2ndlook

India’s Silent Revolutionaries

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, History, India, Media, politics, Satire by Anuraag Sanghi on December 9, 2007

“Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” Ian Fleming, in Goldfinger.

In 60 years of post-colonial India, 3 significant developments will win the award for deepest impact – but least appreciated or known.

Potti Sreeramulu - Spirit Of The Linguistic State Reorganization (Image source - hindu.com). Click for larger image.

Potti Sreeramulu - Spirit Of The Linguistic State Reorganization (Image source - hindu.com). Click for larger image.

1953 – The Language Genie

An issue on which the colonial rulers ‘set up’ the new rulers of India for failure was on the contentious issue of language. Rightly, the colonial rulers pointed out that there never has been a successful country with so many languages.

Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose were all for one national language – much like numerous western countries, whose success they so wanted to rival or exceed. And the language of their choice was Hindi.

What kept Europe divided, amongst many things (not that they need help), is language. Belgians (a country with 1 crore population; smaller than Chennai) are being prepared for probable split between the Flemish and the French speaking populations. Canada has been at the precipice for 100 years – torn between two languages. The Balkans , homeland of Alexander the Great (who wanted to make one world), have been at each other for the last 80 years – after they became independent of the Ottoman Empire.

There never has been a country, in modern history, which has had 2-3 languages, without splitting at the seams. One man, who is forgotten and who made a difference was Potti Sreeramulu. A believer and follower of Gandhiji, he pushed Nehru for re-organising India on linguistic lines. Nehru vacillated. Potti Sreeramulu, like Gandhiji, went on ahunger strike. Nehru ignored Potti Sreeramulu’s hunger strike. Potti Sreeramulu died.

The ground swell of international (and also domestic) opinion forced Nehru’s hand. He was left with little choice. And India has since then been administered on linguistic lines. This has given enough space for every sub-culture – without diluting their renewed Indian identity.

In the meantime, Indians have become adventurous in their integration. Idli and Dosa are a part of a Punjabi households and salwar kameez have become popular in Kerala. Hindi film industry is second only to Telugu film industry.

If India had followed colonial administration’s advice of one national language, Tamil Nadu would definitely have seceded in the 1960’s. Ask Sri Lanka. I do hope that Malaysia does not make the Sri Lankan mistake.

A Young PV Narasimha Rao1991 – Problems From Outside

Rajiv Gandhi came back from Sriperumbudur in a coffin. Assam problem seemed beyond resolution. The common Indian had given up on Punjab. The 1984 anti Sikh riots only strengthened the negative outlook. Kashmir was simmering. The Indian electorate had given a fractured mandate. A hung Parliament.

Indian economy was going downhill – and nothing seemed to get the economy out of the “Hindu rate of growth”. India was on the verge of a debt default. Indian debt was downgraded by western rating agencies. The Asian Tigers had done wonders – under US tutelage. China was furiously reforming – and succeeding at it. USSR India’s faithful ally, was breaking up. Corruption was endemic and every politician was an Untouchable – nobody or anything could touch them. There were no laws. Many across the world shook their head and could be heard saying, “I knew … I told you … It had to happen …”

All bets on India were off.

A “intellectual” politician, was called back from retirement – to become Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. Forgotten today.

By 1995, he set up India for today’s growth. In a matter of 4 years, he cleared 40 years of cobwebs. The direction that he put India on has been now been followed for more than 15 years – with great success by more than 5 Prime Ministers. His biggest success was accountability. Heads of administration do not appear in a court of law – which PVN did. Election Commission, CAG, Supreme Court acquired fangs – earlier docile shadows of their purported design of BR Ambedkar.

Naidu And Vajpayee1992 – The New Paradigm

One of India’s chronic under performer, Andhra Pradesh got a new Chief Minister – N. Chandra Babu Naidu. In the next 9 years, Andhra Pradesh moved in the Top 5 investment destinations.

