While addressing the nation from the dais of Delhi’s Red Fort, on the occasion of Indian Independence Day on 15th August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that it’s not a good practice to view the “wealth creators” with suspicion and the nation can’t progress without them. A large number of hyper-nationalist supporters of his Hindutva fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its paternal organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), government bureaucrats, foreign diplomats, members of the military and paramilitary forces listened to his speech at the venue, while millions watched on television as it was delivered at a critical juncture of India’s history.
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On one hand, Jammu & Kashmir, which is considered as a disputed territory by the United Nations (UN), was formally annexed and bifurcated undemocratically by the Modi regime on 5 August 2019 by scrapping Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which created an international turmoil as well as a severe humanitarian crisis as 7m Kashmiris, living in the most densely militarised zone in the world, have been locked up in their homes with a strict restriction on their movement and a total communication embargo imposed upon them through disconnection of telephone, mobile, internet and cable television in the region, rendering them incommunicado with the rest of the world; while on the other hand, India reels under a severe economic slowdown, unprecedented since it opened its gates to the neo-liberal economy 27 years ago.
There was curiosity among different sections of the people, including Modi’s critics, over the decisions of the government he will announce for Kashmir as well as for the crippled economy. He disappointed on both by resorting to phrase-mongering and using babbling to paint a rosy picture at the hour of extreme gloom. He ranted on population growth, implicitly blaming the Muslim community for it; he also resorted to the usual rhetoric on defence, combatting terrorism, etc. Amidst this, he also gave a peek into his obnoxious agenda of promoting the cause of big crony-comprador capitalists and their foreign masters — the big corporations owned by international monopoly-finance capital — against the interests of the common people.
Modi praised the big comprador capitalists and usurers by calling them “wealth creators” and telling his followers that such “wealth creators” are necessary for wealth distribution and alleviating poverty. It comes at a time when many capitalists are complaining about Modi’s “tax terrorism”, including his hardcore sycophants like Infosys’s Mohandas Pai, Biocon’s founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, etc. Modi’s approach is seen as an act of reconciliation at the hour of grave economic slowdown as the automobile, manufacturing, real estate, etc, sectors crumbled and many thousands lost their jobs when India’s unemployment rate is at a record four-decade-high.
The veiled attack on the Modi regime by a group of capitalists and their repeated use of mainstream media to drive home their demand for big-ticket bailout packages, especially the one demanded by the crisis-ridden automobile industry, which alone laid-off 30,000 people in the last few months, is seen as the disgruntlement over the BJP’s bias against most of the big capitalists and its undying loyalty towards a handful of crony-comprador capitalists like Adani Enterprises’ Gautam Adani, Reliance Industry Limited’s (RIL) Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s (Reliance ADA Group) Anil Ambani, Patanjali’s Baba Ramdev, etc. Those big corporate houses, foreign and domestic, which earlier dominated the Indian market, have been asphyxiating for air as the government has reserved all scopes of loot and plunder for the handful of big donors of the BJP. This systematic bias has fuelled a severe antagonism within the ruling classes and its reflection is felt on Modi’s regime.
Decisions of the Modi regime like privatisation and allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in the defence industry, divestment of government’s stake in crucial public sector units (PSU), their rapid privatisation, an overhaul of the Indian Railways to privatise it, the destruction of state-owned telecom companies like BSNL and MTNL to benefit the RIL’s JIO venture, the privatisation of airports and handing over of pristine forest land for mining in Chhattisgarh to Adani, the stabbing of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to benefit the Reliance Defence Limited of Reliance ADA Group through a nefarious collaboration with French aviation company Dassault, constraints on different consumer goods brand to empower Ramdev’s Patanjali, etc have helped the Ambanis, Adani, and others immensely. Huge tax sops through tweaking of laws helped Adani immensely, while globe-trotting by Modi helped Ambanis and Adani with new business opportunities. Quite rightly, Navjot Singh Sidhu, the former cricketer-turned-Congress party’s leader, accused him as the “business development manager” of the crony capitalists.
By hailing the “wealth creators”, Modi tried to ensure that his government’s different wings will go soft on the already disgruntled corporate houses, Indian and foreign, however, the special treatment enjoyed by the Ambani brothers, Adani, etc will continue unabated. How the big corporates gulp the new sweet candy dangled by the Modi regime is to be seen, however, there is no guarantee that the situation will normalise soon as the stiff fight over profiteering and plundering India’s resources and labour will not be over anytime soon.
As it will remain a topic of speculation and debate whether the Indian corporate houses and their foreign investors will love to believe in Modi, expect a fair and level playing field from now onwards and experience a less stringent tax regulations, the bigger concern for the common people should be the prime minister’s love for the “wealth creators”. In July 2018, Modi asserted in Lucknow that he wasn’t “afraid of standing alongside industrialists” to whitewash his nefarious alliance with the big crony-comprador capitalists from Ambanis, Adani to those who fled India like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, etc, his recent glorification of the “wealth creators” smell of a vicious agenda.
