jacket's, but the pain simply refused to recede.

When at home, I heard on television police authorities issuing appeals of calm and was amazed by the rank inanity of the act. Did those at the helm presume there were large TV screens installed at the sites of protest, from where the demonstrators could get the message? Why did no armoured vehicle take rounds of the arena, fitted with a loudspeaker, making appeals to the people to withdraw their demonstrations as all their demands had been 'met'? This much was expected even if the Nero and Louis XV of 10 Janpath and 7 Race Course Road were too scared to make a public appearance. If the Madame de Pompadour in the Congress dispensation is acting smug, declaring, "Après moi, le déluge," she must note, le déluge est déjà là.

Media reports told us that several policemen were injured in the skirmishes of the day, and one cop was battling for life. In hindsight, I could rationalise the embitterment of the police, which went berserk. It happens to men both in the police and the army that they retaliate indiscriminately when their fellows are hurt. But the buck stops at the Union Home Ministry that governs Delhi Police, controls CRPF and manages RAF action in the national capital region. If they say the police's unmeasured action was justified, they are lying or have been misreported. If they say the junior men in khaki and blue acted on their own volition which they won't, but which may well be trueyou know why India is called a functional anarchy.

All that was mercifully missing on the site of the state-sponsored rampage in central Delhi was a well in the middle of the India Gate lawns. You know how the panic-stricken crowds would have reacted if you have read about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

When I narrated the day's incidents to my wife, she asked why I did not hit back the policemen though I was physically disposed enough to do so. I explained to her it would have justified the otherwise unjustifiable barbarism of the police. My four-year-old son, in the meantime, has begun sounding like a rebel with a cause though I consciously kept him away from all discussions of the state of affairs of the country I used to engage my wife in before he was born. The little one has strangely started finding news broadcasts more interesting than entertainment programmes on television. I shudder to contemplate the end of innocence of the upcoming generation, if similar things are happening in other households as well.

The blogger's right hand
I am still explaining to myself this chaos is not my kind of a revolution. I am still a disciplined worker of a political party whose national convenor is a Gandhian to the core. Till I am here and until all the democratic options are exhausted, I will adhere to the principle of non-violence. We are at the stage in today's Mahabharata where some Krishnas have gone as emissaries to Hastinapura, today's Lutyen's Delhi, to plead with them the case for peace a deal of returning a mere five villages (some democratic concessions) to the ordinary citizens of the country, who are now in the shoes of the Pandavas, in lieu of the Indraprastha usurped by a bunch of Kauravas, the established political parties led by the ruling Congress. The time for Kurukshetra has not yet come. If and when it does, the brains that will open the final frontier will not be such snafus in their approach. That strategy, of course, cannot be revealed as of now. Let's pray democracy and peace in the form of an electoral victory of the hassled ordinary citizens of India, followed by a slew of indispensable reforms in the judiciary, the legislature and the executive succeed.

05 November 2012

The Bohemian Versus The Syndicate

Subramanian Swamy's allegation of Sonia-Rahul Gandhi indulging in a Rs 1,600 crore fraud contains questions more credible than the points of defence put up by the Congress, notwithstanding the fact that every allegation by the Janata Party president is viewed by his detractors through the lenses of his past record of frequently changing alliances, communal diatribes and intemperate attacks on the person of his target at a given point of time

“Since when has it become legal for a political party to extend a loan?” Subramanian Swamy asks, questioning what appears a dubious business transaction between a dysfunctional media house, whose newspaper was launched by the first prime minister of the country, and a purported non-profit company, the majority stakes of which are held by the Indian National Congress's first family. The question is valid.

Attacking his decade-long pet hate

Seeking an explanation as to why a general body meeting of shareholders of Associated Journals Pvt Ltd (AJ) was held at 10 Janpath, as reported to the RoC, is in place if indeed this allegation of Swamy, no matter a turncoat of whatever order he is, holds some water.

If AJ is now a defunct company but it continues to occupy (expensive) real estate in Delhi — 5A Herald House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi 110 002 — and Uttar Pradesh, the allegation acquires serious proportions especially if the Nehru-Gandhis floated a company called Young Indian (YI), formed on 23 November 2010 under Section 25 of the Companies Act (making it a non-profit organisation), and subsequently acquired the media house and its immobile property. A media house started with public donations on turning defunct should have returned the land and the rooms of the building that stands on it acquired for the purpose. It is alleged that YI acquired this property at an unbelievably throwaway price of Rs 50 lakh and is now earning revenue from it by renting it out.

Even if “the Associated Journals was a companion organisation of the Congress, and it is the party’s duty to revive the institution and the newspapers under it.” as Sandeep Dikshit has clarified, owing to the fact that AJ’s National Herald was a paper started by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938, the alleged monetary transactions that enabled the acquisition cannot be legally sound.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi hold 38% stake each in YI. The other shareholders of the venture are Congress treasurer Motilal Vora (12%), also the chairman-cum-managing director of AJ, and party general secretary Oscar Fernandes (12%). Journalist Suman Dubey is the managing committee member and National Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda is a member, too. This raises another valid question: Why should Congress party office-bearers own what should be a party asset created through a loan given by the party?

Interestingly, while a press release issued by Janardan Dwivedi sought pride in doing its “duty” by supporting AJ to “help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the laws of the land,” Rahul Gandhi’s office had clarified in an e-mail message that YI had no intention to relaunch any newspaper! Furthermore, notes to accounts of YI states the objective of Young Indian that does not include publishing a newspaper.

