Friday, March 20, 2009

The Hollow Rustle of Money

This is to me, justifiably, a palpable anger at the turn of events following the "outright' bid and winning of Gandhiji's glasses, sandals, pocket watch, plate and a bowl, put up for auction by Sotheby's by US based collector named James Otis. Vijay Mallaya bought them for close to 10 crores. My anger is not against the political leaders for failing miserably in governance. My anger is not against the liquor baron's touching the items of a man who preached against alcohol. My ire is against the waste of money!


Before you start criticizing me for being anti-Gandhian and anti-patriotic, let's first look at the financial state of the people living in India. Read: the people!!


In my earliest recollection of the lessons in economics and civics in school, my economics teacher had made it simple the subjects of taxation by advocating that the bridge between the rich and the poor should be made less and hence taxes were introduced. India is home to approximately one-third of all poor people in the world. To be precise, India constitutes 33% of the global poor, which is nailed at 1.4 billion people.


Today, India Inc and the rich appear to have three fashioned approaches to tackling poverty. The first is fundamentally declare that there are no poor. Recent criticisms in the making of the movie, "Slum dog Millionaire" critiqued has people like Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire wonder if he really did shoot the movie in the Mumbai teeming slums in Nehru Nagar and nearby Dharavi, which ironically is home to more than a million people and is the largest slum in Asia. Everyone was worried how India was portrayed. For them India is simply not the slums, the dirt and poverty. For the rich and the affluent, people living in the tiny shanties are simply not Indian. The second tactic of India Inc is to abolish the poor, rather than poverty. This is dramatically proven in Mumbai over the years when slum vicinities are razed, making thousands homeless. The Mumbai police simply followed suit by beating people up as protesters protested with a tear in their eye. Is it their India, they wondered. They are looked upon as cattle or any other lower form of life. People forget that the cramped huts near open sewers in narrow dirty lanes are what they call home. Mumbai Assistant Municipal Commissioner Umashankar Mistry very ironically said, "The plot has been earmarked as a playground and we will demolish all illegal settlements." A playground for whom? The children of a few rich Indians? I hear that the child actor of SDM still lives in an illegal structure made of tarpaulin sheets with his one-eyed mother and TB-suffering alcoholic father. Rubina Ali too lives in a one room tin roof shack perched above an ocean of trash which she shares with her parents and six siblings in this foul and run-down and repulsive Mumbai slum. The third approach is simply to ignore the poor. They simply fortify the belief that by the turn of the century poverty will simply disappear as the younger generation start working. So as economists sit and watch the inflation rate and compare it with the world markets, a yet another generation is living in dire straits with maybe a single lucky meal to compliment as it closes his eyes to the open sky with rumbling empty stomachs.


Is India Inc and "India Shinning" able to provide one of the most basic and most important necessities like clean air, drinking water, nutritious food, and safe shelters to all its Citizens? Or do they care only for the likes of me who pay taxes?


Article 47 says: "The state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people as among its primary duties and in particular, the state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the use except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health."


Democracy, as now practiced in India, is more about survival of politicians, their pride and their political parties. It's no more about its people. In fact, India's Independence which was an epic struggle for democracy, freedom and liberty, was meant only for her own people. People!!


India has forgotten all its commitments to its citizens be it the Rs.3.86 billion Chandrayaan mission to the moon, which proved nothing when it had been done 68 times before by everyone in this world and the 10,000 crore proposed manned mission to the moon. The defense budget of India is proposed at 40 billion dollars (Around 200, 000 crores) in 2009 when all we fought was some infiltrators in the last 20-30 years. For a few, the high-profile, harmless petty war like Kargil came in handy and the war was termed as the ultimate practice session and actual war like test session for the thousands of war deprived soldiers.


A total of about five million people are addicted to alcohol in India. Read: Addicted, i.e. they have a compulsive need to drink everyday. An absence in alcohol or a slight decrease of alcohol in their blood causes nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety. To overcome this, the addict dedicatedly "donates" his hard earned money and arrives home to see empty stomachs and ailed families. We as people have no time to imagine their pathetic lives. Except from a few NGO's who try to better the lives of their sorry lives, they turn poorer everyday and lose their health. The production, distribution and sale of alcohol is not only a lucrative venture but an artful and manipulative scheme to appease people who are stressed and live in the margins of society. By all chronicles, the alcohol related risks have invited scant attention from the Indian government. Alcohol unfortunately comes under the horizon of state governments, and each state's stupid politician has a lucrative incentive to expand outlets accredited to sell alcohol since its taxes contribute an estimated 20 percent of each state's revenue and every domestic liquor baron contributes lavishly to political campaigns under the expense of the poor addict. If the Indian government controls opium, prescription drugs, and harmful food additives, why not alcoholic beverages?