Modi’s assertion that the “wealth created” by the big capitalists is further distributed in the society is an act of mendacity, quintessential of any politician mentored by the RSS. An Oxfam survey showed that in the year 2017, 1% of India’s rich cornered 73% of its total wealth. The situation didn’t get any better later. In a report published in January 2019, Oxfam showed that billionaires’ fortune in India increased by 35% in 2018 – a whopping Rs 22 billion a day – while 136m Indians, who make up the poorest 10% of the country, continued to remain in debt.
The wealth wasn’t distributed, contrary to the prime minister’s claim, it remained hoarded and reinvested in lucrative “bubbles” that attract capital, not necessarily in employment-generating projects. Moreover, despite massive growth of their wealth, most big Indian corporations still source the major part of their capital investment through unsecured loans from PSU banks, which adds to the non-performing assets (NPA) of these banks as they turn into bad loans, which the Modi regime later forces the PSU banks to write off from their books.
Between 2012 to 2015, 27 PSU banks had to write off Rs 1.14 trillion as bad debts. Between 2014 to 2018, Rs 3.99 trillion worth loans were written off by the PSU banks as bad debts and the collective bad loans of 38 listed banks stand at a whopping Rs 10.17 trillion in the last quarter of the financial year 2018-19. No wonder, the major chunk of these loans were taken by big corporate houses, which they didn’t repay and by greasing many palms, they immunised themselves from legal repercussions.
While the Modi regime asked banks to clean up the NPA mess and recapitalised them so that they can lend more to big corporate donors of the BJP, it didn’t allow them to tighten the noose around the necks of the defaulting corporates and seize control over their assets. Mallya, Choksi, Nirav and Lalit Modi, etc, still evade the law and live freely even after stealing hundreds of billions from Indian PSU banks. With the top management of these banks tied-up with the big corporate houses through millions of threads, the government keeps its eyes shut while a plundering of people’s money takes place. The excessive pressure to bring lending regulations and rising NPAs have caused banks to tighten their purse strings, thereby limiting credit flow and affecting demand in the market, which is a catalyst of the current slowdown, especially in the automobile sector.
Thus, the fable of capitalists being “wealth creators” also causes “wealth distribution” is a mephitic crony-comprador capitalism-appeasement theory peddled to hoodwink the people. The economic predicament that India is right now mired in is caused by the greed and plunder by the same “wealth creators” whom Modi and the BJP-RSS clique hail and serve with absolute loyalty. The big crony-comprador capitalists survived by tweaking and twisting the system, duping the tax system, stealing money from PSU banks and getting free land, business contracts and even a fiefdom on tribal-owned forestlands through their illicit affair with the political parties in power, especially Modi and the BJP-RSS.
The actual wealth creators of a society are its working class, the peasantry and the toiling people who labour to produce the assets or execute services that keep the goods and commodities moving through the production-consumption belt. They are today in agony as no government is speaking about them. The farmers are in a severe distress due to an aggravating farm crisis and mounting debts, the working class is rendered jobless through one after another lockdown, unorganised workers, the largest section of the labouring masses, are not finding employment opportunities due to the recession that has engulfed the economy, and even those with an employment find it quite hard to meet the ends with their meagre earnings as the Modi regime vehemently opposes increasing the minimum wage, though a spiralling inflation burns hole in people’s pockets.
This Independence Day, Modi and his BJP-RSS colleagues didn’t just use the Indian state machinery to lock-up 7m Kashmiris, they also extolled the big comprador capitalists and their foreign corporate masters as the real rulers of Modi-fied India, signalling that no criticism against them will be tolerated in the country. All other big capitalists who need equal favour and need freedom from tax terrorism can buy it by donating liberally to the BJP and the RSS, who, in turn, use the same amount to buy elected representatives from other parties to topple governments or increase its own headcount in places where there was none. The palatial BJP headquarters now resembles the rapid enrichment the party experienced, thanks to the love and support of its masters, the “wealth creator” crony-comprador capitalists, who have thrown more crumbs to it than its competitors. Part of the wealth did get distributed, albeit within the Sangh’s ecosystem.
It’s unlikely that Modi will not prove his loyalty towards his masters, the Ambanis or Adani. But for the democratic and anti-fascist forces, the battle got better, as who is the friend and who is the foe was never as clear as it’s now. To hasten the uprooting of the fascist empire, it’s imperative that the struggle against corporate loot, plunder and aggression is strengthened throughout the country by joining the dots of small resistance struggles to form a broad and united people’s struggle for emancipation. The “wealth creators” hailed by the loquacious prime minister must be fought and defeated by the real wealth creators toiling and living an agonised life at each nook and corner. For that can usher India to a new dawn, free from the communal, toxic and bigoted society that Modi and his army of nincompoops are building.