His defences have always been dodgy
It is up to the Election Commission of India to ascertain whether the Rs 89.5 crore loan — AICC accepted compromise for loan at Rs 50 lakh against the Rs 90 crore given — that Congress has admitted it lent to AJ violated any section of the Representation of the People Act. And if Rahul Gandhi indeed failed to disclose the details of his shareholdings in YI when he filed his election affidavit in 2009, was it a breach of election laws or, at least, the model code of conduct? On 12 December 2010, AJ’s board approved assignment of the loan given by AICC. Its shareholders approved it on 21 January 2011, simultaneously approving allotment of 90.2 million shares at Rs 10 per share, too. This allotment was sanctioned by AJ’s board on 26 February that year.

Back to the note, the Congress did not het back even Rs 50 lakh cash from YI as the venture officially has capital of Rs 5 lakh and loans of Rs 1 crore. Now, who is this benevolent donor of Rs 1 crore? Or, did AICC give loan to YI to help pay off its own loan? Fishy! The notes to accounts for the year ended March 31, 2012, filed by Young Indian auditor Pradeep Shah and signed by directors Suman Dubey and Motilal Vora this April, give some clues on the actual structure of the transaction. “In pursuit of its objects, the company has acquired loan owed of Rs 90,21,68,980 by the Associated Journals, presently engaged in achieving a recast of its activities so as to have its main object congruent to the main object of the company, for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh,” the note said.

Besides, the books of YI do not show any value against the 90.2 million shares it owns in AJ under the investments column, explaining the blank field with sophistry: “Since the said acquisition is treated as application on the objects of the company(and accordingly, treated in the financial statements of the company), the same has not been as an investment in shares... even if these shares were to be treated as an asset (investment), having regard to the fact that the net worth of the said company is negative, recognising the entire cost as diminution in value would result in an equivalent charge in income and expenditure account... Any outflow designed to fulfil the objects of the company, whether or not represented by an asset, is treated as application on the objects of the company.” if AJ owns assets worth greater than Rs 90 crore, it implies that the Congress has donated its first family free ownership of assets in excess of Rs 90 crore, even if it is held in a non-profit company. That’s yet another instance of ethically unacceptable transaction. Legally unacceptable as well.

Swamy appears more credible than Dwivedi on another count. The claim of the Congress general secretary that 700 employees had got their pay arrears due to the loan will have less buyers than the Janata Party president’s estimate that even a firesale of AJ’s real estate assets would cover the Rs 90 crore liability in the books several times over, settle all employees’ dues and still give the shareholders of AJ handsome returns. If the assets are valued at Rs 1,600 crore, it beats reason how a non-profit company could legally acquire property worth that much with a Rs 90 crore loan from a political party?

Sources: The Hindu, The Business Standard, The Economic Times

17 September 2012

स्व-बनिया आंदोलन

क्या रसोई की छोटी-मोटी ज़रूरियात के लिए आप वाहन से इतनी दूर पधारेंगे?

देशीय व्यवसायों के स्वार्थ की रक्षा के नाम पर पिछले कई सालों से जगह-जगह एक पाखण्ड का मंचन हो रहा है। दावा यह है कि यह स्वदेशी जागरण या आंदोलन है। परन्तु इन मंचों पर एकत्र वक्ताओं और नीचे जुटे श्रोताओं पर एक नज़र दौड़ाइए तो यह स्वदेशी नहीं बल्कि स्व-बनिया अभियान सा प्रतीत होता है। बोलने वाले दुकानदार, सुनने वाले भी दुकानदार; या फिर ऐसी राजनैतिक पार्टी के लोग जो पार्टी मूलतः इन्हीं दुकानदारों के चंदे से चलती है। प्रतिपक्ष की सबसे बड़ी पार्टी इस मामले में कितना पाखण्डी है यह इस रपट (http://m.indianexpress.com/story_mobile.php?storyid=882221) से जानिये। वैसे आज भारतीय जनता पार्टी विपक्ष की भूमिका उसी प्रकार निभा रही है जैसे सन् २००२ ई० में कांग्रेस ने निभाई थी। उस वर्ष १६ दिसंबर को आज की सत्तारूढ़ पार्टी ने मुख्य प्रतिपक्ष के नाते संसद में कैसी शंका जताई थी यह इन उद्धृतियों (http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/1378142/) से जानिये।

