Visions of Tomorrow or Nightmares of Yesterday?

Guardian‘s special report: on India if true, is very very interesting (not in the good sense of the word).

The Naidu Legend

Naidu realised that to sustain power he must surrender it. He knew that as long as he gave the global powers what they wanted, he would get the money and stature that count for so much in Indian politics. So instead of devising his own programme, he handed the job to the US consultancy McKinsey.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for privatization, disinvestment, labor reforms. But trusting a multinational firm with developments plans for state/country is worse than having a naturalized Italian prime-minister, me thinks. Especially corporations that belong to powers that have known colonial/neo-colonial tendencies.

Vision 2020 contains 11 glowing references to Chile’s experiment in the 1980s. General Pinochet handed the economic management of his country to a group of neo-liberal economists known as the Chicago Boys. They privatised social provision, tore up laws protecting workers and the environment, and left the economy to multinational companies. The result was a bonanza for big business, and a staggering growth in debt, unemployment, homelessness and malnutrition. The plan was funded by the US in the hope that it could be rolled out around the world.

Assuming that this is the same media outfit that gives leftists like Roy large space, everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Leftists can put any spin on any delivery, and never will there actions be under scrutiny ;-). Still, one needs to look at the claims before we throw the baby with the bathwater. For instance, UK Funds Scheme to Throw 20 Million Indian Farmers Off Their Land, kind of makes similar claims. Is all of this just leftist anti-development cry?

The Guardian report goes on:

In July 2001 Clare Short, then secretary of state for international development, finally admitted to parliament that, despite numerous official denials, Britain was funding Vision 2020. Blair’s government has financed the state’s economic reform programme, its privatisation of the power sector and its “centre for good governance” (which means as little governance as possible). Our taxes also fund the “implementation secretariat” for its privatisation programme. The secretariat is run, at Britain’s insistence, by the Adam Smith Institute, a far-right business lobby group. The money for all this comes out of Britain’s foreign aid budget.

Wouldn’t you get suspicious, even at this point? If not, don’t worry, there are more entry points ahead…

The return of the East India Company?

As Stephen Byers revealed when secretary of state for trade and industry, “the UK government has designated India as one of the UK’s 15 campaign markets”. The campaign is to expand opportunities for British capital. The people of Andhra Pradesh know what this means: they call it “the return of the East India Company”.

Why should the UK Government take this undue interest in India’s development all of a sudden? If they’re feeling guilty, they could just return all that loot. We don’t mind at all. But then it has to be returned with no strings attached, right?

This isn’t the only aspect of British history being repeated in Andhra Pradesh. There’s something uncanny about the way in which the scandals that surrounded Blair during his first term in office are recurring there. Bernie Ecclestone, the formula one boss who gave Labour £1m and whose sport later received an exemption from the ban on tobacco advertising, was negotiating with Naidu to bring his sport to Hyderabad. I have been shown the leaked minutes of a state cabinet meeting on January 10. McKinsey, they reveal, instructed the cabinet that Hyderabad should be a “world-class futuristic city with formula one as a core component”. To make it viable, however, there would be a “state support requirement of Rs400-600 crs” (4bn-6bn rupees). This means a state subsidy for formula one of £50m-£75m a year.

Being a believer in right-of-center politics, I see subsidies as a bad things for a state to engage in. But then if they have to be given, you’d expect them to go to those who would die without them. But subsidies to Formula One? Whatever happened to the concept of sat’-patri daan (charity to the deserving)? Hang on..

Then the minutes become even more interesting. Ecclestone’s formula one, they noted, should be exempted from the Indian ban on tobacco advertising. Naidu had already “addressed the PM as well as the health minister in this regard”, and was hoping to enact “legislation creating an exemption to the act”.

There is no such thing as free lunch, eh? But then who’s gonna pay for this lunch?

The Hinduja brothers […]have also been sniffing round Vision 2020…in 1999 their representatives held a secret meeting in London with the Indian attorney general and the British export credit guarantee department, to help them get the backing required to build a power station under Naidu’s privatisation programme. When the attorney general began lobbying the Indian government on their behalf, this caused another Hinduja scandal.

Another conspiracy theory? You be the judge. But with UK, US and Hinduja’s around, conspiracies may just turn to be pale shadows of grim reality.

Indeed, if true, the uneducated Indians, the very same people whom some of the educated elites want disenfranchised because of the election 2004 results, might have shown a great collective sense, even if in pure self-defence.

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