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Archive for the ‘Delhi’ Category

Of Weddings and Economic Power

Posted by chakrabarti on March 4, 2011

Some friends of mine are outraged over an astronomical 14 million pound figure that was quoted in a British newspaper as the amount spent by a Congress politician at his son’s wedding. The article cites Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, a renowned socialist, as saying such ostentatious behavior should be avoided by party members. Indeed, notwithstanding the rising inflation in the Indian economy of recent years, the amount allegedly spent by a public figure is quite obscene.

But I think a lot of us are missing the point by simply criticizing the spending behavior, whereas the most pernicious aspect of this whole affair is that a representative of the people [at least an aspiring one] would have accumulated such vast sums of money. Human beings often behave differently depending on their circumstances and consciences, so it is only natural that some wealthy people would like to flaunt their riches at a joyous occasion like their offspring’s wedding. But would the distribution of economic (and implicitly, political) power be much different if the person in question had thrown a more austere party?

To generalize this a bit more, Forbes’ list of India’s filthy-rich contains examples of the most ostentatious  [your Vijay Mallyas], as well as more modest ones [Narayana Murthy comes to mind]. But it is undeniable that their overall net worth provides them with disproportionate influence on corporate and public policies. Our marginal tax rates of 30%, along with major holes in the revenue collection process, do nothing to lessen the political power held by such figures in a society that has an average annual income of US$1,200, and a human development index rank of 119.

So let’s rail against lavish spending by political figures tied to the incumbent governing party by all means, but also let’s recognize the underlying systemic issue, aside from the ostentatious behavior.

Posted in Corruption, Delhi, Politics | 2 Comments »

Big brother comes to India

Posted by chakrabarti on January 5, 2008

If the story in the Times of India is to be believed, then the average citizen of Delhi is in for some harrowing times. Soon, each and every Delhiite would be required to carry some form of identification, be it a driver’s license, a ration card, a voter’s ID card or something else. The authorities have been generous enough to allow school, college and office IDs in the list.

The reason for creating such a requirement, reminiscent of totalitarian dictatorships? Why, terrorism, stupid! This is the excuse being offered by the Delhi police chief, who added “the ripples [of terrorism]… are always felt in Delhi”. So never mind improving intelligence gathering capabilities, coordination with law enforcement authorities in other states or providing better security in vulnerable areas. The most important step towards reducing terrorist violence is forcing every single Delhiite to carry their papers with them.

Mercifully, there have been some murmurs of protest after the measure was announced by the lieutenant governor. Some have even gone so far as to call such a step “dangerous, draconian and autocratic”. Others have pointed out the real purpose of such edicts, which has nothing to do with stopping terrorist violence, and everything to do with creating new ways by which the state can harass and intimidate individuals, especially those who have little or no voice in society.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Delhi, India, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »