Fascism and terrorism

July 28, 2008

This is perhaps not a politically-correct time to voice an outright insensitive opinion. But I feel, I have to.

Sadly, Diwali has arrived early in India – with the solitary difference being that Naragasuras are doing the bursting of heavy-duty, high-impact crackers this time and Krishnas are looking about haplessly, trying to understand what has hit them.

Numbers never tell the true tale. 50 people are dead in the bomb blasts – that is nothing compared to the 2002 carnage in Gujarat. In fact, Blueline buses kill more people every year in Delhi and more people die of cracker-shop accidents on the Diwali eve. So, why all this fuss, in a country that is so accustomed to death?

Every celebrity, worth his/her salt, says police intelligence needs to be improved. Terrorists have to be found and punished. Strong punishment will be the only deterrent. Security needs to be tightened. Technology has to be embraced. Well, well, well. Deep within, each of these celebrities knows, none of these matter; none of these will save them from the unknown, unseen terrorist.

This is the time for introspection and not the time for investigation and interrogation. At best, we will catch hold of the terrorists who planted the bombs; so, what? Will it make life safer for us? Will improving police intelligence, stop the emergence of newer terrorists? Will frisking the common man at the hospitals and malls, ever help avert a single blast. The terrorist does not have a target. Rigid measures can help save a target that is known, like a Prime Minister or a President? But, how would you deal with an enemy for whom, any one of the billion people can be the target; who doesn’t differentiate much between the Parliament and a hospital?  He is not after the impossible; he is happy to kill anybody who can be killed as long as the collective psyche of the common man is shattered. Sometimes, unlike most orthodox fundamentalists, he is not even bothered about whether his voice is heard; he doesnt seek to justify his motives to others; he cannot be lured by money or limelight. How can punishment become a deterrent to a person who is willing to die, to be able to kill.

Why does someone or so many, so badly want to destroy us? A good free democracy is inherently vulnerable to terrorist attacks. But the vulnerability is hardly exposed or exploited, if the democracy has a conscience. What we need to strengthen, is not the police intelligence but our collective conscience. It is no coincidence that terrorism has been getting more intense with the rise of the fascist right over the last 20 years. It is no mere coincidence, that the worst was reserved for Ahmedabad, the fortress of the worst- ever-fascist to have come to power in India. It is no coincidence that the feeling that arose foremost on hearing the news of blasts in Ahmedabad was fear for those who are alive, ahead of sympathy for those who were grotesquely torn apart – will we stand mute witnesses to one more carnage? (gasp of relief! no reports of violence yet – is it because, the power in Centre has shifted and Modi does not have the license to incite anymore, or the fascist-ultimate has reformed?).

It is absolutely no coincidence that the global terrorism has been strengthened because of a fascist controlling the world’s only superpower. History also teaches the same – the imperialist Churchill, the nuclear-terrorist Truman and the tyrannic Stalin all rose to prominence, fuelled by the fear for the fascist Hitler.

Fascism breeds terrorism and unfortunately, feeds on terrorism. But fascism can never stamp out terrorism. Only the end of fascism can make terrorism irrelevant and thereby end it. It is time we discard the Modis and re-discover Gandhi in Gujarat and the rest of India.

The hidden price of power cuts – government subsidy for Corporates?

July 25, 2008

Two news articles in recent days triggered off this chain of thoughts. One on the proposal to increase power-cuts and the other on the increased off-take of diesel.

While State Governments are debating whether they should resort to 4-hour power cuts or 7-hour power cuts, nobody seems to notice the real hidden costs of the power cuts for the governments. No, I am not talking about tax-revenue losses due to productivity losses. It is a lot more direct and at-your-face-but-still-unnoticed…the inadvertent subsidy that the government ends up providing for Corporates, through diesel.

Regular electricity to corporates is not subsidised. Only farmers get electricity at subsidised prices or for free – it is a different question to be answered, if the farmers get power at all, whether it is free or paid! But corporates pay fairly reasonable prices for power.

