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Newspapers this morning (September 23) have reported that the prime minister has left India’s shores to garner for us great glory and greater clout in the global arena. The same newspapers also carried other assorted stories, each a preface to a larger, consequential tale.
Sample a few.
A Times of India story tells us that the shareholders of IDFC, the holding company of IDFC First Bank, had denied a board seat to Vinod Rai. This is significant because he was the man who brought the Manmohan Singh government down to its knees when, as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), he had conjured up that fabulous – and ultimately dodgy – concept of ‘notional loss’ to the Exchequer in the allotment of telecom spectrum.
Overnight, Rai became a hero to the middle classes. He was the fearless fighter against corruption in high places, a man who was not afraid to go against his own godfathers who had mollycoddled him all along his bureaucratic journey, a man whom the history would serenade as the most noble and most intrepid CAG India has had. He was also the man whose inspired arithmetic was seized upon by a coalition of the extreme right and extreme left to invent the Anna Hazare Moment in India. And, we now know enough of how the narrative around that ‘revolution’ was tweaked to pave the way for the “Modi Revolution.”
Now, the same man of 24-carat integrity stands disowned by “the share-holders” – that rarefied class of investors who are mystically deemed to be the finest and purest arbiters of corporate governance. A layperson reading the Times of India story would be inclined to infer that the IDFC shareholders were not willing to buy into the Vinod Rai persona:
“Rai was earlier the independent director of IDFC for two terms. As it was not possible to get a third term as an independent director, Rai had resigned before the second term’s end in July. However, he was reappointed as a non-independent, non-executive director and share-holder approval was sought to ratify the same. In a pre-AGM investor call, shareholders had questioned why Rai’s resignation had not been made public.”
The abrupt end of the story has the tantalising effect of suggesting the dramatis personae have not kept on the straight and narrow.
It is not out of place to note that the office of “independent director” has itself been largely understood as a device used by the corporate sethias to endow post-retirement rewards on favoured bureaucrats.
An editorial in the Hindi newspaper Punjab Kesari, that authentic “Hindu” voice of north India, entitled ‘Sant, Sampati and Saazish‘ [ Saints, Property and Conspiracy] meditates on the implications of Mahant Narendra Giri’s death a few days ago under patently suspicious circumstances. The mahant was one of the most highly respected saints in the entire “Ayodhya belt.” It is just as well that Uttar Pradesh happens to have a demonstratively Hindu chief minister; otherwise, the suspected foul play would have led to serious consequences for the communal peace.
The Punjab Kesari editorial bemoans the unhealthy and unbecoming trend of so-called saints becoming embroiled in the real estate business as well as getting enamoured of a fancy lifestyle. “India’s soil has been blessed with such rishi-munis and sants who have set the highest standards of noble living. Today, India finds itself in a strange situation. In the name of aastha (faith and religious belief) many sadhu-sants are besmirching this sacred land.” The editorial notes with regret that so often these religious figures are getting caught up in cases of anti-social activity, murder, rape and conspiracy to murder. But what is more regrettable is that instead of denouncing such aberrant behaviour among the saints, their followers stand by these delinquent saffron-clad operatives.
The anguished editorial draws our attention to the spiritual barrenness that stalks India while the overseers of our collective destiny continue to drum up animosities and resentments in the name of the Hindus.
A news item in the Indian Express informs readers of the identity of five men who had vandalised the house of member of parliament Asaddudin Owaisi in New Delhi a few days ago. According to the newspaper, the five men are members of an outfit called the Hindu Sena and include a college dropout, a nursing staffer who lost his job during the lockdown, an autorickshaw driver and two factory workers. Sociologists would categorise these warriors in the Hindu cause as part of the ‘underclass’, but students of European history will recall how this lumpenproletariat provided the foot-soldiers for the fascist movements of the 1930s.
The story of the five men is in stark contrast to the claims of all those ministers and business cartels who are celebrating our V-shaped recovery. Our leaders are either blissfully unaware of the extent and depth of misery and deprivation that are stalking the land, or are confident of utilising the fallout for their political agenda.
A news item in The Hindu tells us of the appointment of a new vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi. The reader learns that the university has not had a permanent VC for the last 11 months. Worse, the reporter notes that “almost half of DU’s faculty positions are vacant.”
This is not about some university in Bihar; such neglect and such indifference to academic well-being in a premier university right under the nose of the lords and masters of a new vibrant and super-efficient India, carries its own tale of the toll the Modi revolution has inflicted on all sites of excellence.
There is indeed a larger theme in each of these snapshots of reality. Anyone wanting to connect the dots in these and other news items can clearly discern a larger tapestry of hollowness and mediocrity behind the loudly shouted claims of a “resolute” and “resurgent” India taking shape under a vibrant helmsman. Worse, the underhandedness that defines the ruling clique has become embedded in our governing culture. We are content to be appropriately sedated under this spell of organised duplicity. Behind a façade of civilisational righteousness cranked up by practiced demagogues lies the spiritual poverty and intellectual philistinism of the new ruling elite of a new India.