इस मामले में सरकार का यदि कोई दोष है तो वह राजनैतिक है, अर्थनैतिक नहीं। जैसे — क्या अल्पमत में आ चुकी सरकार को ऐसे निर्णय लेने का अधिकार है? क्या विदेशी निवेश को सरकार चलाने वाली कांग्रेस पार्टी सही में समाधान मानती है या बिगड़ी हुई अर्थव्यवस्था या स्टैंडर्ड एंड पुअर्स' जैसी संस्थाओं के दबाव में आकर यह निर्णय लिया गया है? अगला चुनाव हार जाने की स्थिति में क्या कांग्रेस को विदेशी निवेश के मुद्दे पर अड़े रहने का अफ़सोस और मलाल न होगा जिस प्रकार सन् २००४ ई० से आज तक यह पार्टी पी०वी० नरसिंह राव की विरासत से अपना पल्ला झाडती रही है और सन् १९९१-९६ ई० के शासनकाल को अपनी ग़लती मानती रही है? प्रशासनिक दृष्टि से यह सवाल उठाया जा सकता है कि अलग-अलग देशों में स्थित हमारे दूतावासों का भारतीय व्यवसाय के स्वार्थ को आगे बढ़ाने के लिए उपयोग क्यों नहीं किया जाता? और जब अमरीका के राष्ट्रपति बराक ओबामा यहाँ भीख की कटोरी लेकर आये थे यह गिड़गिड़ाते हुए कि उनके देश में हमारे व्यापारी नौकरियाँ पैदा करें तब उनकी बाँह इसके लिए क्यों नहीं मरोड़ी गई कि अगर उन्हें हमपर यह शर्त थोपना है कि हम अपने खुदरा व्यापार को उनके व्यापारियों के लिए खोल दें तो वे भी अपना बाज़ार हमारे लिए खोलें और अपने खाद्यान्न से subsidy (सरकारी सहायकी मूल्य) हटा दें? यह पूछना कि क्या यह निर्णय विदेशी सरकारों और व्यापारियों से रिश्वत लेकर लिया गया है दायित्वहीन होगा, इसलिए प्रमाण के अभाव में इस सवाल को रहने देते हैं।

अब वापस आते हैं स्वदेशी वालों के चोंचलों पर। इनके जुलूसों और इनकी सभाओं में कहीं इक्का-दुक्का उपभोक्ता नज़र ही नहीं आता। ऐसे में क्या यह निष्कर्ष निकालना ग़लत होगा कि ये पैंतरे अमूमन ५ करोड़ व्यवसायियों और उनके क़रीब १० करोड़ कर्मचारियों और बिचौलियों के — यानी कुल १५ करोड़ लोगों के — हितार्थ हैं? अर्थात् बाक़ी १०५ करोड़ की जनसंख्या के हितार्थ नहीं? अगर उनके हितार्थ होता तो क्या वे इन प्रदर्शनों में भागीदारी नहीं करते?

और अगर विदेशियों से इतना भय है तो भाजपा बीमा क्षेत्र में विदेशी पूँजीनिवेश का समर्थन क्यों कर रही है? क्योंकि बीमा के व्यापारी और दलाल इनके वोट बैंक नहीं हैं!

चलिए बारी-बारी ये व्यवसायी जो देशप्रेम की दुहाई दे रहे हैं और जिन आशंकाओं को भय में परिवर्तित करने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं उनकी जाँच की जाए।

क्या  अंतर्राष्ट्रीय फुटकर व खुदरा व्यवसायियों के आने से हमारी सदियों पुरानी परचून की दुकानें बंद हो जायेंगी?
क्या इन्हें अपने कार्यकाल में लिए गए निर्णय याद नहीं?
इसकी संभावना नगण्य है। जो छोटे-मोटे फुटकर व्यवसायी हैं उन्हें प्रत्यक्ष विदेशी पूँजीनिवेश से कोई फ़र्क़ नहीं पड़ने वाला। क्योंकि वॉल-मार्ट या कार्फ़ूर न्यूनतम स्थान ग्रहण कर छोटे स्तर पर व्यापार कर ही नहीं सकते। उन्हें तो ५,०००-१०,००० वर्ग फ़ीट जितनी जगह चाहिए अपनी एक-एक दुकान चलाने के लिए, और वो दुकानें आपके घरों के नज़दीक बस ही नहीं सकतीं। वहाँ पहुँचने के लिए आपको गाड़ी लेकर दूर बाज़ार जाना होगा और पार्किंग के लिए जगह ढूंढनी पड़ेगी। ज़ाहिर है ऐसा एक आम उपभोक्ता तभी करेगा जब उसे महीने भर का सामान ख़रीदना हो। रोज़मर्रा के राशन — मसलन् १०० ग्रा० जीरा या ५० ग्रा० हल्दी — के लिए आप पड़ोस के गुप्ता स्टोर या अग्रवाल स्टोर के ही द्वारस्थ होंगे।

मालूम होता है कि इस 'स्वदेशी' आंदोलन नामक ढकोसले के पीछे रिलायंस जैसे रिटेलरों का पैसा लगा हुआ है जिन्होंने जब कई साल पहले अपना धंधा शुरू किया था तो इन 'स्वदेशी' वालों ने "चूँ" तक नहीं की थी जब कि Reliance Fresh जैसी दुकानें भी बाज़ार के उन्हीं सूत्रों पर काम करती हैं जिन पर विदेश के बड़े-बड़े खुदरा व फुटकर विक्रेता। वॉल-मार्ट, कार्फ़ूर, टेस्को वगैरह का मुक़ाबला अम्बानी जैसों से है न कि किसी गुप्ता, गोयल, अग्रवाल या रस्तोगी से। हमारे बनिये इतनी छोटी परिधि में काम करते हैं कि उस स्तर पर अंतर्राष्ट्रीय खिलाड़ी उतर ही नहीं सकते।