But what happens during power-cuts? The poor farmer, small businesses and the housewifes are the only ones who are affected. All large corporates run diesel-powered generators. Diesel is heavily subsidised by the government. Yes, the corporates will have to spend more on diesel-power-generation. But the bigger loser is the government! Instead of providing power at a profit, it is selling diesel at a heavy loss.

Meanwhile, the Left, which is the prime mover behind subsidised diesel, is going all-out to stall the nuclear deal, through which India has, atleast, a theoretical possibility of obtaining sustainable self-sufficiency in power generation. Does the Left realise that, through their own mis-deeds, they are allowing the subsidies, intended for the masses, to be diverted to the very-corporates, which they, supposedly, hate?

Need I say more? We look at scarcity of power, in isolation, and react to it by resorting to power-cuts as if that will resolve the whole issue. When will we learn to analyse the whole sequence of events before embarking on any activity?

Wanted – a new -ism

July 4, 2008

Capitalism rules. Socialism and communism are subdued but will probably resurface soon in another avatar. But I am increasingly beginning to believe that we have still not hit upon the right -ism in social economics, like we have done in politics. There is no doubting that Democracy, for all its flaws, is the near-perfect end-state possible in political modeling. But capitalism (which is often talked about in the same breath as democracy)? Far from it.

In theory, capitalism seems perfect. For that matter, in theory, communism also seems perfect! So does, benevelont despotism. The trouble starts when the troubles start, in practice.

What is Equality? Is it equal distribution of wealth or equal availability of opportunities?

Communism is about the former, which is why it failed. Capitalism should be about the later – but it only, partially is. Equal distribution of wealth is an idealistic idea which will never materialize. For that, first, you need a selfless central autocratic committee to do the distribution and that is impossible over a period of time. Secondly and more importantly, considering everything else to be equal, men are still not born equal. Men are born with varied talents and intelligence, develop varied levels of competences, interests and leadership qualities. So, in an inherently unequal society, sustained equality of wealth will be impossible to achieve and in many ways, unfair.

Capitalism, on paper, provides equal opportunuties to people. In practice, it is more complex. It works, quite well, in sunrise sectors, like the internet. It rarely does, in established areas, like automobile or oil industries. The inherent inequalities are blown beyond proportions by capitalism over a period of time. My Dad and Dhirubhai Ambani had equal opportunities. Dhirubhai made the better use of it. I dont grudge his achievements. But Mukesh Ambani and I are not on equal footing. Bill Gates started from scratch to build Microsoft, in a sunrise industry.  Well done, Bill. But the gates and windows of that industry are locked so tightly now, that it is almost impregnable, till it becomes irrelevant…even the collective might of, potentially, the best available talent in the world (through Open Source Linux) has not not been able to make the slightest dent on Windows. The irrelevance of the model will still happen in future and oust Microsoft, but that requires a paradigm shift, which doesn’t speak well of equal opportunities in the capitalist society.

This, then, is the trouble with Capitalism. There is no level playing field for equally endowed minnows and giants. A parallel for current capitalism is the earlier Chess World Championship. One needs to be immensely talented to become the Champion, which is fair. But, once a Champion, then it becomes immensely difficult to dislodge the champion from the pedestal because the dice is loaded heavily against the challengers. A Karpov or Kasparov could spend the entire year preparing for the championship match, while the challengers slug it out among themselves for the right to challenge. If Karpov and Kasparov were to have gone through the grind every year like others, could they have had such long reigns? It is unlikely. Contrast that with a Wimbledon, where a Federer, even if he is a five-time champion, still has to start from Round 1. Neither is he denied, in a communist way, the opportunity to claim his sixth crown, nor is he, in a capitalistic manner, loaded with a biased opportunity to win.

The chess board in the capitalistic world also needs to be levelled. The new -ism, still pregnant in my mind, and in many others’ minds too, will need to address this. In a globalised, free, flat world, how would we, or rather the system, ensure equal opportunisties to all; a level playing ground for my children, Mukesh Ambani’s children and a kid in the dry farm lands of Zimbabwe; and  a chance for the most talented amongst these kids to win, without drubbing the others.