James Otis, before he set forth to give Gandhi's items for auction tried his best to negotiate with India on, "two proposals he had submitted – increase in the spending on the poor and fully paid exhibition of Gandhi's items in 78 countries to spread the apostle of peace's message of non violence." He wanted the Govt to keep aside 5% of the total India GDP for the poor. The Indian government had rejected the proposals sent by Otis arguing that conditions set by him infringed on the country's sovereignty. Vijay Mallaya bid for the items even though his combined debt of his six listed companies has touched a whopping Rs 14,231 crore, as on December 2008. The identity of the bidders in the auction is a guarded secret and the stupidity with which the base price of 20,000 was increased to 1.8 Million by possibly Indians themselves is both heartening and disheartening. Vijay mallaya is not new to all this kind of publicity stunts. Mallaya had spent Rs 180 million to cover the entire Sabrimala sanctum sanctorum with gold, ostensibly to gain some publicity from the investment with his name inscribed in gold everywhere. He had also previously bid for the sword of Tipu Sultan and had said proudly that, "I always believed that items of great heritage value should be owned by India and restored to India." But ironically little do people know that the sword is still not in India but is maintained by him in San Francisco, California, USA.

As yet another political election drama enfolds before my eyes and crores are spent, accounted and unaccounted, it just makes me wonder, why should I be proud being called an Indian?

51 comments:

los said...

Hard hitting
heart breaking

Solilo said...

Biju, How are you now? Hope everything is fine.

Our Indian govt. silently witnessed the whole drama of auction of Gandhiji's belongings and now that a liquor king has bought everything, it is ashamed now. Yes! it is an insult to Mahatma but where was our govt.?

Indyeah said...

All very true points Biju
Gandhiji's possessions were def not top priority..but why was this pathetic govt taking credit for it?

You lines here sum it up best

''Democracy, as now practiced in India, is more about survival of politicians, their pride and their political parties. It's no more about its people.''


PS:-Could you make the points as separate paras and with numbers ?:)It'll be easier to read:)

Hows your health?And what happened?
Take care:)

manju said...

Biju, the sale of Gandhiji's belongings was a farce from start to finish.

Most people in India will not think that it is ironic that a Liqour Baron bought these items, because they do not think there is anything wrong in drinking.

Yes, it seems heartless to spend so much money on Gandhiji's belongings when there are so many poor people in India. Unfortunately redistribution of wealth is not so simple.

Vyazz said...

This is not the first time where I have been dismayed by our governments ineptitude to manage the country. Its ironic that we call ourselves a democracy. India seems to be paranoid about constantly being declared a poor country, and hence wishes to be at par with the developed nations by spending millions on moon missions and acquisition of forgotten memorabilia. And hence wishes to pretend as though the poor do not exist.
There are a ton of things that I detest about our country. Like the reservations, lack of infrastructure for sports other than cricket, lack basic health facilities, etc.
But I suppose as long as the geriatric dotards continue to rule the country there can be little hope.
But at the same time, the younger generation is better informed and well aware of the problems that ail our nation.
I suppose they will make a difference...until then,,hang in there.

Anonymous said...

biju

tears flow from my eyes when i get raped by the govt to the tune of rs.3.5lakhs as tax deducted at source through salary. and then i am forced to pay tax on rental income. iam forced to pay tax on things i buy, the roads that i use...in effect, the govt steals nearly 75% of my earnings through taxes while not even having any commitments towards my old age. and what does it get spent on? for giving relief of 70000 crores to rich farmers so that they can buy costly cars, to provide x security to vip goons so that they can murder people for not giving them birthday gifts (and yet aspire to sit on the pm's chair one day). helpage india and other ngos approach me for contributing to the orphaned children's welfare and to take care of the health of the old and the destitute. i wonder where must i bring some extra money to pay for these genuine needs?

india has slums and so has the us. the trouble with indian slums is that mostly they are ihabited by vote bank imports from neighbouring countries. the more they multiply, the more votes the govts get and the more taxes i pay. slumdog millionaire did not depict the true india. slumdog depicted the false india. slumdog depicted the people who are reluctant to change. slumdog depicted those who, despite poverty, would not stop breeding because their religions prohibit them from doing so. and i have my objections if mumbai vote bank bangladeshi imported vermin slums depict true india (which includes my home state kerala also). the britishers may like to tell the world how the only improvement in india was when they were ruling us. and hence they may take some such cheap themes. to side with them are our own internal enemies like rahman and pookutti who make money out of mother sold.