क्या हम १० करोड़ खुदरा क्षेत्र के बिचौलियों और उनके स्वजनों के प्रति उदासीन हो जाएँ?
नहीं। बीमा क्षेत्र में देखा गया है कि विदेशी कंपनियों के आते ही भारतीय जीवन बीमा निगम (Life Insurance Corporation of India या  LIC) के एजेंट्स ने दूसरी एजेंसियाँ भी ले लीं और आज वे LIC के साथ-साथ ICICI Lombard, Max New York Life, Aviva, IFFCO-Tokio, Future Generali, Tata, AIG आदि की दलाली भी करते हैं। कोई दलाल इतना बेवक़ूफ़ नहीं होता कि बदलती आबोहवा के मुताबिक़ अपने व्यवसाय को ढाल न सके।

जहाँ तक कर्मचारियों का सवाल है, बड़ी दुकानों में बेहतर तनख़ाह और भत्ता से जब वे आकर्षित होंगे तब हमारे लालाजी को भी उन्हें रोके रखने के लिए अधिक तनख़ाह देनी पड़ेगी और भत्ता भी देना पड़ जाएगा।

बड़ी दुकानों में लाल, पीली, नीली वर्दी में काम करने वाले लड़के-लड़कियों को देख अर्थव्यवस्था की अच्छी हालत की भ्रामक धारणा पैदा होती है!
क्या आप बनिये की दुकानों में काम करने वाले, बस्तियों में रहने वाले बच्चों की दयनीय स्थिति से चिंतित नहीं? चूँकि बड़ी दुकानों में रसीद बनाने का काम हर कर्मचारी को करना पड़ता है, इन लड़कों और लड़कियों को कंप्यूटर चलाने की न्यूनतम शिक्षा तो मिल ही जायेगी। और जब बेहतर सुविधाओं को देख छोटी दुकानों में कार्यरत लड़के नौकरी छोड़ने की धमकी देंगे तब बनियों को भी उनका वेतन बढ़ाना होगा, साथ-साथ अन्य सुविधाएँ भी।

इसके अलावा ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में अधिप्राप्ति (procurement) की दुकानों, छोटे नगरों में शीतल परिवहन (cold transport) एवं बड़े शहरों में शीतागारों (cold storages) में नई-नई नौकरियाँ पैदा होंगी।

एक बार विदेशियों का हमारे बाज़ार पर एकाधिकार स्थापित हो गया फिर तो वे हमसे मुँहमाँगे दाम वसूलेंगे!
इस लेख की भूमिका से यह स्पष्ट हो जाना चाहिए कि बड़ी-बड़ी विदेशी कंपनियों द्वारा यहाँ एकाधिकार स्थापित करना तो दूर, बाज़ार के एक बड़े हिस्से पर अपने पैर जमा पाना भी मुश्किल होगा। और जिस फॉर्मुले पर वे काम करते हैं उसका गणित कुछ इस प्रकार है —

खेतों से आप तक सामान सात स्तर के बिचौलियों से गुज़र कर पहुँचता है; हर बिचौलिया अपने स्तर का कमीशन खाता है जिससे सामान की क़ीमत की उत्तरोत्तर वृद्धि होती रहती है। लेकिन ये चीज़ें आपको कितनी भी महंगी क्यों न मिले, किसानों को उन पैसों का एक बहुत ही छोटा अंश (१/३ या १/२०वें हिस्से तक) मिलता है। तो अगर कोई सीधे किसानों तक पहुँच, उनसे माल ख़रीद, बिना बिचौलियों के आप तक पहुँचा दे तो वह किसानों को उनके उत्पाद का अधिक मोल तो दे ही पायेगा, ऊपर से आपको भी वे पण्य द्रव्य सस्ते मिलेंगे।

ख़तरा इनको है, हमारे पड़ोसी गुप्ताजी को नहीं
एक उपभोक्ता के नज़रिए से देखें तो आपको इस बात से क्या आपत्ति है कि कोई विक्रेता बिचौलियों से माल न ख़रीद कर सीधे किसानों से ख़रीदे जिससे कि किसान को वो पैदावार का अधिक मोल दे सके और हमें भी माल सस्ता मिले? बिचौलियों के धंधे में मंदा न हो यह सुनिश्चित करना उपभोक्ताओं के हित में कैसे हो सकता है?

रिलायंस के सूत्रों का कहना है कि वे आज तक केवल चार स्तर के बिचौलियों से ही निजात पा सके हैं; तीन स्तर अभी भी बाक़ी हैं जिनकी दलाली के कारण सामान इतने सस्ते नहीं हो पा रहे जितने हो सकते हैं। उन्हें डर है कि वॉल-मार्ट जैसी कम्पनियाँ उन तीन स्तर के बिचौलियों को भी साफ़ कर देंगी जिससे उनके असबाब Reliance Fresh के सामान से भी सस्ते हो जायेंगे। अब अंदाज़ा लगाना आसान हो जाना चाहिए कि विदेशियों से असली ख़तरा किनको महसूस हो रहा है।

वैसे  विदेशी निवेश का फ़ायदा हमारे किसानों तक पहुँचे इसके लिए आवश्यक है कि विभिन्न राज्यों में लागू Agricultural Produce Market Committee (कृषि उत्पाद बाज़ार समिति) क़ानून में बदलाव लाये जाएँ ताकि किसानों को दलालों के हाथ ही माल बेचने की मजबूरी न हो। केन्द्र सरकार का इस विषय में कहना है कि केरल के अलावा अन्य कांग्रेस शासित राज्य और नॅशनल कान्फ़रेंस शासित जम्मू और कश्मीर इसके लिए तैयार हैं।