Technology savvy, focused, driven – he changed the political idiom in India. State governments now pattern themselves along Naidu’s lines. Privatisations (instead of expanding public sector), tax cuts (instead of increases), administration automation (instead of increased recruitments), hand picked bureaucrats with a development agenda (instead of personal loyalty agenda earlier) were the cornerstones of his strategy. His state administration reform agenda convinced PM Vajpayee to commend Naidu’s template to other state governments to follow.

The Source

These 3 reformers were from Andhra Pradesh – carved out of the earlier Nizam state. The Nizam state was the largest Indian state (in Europe or any other part of Asia, it would have been a few countries) – ruled by an Indian ruler. The last Nizam of Hyderabad, considered at one time the richest man in the world, was also a very simple man. Famously, he never threw away half smoked cigarettes – frugality for world’s richest man. Especially, when other Indian Nawabs out did each other with their spending and peccadilloes in London and Paris.

Andhra Pradesh (most of) was not administered by colonials. Hyderabad is the largest modern Indian city – without a history of Colonial administration. Kolkatta, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi were cities ruled by Colonial India administration before the creation of the Indian Republic.

Indian consumer companies test market their products in Hyderabad frequently – as it lends itself to the Indian idiom. Other major metros (with a history of colonial administration) many a time give a “false positive”. Andhra Pradesh supports the world’s largest film industry – bigger than Hollywood and of course, Mumbai film industry.

Two significant creative minds were adopted by Hyderabadis as their cultural mascots. One was Allama Iqbal of “सारे जेहान से अच्छा हिंदुस्तान हमारा” “Saare Jehan Se achcha Hindustan Hamara” fame.

Chirkan, the second mascot, is the “poet” of dirty ditties. Chirkan was the irreverent break from the feudal and colonial Indian mindset – before the Indian Republic.

His rhymes on Qutub minar (a phallic symbol of feudal /colonial majesty of another era) have been repeated by every school child as his very own. He was feted at cultural events – and was a legend in his lifetime. His “sher” on a princess (the Nizam’s daughter) is repeated by schoolboys even today with raging hormones. It is to the Nizam’s credit that Chirkan was not persecuted – but given a token punishment of banishment from Hyderabad.

Forgotten today by the mainstream, Chirkan’s books still circulate in the underground. Chirkan’s rhymes and jokes spread to all of India. 75 years later, every teenager makes his rites of passage with Chirkan’s jokes. Most of Mumbai film industry’s dirty jokes are a take off on Chirkan.

Gold policy in modern India

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, European History, Gold Reserves, History, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on December 2, 2007
Terrorism comes to town.

Terrorism comes to town. ( Policemen inspect the Bombay Stock Exchange building after the blast in 1993. Thirteen serial bomb blasts tore the city in which at least 250 people were killed. - Photo - AP).

Who is responsible for Mumbai Bomb blasts?

Dawood Ibrahim? Wrong!

Tiger Memon? Wrong?

The answer is Late Morarjee Desai – India’s ex-Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

And a whole lot of RBI and GOI officials who were behind 40 years of legislation which has created India’s underworld, corrupted 4 generations of India Government officials and reduced the value of Indian savings by Rs.1,20,000 crores. (4000 tons of gold purchased by Indian consumers at a 30% premium at today’s value – do your numbers).

Blind Imports

The Indian development idiom is an imported idea. For instance, the Five Year Plans, from Russia. Indian monetary authorities have been led by western discourse and strategy.

No enabling mechanism, (an output of differential thinking) like the Japanese business led by MITI, American business supported by Marshall Plan, NATO, CENTO, SEATO, IMF, World Bank, US Exim Bank, ADB et al. It is these mechanisms that enabled these economies retain their dominant and exploitative positions.

India’s Gold Policy was also a case of warped thinking. To be fair, domestic thinking had to contend a tectonic shift – from a colonial-feudal system to a nationalist, democratic economy. Not discounting, Western pressures tied to aid. For instance, India’s infamous population control policy.

The other big disadvantage – English language.

TN Ninan on Indian poverty

TN Ninan on Indian poverty

The French Lesson

India’s red herring of English language stopped it following French strategy, an empire under eclipse before WW2. Today, 60 years later, France has come ahead of its arch rival and competitor – Britain. Of course, the French strategy is simple – nationalize the economy, with token private sector presence.

