Lessons from ‘Occupy Wall Street’ for India
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement is the most highly improbable event that could have occurred to USA in recent times. Who could have imagined five years ago that USA could face nation-wide protests of such a scale? The woes of protesters are many and they have found a medium to vent their frustration through Occupy Wall-Street movement. All the woes boil down to inequality between haves and have-nots. The disparity is a common feature between USA and India. Sadly, USA has turned into a prototype for Indian economy, by design or default. As Paul Krugman says aptly in his recent article in NY Times, concentration of income and wealth makes a democracy in name only. The case in India is the same. Indian media has long recognized this glaring fact. Contrary to this, the reality of disparity was obfuscated in USA. In India, politics is an insane concoction of money and schizophrenic notion of caste where higher castes ensure their hegemony through India Inc. and NGOs under the umbrella of ‘Sangh-parivar’. Crony capitalism and nepotism with a dash of caste is the recipe for success in India Inc. This is a very important, yet under-rated, reason why Indians don’t do well on Global front. They are busy pulling each other down rather than working together and maintaining healthy competition. Castes, who have owned businesses for generations, ensure that the perceived others are kept out of any possible entrepreneurial efforts in small businesses what-so-ever. The disadvantaged castes don’t make it to India Inc. Any top positions are essentially out of question, even if one might have aptitude to run the corporate machinery. Extreme concentration of wealth is incompatible with real democracy. Govt of India must ensure that the wealth gets well-distributed while ensuring business-friendly environment. Europian capitalist economies tax the rich 60-70% of taxes and still they are as business-friendly as ever. Why can’t India manage that? A check on corruption would definitely help corporations reduce the costs they face. Government of India must see her citizens as assets rather than potential customers. Higher education at top universities must be free or subsidized for all. This will ensure productive citizens & progressive nation. Healthcare, education, essential commodities should be affordable to the poorest of the poor. Freedom of expression should be brought to reality by Indian media who otherwise marginalises the cries of the majority of citizens who are disadvantaged. There is a lot that India could do for its people while being business-friendly at the same time. She simply needs to have the heart in right place and find the right balance. Some have been comparing OWS to Jan-Lokpal bill movement. There is nothing more ludicrous than such a comparison. Anna Inc.’s Jan-Lokapal bill movement resembles more to Tea Party movement under the leadership of Sarah Palin. Anna Hazare’s agitation has been supported by right-wing forces just the way Tea-party movement has been supported by the right-wing in USA. Anna Inc. got support of so-called “middle-class” (pseudonym for elites) minority that has hegemony everywhere in India, for serving their interests and compromising democracy. Indian media brought Anna Inc. to centre-stage and put him in spot-light just the way Tea-party movement got attention for its pseudo-causes. Anna’s agitation and Tea party movement are well-orchestrated events. There is no revolutionary outburst out of disaffection in these movements the way OWS has. Last time India saw such an outburst, in the form of agitations, was a month after Khairlanji massacre. The state didn’t know what struck them and was utterly confused. Now, in front of OWS, Tea-party looks like nothing but a whimper. Same would be the case, if majority of Indian citizens would rise against the concentration of resources in the hands of the few. Anna Inc. chose wrong time to put unrealistic & cold-hearted demands for compromising democracy, on the pretext corruption, and for fulfilling itsself-serving interests when elites are already compromising it with concentration of wealth and income in the elites’ hands. India must ensure that such a movement never happens to her. But the route to this is not to dumbing down of helpless cries of the common man, obfuscating facts or briefing media for concocting stories. She should rather keep lobbying forces in check. She should strive to make every citizen an asset for the nation and take utmost care of her assets. Marginalisation of backward classes and religious minorities should be dealt with appropriate representation for them in media, business and politics, including higher up in the hierarchy of the order. India must look at herself in mirror and introspect what kind of democracy its founding fathers envisioned and what she has turned into before demonising countries like China for autocratic rule. Otherwise a revolt is always waiting to happen around the corner.
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