राज्यों से जैसी मिली-जुली प्रतिक्रियाएँ मिल रही हैं इससे एक लाभ यह होगा कि कुछ समय पश्चात यह स्पष्ट हो जाएगा कि FDI के विषय में आशान्वित राज्यों का पूर्वाभास सही था या आशंकित राज्यों का। जब हम इन दो तरह के राज्यों के परिणामों की तुलना कर पायेंगे तब जाकर इस बहस का निर्णायक अंत होगा।

वॉल-मार्ट जब अमरीकी और जर्मन किसानों का भला नहीं कर पाया तो हमारा क्या करेगा?
पहली बात तो यह कि यह अभिप्रचार है। वास्तव में अमरीका में छोटे व्यवसायी बड़े व्यवसायियों के बावजूद धड़ल्ले से धंधा कर रहे हैं और उनका प्रदर्शन कई बार बड़े व्यापारियों से बेहतर भी हो जाता है (http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/marketing-sales/2012/07/19/small-retail-spending-grows-faster-than-us-retail-rate-survey-finds/)। जहाँ तक जर्मनी का सवाल है, वहाँ वॉल-मार्ट के आने की ख़बर मिलते ही स्थानीय व्यवसायियों ने अपने सामान की क़ीमतें इतनी गिरा दीं कि उससे मुकाबला करना विश्व के सबसे बड़े फुटकर व्यापारी के लिए संभव न था। वॉल-मार्ट को उस देश में मुँह की खानी पड़ी (http://www.iwim.uni-bremen.de/publikationen/pdf/w024.pdf)। फिर भी अगर आज जर्मनी में खाद्यान्न उगाने वालों को कोई ख़तरा महसूस होता है तो वह स्थानीय बड़े व्यवसायियों से न कि किसी विदेशी से (http://regionalfoodsolutions.com/2010/10/13/no-foothold-for-wal-mart-in-germany-but-local-food-still-loses/)

दूसरी बात — ये बार-बार केवल वॉल-मार्ट का नाम घुमा-फिरा कर क्यों लिया जाता है? इस व्यवसाय में कोई और खिलाड़ी नहीं है क्या? या इन 'स्वदेशी' वालों को उनके नाम नहीं मालूम? विदेशी निवेश के पक्ष में तर्क मुक़ाबले के पक्ष में तर्क हैं, किसी एक कम्पनी के पक्ष में नहीं। वॉल-मार्ट के साथ-साथ कार्फ़ूर, टेस्को, मेट्रो आदि तथा इस देश के अम्बानी, ए०वी० बिड़ला, टाटा, पिरामल, आर०पी०जी०, लैंडमार्क, पैंटलून आदि के बीच जितनी प्रतिस्पर्धा होगी, चीज़ों के दाम उतने कम होंगे।

यही तर्क आनुवांशिक रूप से परिवर्तित शस्य (genetically modified — GM — crop) पर भी लागू होता है। खुदरा क्षेत्र में वॉल-मार्ट की तरह यदि कृषि क्षेत्र में Monsanto जैसी बदनाम कम्पनी के हवाले हमारे सारे के सारे खेत कर दिए गए तो यह कम्पनी मनमानी तो करेगी ही। देशी हो या विदेशी, तमाम निजी कंपनियों पर प्रतिस्पर्धा की नकेल कसना ज़रूरी है। एकाधिकार लूटतंत्र का जन्मदाता है। निजी एकाधिकार हो तो आविष्कार और खोज बंद हो जाते हैं और एक व्यवसायी देश का तानाशाह राजा बन जाता है; सरकारी एकाधिकार हो तो सरकारी किरानी रिश्वत से मालामाल हो जाते हैं और अर्थव्यवस्था पर मंदी हावी हो जाती है — दोनों हाल में आम आदमी तो लुटता ही है। आम आदमी को चयन करने का मौक़ा मिले तभी उसे न्याय मिल पाता है।

प्राकृतिक संपदाओं का और ऐसे तमाम क्षेत्रों का जहाँ प्रतिस्पर्धा संभव नहीं है वहाँ निजीकरण नहीं होना चाहिए क्योंकि इन क्षेत्रों में फिर एक-एक कम्पनी का एकाधिकार स्थापित हो जाता है। लेकिन खुदरा व्यापार तो ऐसा क्षेत्र नहीं जहाँ प्रतियोगिता संभव न हो। फिर यहाँ हमारे गुप्ताओं और अग्रवालों का एकाधिकार क्यों?

विदेशी कंपनियां मुनाफ़ा विदेश ले जायेंगी। ऐसा हम होने नहीं देंगे।
अगर आपका यही विचार है तो जब संयुक्त राज्य अमरीका के राष्ट्रपति बराक ओबामा बाह्य स्रोत की सेवाओं (outsourcing) के ख़िलाफ़ अपने भाषणों में आग उगलते हैं तो आप विचलित क्यों हो जाते हैं? अगर आपको भारत के एक पैसे का भी विदेश जाना मंज़ूर नहीं तो बाहर के पैसे भी यहाँ क्यों आये? फिर तो ओ०एन०जी०सी०, टाटा मोटर्स व टाटा कम्युनिकेशन्स, विडियोकॉन, सुज़लॉन एनर्जी, ए०वी० अॅल्युमिनियम इत्यादि को विदेश-स्थित अपने कार्यालय बंद कर देने चाहिए!