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

Keeping all other things aside, the government was absolutely right in not accepting Otis' demand. It would have been preposterous. Nobody has any right to dictate what a country's budget planning should be, however noble be the intentions. But having said that, the way in which the entire thing panned out was indeed deplorable.

Since former cricketer, Dilip Doshi too was one of the bidders, I was wondering how would the public have reacted if he had acquired the items in question.

brocasarea said...

really a great article...feeling enlightened...:)

i also feel the same thing...sdm was criticized unnecessarily...

every time when i go to my native i get to see the real india...immediately on going outside bang to get to see the transition from ultra urban to poor class..!!!...:(....

vishesh said...

true enough...you forgot to add smoking...and drugs ...and prostitution and and oh forget it,we live in a wonderful country....see we all live in concrete jungles and the jungle chief and his followers run the place...and why do we need that pair of glasses? what is it going to do,to a person in a slum,who is alcohol addict? make him realize alcohol is bad for him?

aliceinneverland said...

i agree... love the picture though....

Som said...

I should be proud to be called an Indian because despite everything we still are going forward not back ... but yes the situation is appalling ... I myself is torn .. I sometimes feel that something needs to be done but soon I get frustrated and try to turn a blinds eye .. thinking that life is all about Armani and Ferrari ...

But tell me Mathews what is the solution ?!

Biju Mathews said...

@LOS: Hmm, That it is.... Thanks!!

Biju Mathews said...

@Solilo: I'm okay now, though time and health don't handshake!!! How true, our Govt just sat and witnessed the drama. I thought we were a family, but looks like we are not....

Biju Mathews said...

@Indyeah: Yeah, the Govt just took credit for it, I wonder why!!

I've divided the paras as different I could make them. I hope that its okay (?) Do let me know

Abhi, the health took a back seat. I guess I'm okay now!! Guess I'm getting old :-)

Biju Mathews said...

@Manju: Thanks for visiting my blog! Yes, it is heartless to spend so much money on Gandhiji's belongings when there are so many poor people in India. Thank you for sharing a similiar view!!

Biju Mathews said...

@ Vyazz: How I agree that India seems to be paranoid about constantly being declared a poor country, and hence wishes to be at par with the developed nations by spending millions on moon missions and acquisition of forgotten memorabilia. How true!!

Biju Mathews said...

@ Anonymous: Thank you so much for a detailed comment. Your view are really impressive!!

How true when you say that Indian slums are mostly inhabited by vote bank imports!!

I liked it when you wrote that, "slumdog depicted the false india. Slumdog depicted the people who are reluctant to change. slumdog depicted those who, despite poverty...."

Thank you so much for commenting here..

Biju Mathews said...

@sujoy: Welcome to my blog. I agree hat nobody has any right to dictate what a country's budget planning should be, however noble be the intentions be but think about it, is not the Govt waht we call People. Am I not part of " people" and don't I like the poor as part of India. A non Indian worried about India is as good as the most important Indian, right?

Biju Mathews said...

@brocasarea: It's the same in every Indian village. There has to be a principle!! Poor are poor and they get poorer every minute!! Thanks for coming back again!!

Biju Mathews said...

Vijesh: Hey, how were your exams? I agree that we cannot make a addict realize that alcohol is bad for him. Poverty is a never ending cycle!

Biju Mathews said...

@alice: Thank you my dear!!

Biju Mathews said...

@ Som: How true, " thinking that life is all about Armani and Ferrari ..."

There are a lot of solutions and one is spending less on ego and expending more on life!!

Shadowthorne said...

Yes, many of us are perplexed by the moves of our government. They acted like being controlled by a few, eventhough the majority voted for them.

Even though I am always happy with purposeful violence... I think Gandhi rocks!

jerry said...

biju cha

i agree
from start to end

i believe chandrayaan i a waste of time and money
a gimmick by Indian govt
where is the country heading to

jerry said...

wow

drNO said...

what a mind opening entry about the current state of India or I rather say, the political state of India.
a great article.

p.s- how r u doing? getting better?

Indyeah said...

Its great now!:)

do take care of your health and it should nveer take a backseat!:)
old or not old:D

Chirag said...

I am with you this public tamasha of 10 crores by Mallaya, was simply stupid on our ends.

If you have so much money for showing off you can can as well help people with it.

Govt is pointless, not even accountable . But people with money to throw way should have some sense.

Biju Mathews said...

@ Shadowthorne: Oh, yeah, Gandhi rocks :-)

If he was alive today many of this wouldn't have happened. Thanks!!

Biju Mathews said...

@ Jerry: Thank you! Thank you! How are things there in the gulf? Did you start a blog? But I can't view it...enable views

Biju Mathews said...