विदेशी रिटेलर यहाँ आकर कम-अज़-कम केन्द्र और राज्य सरकारों को कर तो देंगे। फ़िलहाल तो देश के स्वार्थ की बात ऐसे स्थानीय बनिये कर रहे हैं जो हर सामान के विक्रय पर क्रेता के हाथ केवल एक कच्ची रसीद थमा देते हैं।

अतिरिक्त इसके हमारी एक और समस्या है जो किसी हद तक सुलझ जायेगी — विदेशी मुद्रा के जिस भंडार को देखकर हम समझते हैं कि सन् १९९१ ई० का Balance of Payment (भुगतान संतुलन) संकट हमेशा के लिए टल चुका है दरअस्ल उस धनराशि का अधिकांश प्रत्यक्ष (direct — FDI) नहीं बल्कि संस्थागत (institutional — FII) तौर पर इस देश में आया है जिसे किसी भी समय विदेशी निवेशक वापस ले सकते हैं। परन्तु खुदरा व्यापार में निवेश प्रत्यक्ष होने के कारण इसे मनमानी तरीक़े से वापस नहीं लिया जा सकता।

हमने  विदेशियों से कभी रसोई के सामान ख़रीदे नहीं। उनकी गुणवत्ता पर भरोसा कैसे करें?
क्या पड़ोस की दुकानों से ख़रीदे हुए सामान की गुणवत्ता से आप संतुष्ट हैं? हमने तो बचपन से यही दृश्य देखा कि बाज़ार से चावल-दाल ख़रीद कर लाने के बाद हमारी माताओं-बहनों को उनमें से कंकड़ छाँट-छाँट कर फेंकना पड़ता था, तब जा कर वे पकाने और खाने लायक़ बनते थे। खाने में मिलावट तब बंद हुआ जब ये सामान पैकेट में आने लगे।

उत्पाद की अधिक आयु के लिए विदेशी कम्पनियाँ शीतल वाहनों में अन्न लादकर खेतों से दुकानों तक लाती हैं और विक्रय होने तक शीतल गोदामों में रखती हैं। सामान वही होता है जो आप को पड़ोस के स्टोर से मिलेंगे या फ़ुटपाथ में सब्ज़ी बेचने वालों की रेढ़ी से। लेकिन शीतल प्रणाली के कारण उनके ताज़े होने की संभावना अधिक है।

ये विदेशी सामान भी विदेश से मंगवाएंगे और इसलिए हमारे किसानों के लाभ होने का सवाल ही नहीं है।
यह  उनकी मूर्खता होगी। बाहर से द्रव्य लिवाने में परिवहन पर इतनी लागत आयेगी कि उनके मूल्य प्रतिस्पर्धा में टिक नहीं पायेंगे। ऐसे एकाध ही देश हैं जहाँ के माल गुणवत्ता की जांच न होने के कारण और वहाँ की सरकारों की अनैतिक योजनाओं के कारण परिवहन लागत और आयात शुल्क लगने के बावजूद सस्ते मिलते हैं। इन सन्देहास्पद देशों में अग्रणी है चीन।

पर क्या खुदरा व फुटकर व्यवसाय में आज तक FDI के न होने से चीनी मूल के घटिया माल हमारे देश की दुकानों में उपलब्ध नही हो रहे? अगर हो रहे हैं तो अपनी दुकानों में चीनी माल रखने वाले हमारे देशी दुकानदार देशभक्त कैसे कहलाये जा सकते हैं? और विदेशी निवेशकों के आ जाने से कौन सा चीनी पहाड़ टूट पड़ेगा जो अब तक नहीं टूटा?

फिर  भी भारतीय स्वार्थ की रक्षा के लिए सरकार को चाहिए कि वह विदेशी रिटेलरों पर यह पाबंदी लगा दे कि उनमें से कोई भी ५,००० वर्ग फ़ीट से कम क्षेत्र में दुकान न लगा सके। इसके अलावा शर्त यह हो कि ३०% के बजाय ७०% माल इन विदेशियों को भारत से ही मंगवाने पड़े। और इसका हिसाब ये बड़ी रिटेल कम्पनियाँ पाँच वर्ष में एक बार नहीं बल्कि प्रति वर्ष सरकार को दें

फ़िलहाल देश के स्वार्थ में इतनी व्यवस्था सरकार ने कर रखी है (http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=87768) कि विदेशी खुदरा व्यापारियों को निवेश करने के ३ साल के अंदर-अंदर कम से कम ५०% निवेश सहायक आधारभूत व्यवस्थाओं (backend infrastructure) में अर्थात् गाँवों में करना होगा। इसके अलावा १० लाख से कम आबादी वाले शहरों में इन विदेशियों को दुकान लगाने की अनुमति नहीं होगी।

अर्थात् आप कहना चाहते हैं कि ये विदेशी बनिये दया, दान, पुण्य और सेवा की प्रतिमूर्ति हैं?
जी नहीं। ये कंपनियां अपने मुनाफ़े के लिए ही ये सुविधाएँ मुहय्या कराएँगी। परन्तु उनसे प्रतिस्पर्धा में टिके रहने के लिए स्वदेशी व्यापारियों को भी शीतागार जैसी व्यवस्थाएँ बनवानी पड़ेंगी और अंततोगत्वा इससे आधारभूत सुविधाओं का ढाँचा देश भर में खड़ा हो जाएगा। सभी आर्थिक मामलों के जानकार यह मानते हैं कि भारतीय खाद्य निगम (Food Corporation of India) के पास इस ढाँचे को बनाने के लिए पर्याप्त धनराशि नहीं है; फलस्वरूप हज़ारों मेट्रिक टन के खाद्यान्न खुले मैदानों में पड़े-पड़े सड़ जाते हैं और देश को करोड़ों रुपये का नुक़सान हर साल उठाना पड़ता है।