@ Indyeah: Believe it or not but I'm going to start "power walking" as per the doc's recommendations. Ha ha, let's see how many days I do it.. :-)

Biju Mathews said...

@ Chirag: You used the right term, "showing off." There are hundreds of items that Gandhi had used or gifted away to people and these are right here in India. What steps have been taken to reclaim them and institute them in museums?

Crafty Shines said...

Biju, ur back :) hope ur fine...
i was planning for a hapy morn when i read the news about mallya buying Gandhiji's possessions...what a hero status given to him!! and ur thought about the waste of money was what hit me too :(
equal wealth distribution indeed!! tell u the truth, after the way our government (mis)handled the 26/11 terror attack case, i believ our govt is not just corrupt, but its a coward too! politicians is a word synonomous with cheats, liars, manipulators...what a sorry way of democratic life :(

vimmuuu said...

Woah, that was one hard hitting, crisp and to the point post I have read in some time.

Whoever said India is a poor country? Visit temples like Sabarimala, Guruvayoor or Tirupati and one will know how much of money is being wasted in the name of religion. People donate gold, cars, money in sacks to these temples jus for their own well being. A portion of this given to charity would atleast help a few other human beings. I guess the awareness should be at the ground level and why blame the politicians and the big shots alone? People donate crores inside temples and give nothing to those who stand outside begging.

Btw, Im blogrolling you.

Smitha said...

Very Hard Hitting and so very true!! It is indeed disheartening to see that our govt just does not have it's priorities in place. At the end of the day - what was achieved is something the Indian Govt needs to introspect- which clearly, they never will.. Instead they were in a hurry to claim credit(?) for getting the items back to India.. How does it matter to the millions under the Poverty Line, millions who do not have access to proper sanitation, millions who live in slums.... Sad indeed...

My first time here - and have loved this post - blogrolling you!

Rinchen said...

Very apt question at the moment!

Hope you're feeling well, btw. Saw your previous post just now.

Biju Mathews said...

@Crafty: Yeah, I back from the dead. Ha HA :-) Thought I'll never be.

Yeah, Mallaya has become a hero of the sorts but never for me!

Biju Mathews said...

Thanks Vimmuu!

Yeah, just a portion of that wealth would wonders for the society. The new fashion is donating baby elephants, imagine that!!

Biju Mathews said...

@ Smitha: Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting here. Yeah, the Indian Govt should get its priorities in place. I believe that every politician (new, young, old) all fall into the "system" and say, "this is what the previous govt has done, so did I do anything wrong?"

Biju Mathews said...

@ Rinchen: Thank you. Yes, I'm fine now. You yourself were missing from blogosphere, what happened?

Winnie the poohi said...

When democracy turns into a mockery whom do we turn to ?

*sigh*

hard hitting post!

Biju Mathews said...

Thanks Winnie!!

Poonam said...

I am sorry, Biju. I missed your last few posts. I hope you are well now.

I agree with ya in a country where millions live below poverty line, have no food to eat; it makes no sense to spend such a huge amount for Gandhiji's items. Sheer drama.

Spending money on Chandrayan also doesnt make sense, though I do support spending money on nuclear energy in past. Energy and security are important too.

Indian Homemaker said...

I am so glad I came here and read this post. It is a moving post. One thing that stuck a strong chord is alcohol.

Alcohol is the root cause of unhappiness and continued poverty of the poor. It is no different from drugs in that, and if we truly paid attention for what Gandhi found were the three main causes for unhappiness and poverty in India, (Alcohol, gender bias and untouchability) -then we would have rehabilitation centres and control on who buys liquor. Once addicted the men have no choice..

Even they did not want someone else to dictate how we run our country I quite like the idea of 50% of budget being devoted to the poor. That should include basic schooling of good quality - we spend so much on our IIMs and IITs, I think we should be totally focused on schooling till class X- free with a meal and a glass of milk for all Indians ...

Now I am rambling...
Brilliant post, and I agree with the views expressed in this,

Indian Home Maker said...

Although I an a total Gandhi fan, I feel we should be more emotional about his principles and his values than his belongings. But Vijay Mallaya is free to spend his hard earned money where ever he pleases.
And I think when he tried to bring Tipu Sultan's sword there was some custom duty demanded, that was why he was supposed to have decided to not bring it here. I am not sure how true this is, I just read it somewhere.

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Kamagra said...

Democracy, as now practiced in India, is more about survival of politicians, their pride and their political parties.

Viagra said...

Most people in India will not think that it is ironic that a Liqour Baron bought these items, because they do not think there is anything wrong in drinking.

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