आपके तर्कों से दलाली की बू आती है! वॉल-मार्ट से कितने पैसे खाए हैं आपने?
ये ऐसे ही बने रहेंगे। इन्हें कोई नहीं हटा सकता
जब वितर्क में प्रतिपक्ष के सारे ठोस व विधिमान्य तर्क समाप्त हो चुके होंगे तब आप पर इस तरह के आक्षेप लगाए जायेंगे। इसका जवाब आप इस प्रकार दें —

अगर आप अम्बानी परिवार के दलाल नहीं तो मैं भी वॉलटन परिवार का दलाल नहीं। उपर्युक्त सारी अच्छी व्यवस्थाएँ कोई भारतीय व्यवसायी सुनिश्चित कर दे तो इसमें कोई हर्ज नहीं। मुझे ऐसे में विदेशी व्यापारियों में कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं होगी। लेकिन कोई भारतीय व्यवसायी ऐसा करता क्यों नहीं?

स्वदेशी आंदोलन दरअस्ल स्व-बनिया आंदोलन है   — इस देश के बनियों का बिना प्रतिस्पर्धा के हमें लूटते रहने के विशेषाधिकार की मांग। ये घटिया माल हमारे सर मढ़ते रहें, अनुचित दाम लेकर हमारा जीना मुहाल कर दें और स्वदेशी के नाम पर हम यह अन्याय बर्दाश्त करते रहें, इन दुकानदारों का यही अभिप्राय है।

इस विषय पर आम जनता की क्या राय है?
पता नहीं। उनसे किसी ने अब तक पूछा नहीं। जंतर मंतर इत्यादि जगहों पर शोर मचाने वाले प्रदर्शनकारी समाज के बनिया-वर्ग से जुड़े हुए हैं। मुश्किल यह है कि विश्व के सभी देशों में यह वर्ग संगठित है जब कि उपभोक्ता कहीं भी संगठित नहीं; उनका प्रतिनिधित्व करने वाला कोई राजनैतिक मंच है ही नहीं। परन्तु उनकी राय इस विषय पर क्या हो सकती है यह समझने के लिए ८० के दशक की आर्थिक अवस्था को याद कीजिए।

उस ज़माने में कई अर्ध-सरकारी टेलिविज़न बनाने वाली कम्पनियाँ हुआ करती थीं — केन्द्र सरकार की EC, उत्तर प्रदेश सरकार की Uptron, पश्चिम बंगाल सरकार की Webel, तमिलनाडु सरकार की Salora इत्यादि। उन्हीं दिनों इसी क्षेत्र में एक देशी निजी कंपनी भी व्यवसाय में थी जिसके ब्रांड का नाम था Dyanora. इसके प्रचार का नारा था "Be Indian. Buy Indian"!

केन्द्र सरकार की छवि आज जितनी धूमिल न थी। इसलिए EC-TV अस्पष्ट तस्वीरों और गैर-टिकाऊ बटन्स के बावजूद थोड़ी-बहुत बिक ही जाती थी। परन्तु न तो यू०पी० में Uptron को अधिक क्रेता मिलते थे, न बंगाल में Webel को और न ही तमिलनाडु में Salora को। और "Indian" होने का दम भरने वाली Dyanora तो बिकती ही नहीं थी। हर तरफ़ Telerama, Weston, Texla, Philips और Oscar का बोलबाला था। देशभक्ति के नाम पर घटिया माल कोई नहीं ख़रीदता।

तथाकथित देशभक्त बनिये हमें विदेशी आक्रमण या अतिक्रमण का हव्वा न दिखा कर अपने सामान की गुणवत्ता और आपूर्ति पर ध्यान दें तो विदेशी कम्पनियाँ ऐसे ही प्रतिस्पर्धा में टिक नहीं पाएंगी। वर्ना अगर FDI के सवाल पर जनमत-संग्रह (referendum) का आयोजन किया गया तो वोट से पहले तीन महीनों के अंतराल में जब ये बातें आम जनता को समझाई जायेंगी तो १५ करोड़ विक्रेता और बिचौलिए १०५ करोड़ किसानों और क्रेताओं के सामने आंधी में तिनके की तरह उड़ जायेंगे!

[इस लेख में "बनिया" शब्द से लेखक का अभिप्राय कोई जाति-विशेष नहीं है, बल्कि यहाँ धनगत लाभ-हानि की मनोवृत्ति रखने वालों और ऐसे पेशों से ताल्लुक़ रखने वालों की तरफ़ इशारा है — जो विदेशों में भी हो सकते हैं जहाँ जातिप्रथा है ही नहीं]

22 August 2012

A Facile Conclusion

This Indian Express page one anchor is a classic case exposing how little journalists know what is happening on the activism front

At centre of stirs against graft, a body with RSS links, ex-babus

In the story referred to above, correspondent Manoj CG jumps to a facile conclusion based on random quotes without delving deep into the facts, that too more than a year since the events alluded to in the story transpired.

While it is a fact that two members of India against Corruption 
 Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi  were among the empanelled speakers in Vivekananda International Foundation-hosted seminar on 1 and 2 April 2011, it was no way a bid to either shape the respective movements led by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev or bring the two civil society leaders together, much as the second is desired and has been a constant endeavour for the last two years on the part of many RSS swayamsevaks. Following are the facts beyond what Manoj reports:

  • The movement that has Hazare as its mascot was launched officially on 30 January last year when a delegation of IaC marched from Ramlila Ground to Jantar Mantar, where 94-year old Shambhu Dutt Sharma, chief patron of Gandhi Seva and Satyagraha Brigade, had been fasting for years together demanding the implementation of the 1999 Law Commission recommendations that provided that the property of any person served a charge sheet in a court of law would be confiscated and he/she would be debarred from contesting elections till his/her name was cleared by the court where the trial was on. The third demand of Lokpal was cherry-picked by the team because this had been a pet project and obsession of one of its key members, Shanti Bhushan, since 1967 when his draft was rejected by the Indira Gandhi regime.
  • Preparations for the movement that is ostensibly led by Baba Ramdev  the business empire actually belongs to the now arrested Acharya Balakrishna  has been on for ages. For at least seven years now, the yoga guru has been propagating his beliefs in all matters under the sky, with or without adequate knowledge of the subjects, besides physical exercises through television programmes aired by the Aastha and Sanskarchannels in which his trusts hold major stakes. Ramdev was a much bigger name than Hazare till his 27 February rally at Ramlila Maidan where the latter, accompanied by Kejriwal and Bedi, were mere guest speakers. Instead of consolidating Bharat Swabhiman's effort to retrieve black money from tax havens abroad, invited members of IaC merely parroted their one-size-fits-all formula of 'Jan' Lokpal while speaking from the Ramlila Ground stage that afternoon.
  • Before a large section of the media turned Hazare into a god, his sole claim to fame was inadvertently troubling the Sharad Pawar faction of Maharashtra's undivided Congress unit and helping the faction headed by (the late) Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde. His proximity with Deshmukh manifested when the requests of all other leaders, who wanted to come on the Ramlila Ground stage to appeal to him to break his fast in August last year, were turned down.
  • The astronomical figures of black money Ramdev quotes may not be a figment of his imagination. They featured in several international journals of repute in 2009 after which the communist parties raised a din in Parliament over the issue and the BJP turned black money retrieval into an electoral plank. Strangely, the said newspaper never highlighted the 2006 Global Financial Integrity report among others, out of which only an alleged citation from Swiss Bankers Association was later denied by the sources.
  • Whereas Kejriwal presented an impressive exposition on the state of the country's corrupt system in the April seminar at VIF, all that Bedi did was be a part of the audience waiting for her turn to speak, after which she ascended the podium only to invite all attendees in the seminar to their 5 April spectacle at Jantar Mantar to demand an effective Lokpal, a single stroke of legislation that she seemed to believe would be a panacea of all ills that plague the nation. The three legal luminaries mentioned in the report (Justice MN Venkatachaliah, Justice JS Verma and Subhash C Kashyap) pooh-poohed the idea after the IaC representatives left.
  • Ramdev arrived on the scene at the fag end of the programme on 2 April when half the audience at VIF had left to watch the second half of India's match with Sri Lanka at the ICC World Cup final, thinking the yoga guru's flight to Delhi would be late. When he finally arrived, he was rushed backstage by S Gurumurthy who had the interest of the BJP in mind and was against the idea of Ramdev floating his own political party, which would make a dent in his favourite party's electoral base. At that juncture, the former chartered accountant was under the impression that KN Govindacharya was a BJP sympathiser and hence a safe bet. In an atmosphere of confusion and haste, Ramdev was goaded into making the statement that his political wing would be headed by Govindacharya. The fact is, despite this and a couple of more meetings, the former RSS pracharak has always held a grim view of the yogi's intellect. A fact that no media outlet reported (or came to know) is that the two were not on talking terms almost throughout May 2011 before the baba's 4 June fiasco that year.
  • Govindacharya floated the Save Democracy Front on 25 June 2011, bringing together 50 small and large political organisations. This would be the fourth front, so to speak, after the ever-elusive third front initiative by non-Congress, non-BJP parties. Much of the programmes of the SDF are being held in a hush-hush manner, the latest of which was a meeting with Ekta Parishad's PV Rajagopal on 17 August (three days ago) in Hardwar's Shantikunj. Andhra Pradesh-based Lok Satta Party is a prominent constituent of this front. Its head N Jayaprakash Narayan was on the VIF panel of the seminar the Indian Express report speaks of.
The seminar referred to in the IE report photographed by the blogger
As of now, the RSS's relationship with Govindacharya is marred by mutual suspicion. The Sangh is miffed as Govindacharya's independent political orientation is detrimental to the interest of the BJP in which it has invested so much through the decades. On the other hand, Govindacharya refuses to relent from speaking publicly against the party he was a part of until 12 years ago, as he finds it headed and managed by people no less corruptible than the leaders and managers of the Congress.

Media reports on activism of the past two years has made one thing loud and clear: truth is difficult to be fathomed by means of short interviews with protagonists of the play that journalists can muster. You have to move around with activists day in and day out to know what precisely they are up to.

Follow by Email


Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.