In the 1960s, most of the world was buying gold at an artificially low price of US$35 – and the USA was bleeding gold. The French team of Charles de Gaulle and his economic advisor, Jacques Rueff did quick maths. It was clear this मेला would not last long. The USA was printing dollars and dumping it in world markets.

The French redeemed their dollar holdings, sent the French navy to take delivery of gold from USA and bring it to Banque de France. The French raised gold reserves and dumped dollars. Banque De France finally increased its gold reserve to 92% (as a percentage of total foreign currency /monetary reserves).

The Bretton Woods system.

The world after WW2, has been governed by a financial system that has been a failure. The Bretton Woods Agreement, a millstone around the developing world. As WW2 came to a close, British-American economists came together and devised this system. The Bretton Woods system was technically created by more than 700 delegates from the 44 allied nations. But the match was fixed.

It was designed by the Anglo-Saxon countries (America, Australia, Britain, Canada), for the benefit of the Anglo Saxon countries. Did anyone notice how much Britain resisted, joined and finally exited the European Currency Union. Thie Bretton Woods System has swamped the world with accelerating inflow of dollars (American, Australian, Canadian) and British pounds. Producers and exporters are left with vast reserves of depreciating currencies.

The dollars cracking

The dollars cracking

It also gave rise to the Bretton Woods twins (the IMF and the World Bank), which are run and managed by the Anglo-Saxon countries. The ABC countries (and their client states like Japan, etc.) have more than 67% of the voting rights. With this huge voting majority, less than 5% of the world’s population (of the ABC countries) decide how 95% of the world lives.

Indian Government supported the Bretton Woods sham

The Bretton Woods system worked for 20 years because Indians were not allowed to buy gold. India’s finance minster during that crucial period, Morarji Desai, (allegedly on CIA payroll during Lyndon Johnsonn’s Presidency 1963-1968), presented a record 10 budgets, between February 1958, up to 1967. His break with Indira Gandhi began when the Finance portfolio was taken away from him.

Morarji Desai’s ban on gold imports allowed the sham of Bretton Woods to continue for 20 years. His adamant attitude on gold cost the government popularity and electoral losses – and the Indian economy and Indians much more. Was it a co-incidence that many of the RBI functionaries later got plum postings at LSE (IG Patel) and IMF (BN Aadarkar-IMF)?

The burden of the dollar

The burden of the dollar

March 15th, 1968. Finally, US support for gold prices stopped at consumer level. USA continued to promise redemption to Governments at US$35 per ounce. And on August 15th, 1971, the world got the Nixon Chop. By that time, USA gold reserves had dropped from 20,000 tons to 8500 tons – from 21,828 tons (701.8m troy ounces) in 1949 to 8130 tons (261.4-264.6m troy ounces) in the 1980s.

What did India do.

From practically, 1939, (the start of WW2) gold imports into India were controlled or banned. This British legacy (aimed at colonial exploitative ends) was continued by Indian Government and RBI. Many Gold control laws were enacted which stopped all legal gold imports into India.

Our finance minister at that time – Late Morarjee Desai.

Seymour Hersh, an American investigator implied that Morarjee Desai was in CIA pay. Morarjee Desai filed a court case – and subsequently died. Henry Kissinger, made a bald defence of Morarjee Desai.

The other thing that happened was that gold imports went underground.

Morarji Desai may get his place on Mount Rushmore

Morarji Desai may get his place on Mount Rushmore

Gold (illegal) imports (called smuggling) spawned biggest criminals that India has seen. Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, Varadarajan Mudaliar, Yusuf Patel, Tiger Memmon, Chota Rajan, and of course, Dawood Ibrahim – a biological son of a police constable Sheikh Ibrahim Kaskar, was spawned by Morarjee Desai’s laws.

These laws corrupted four generations of Indians Government and politicians. It made gold in India very expensive – and the Indian buyer remained in poverty longer.

Chidambaram Says … “End 5000 years Of Poverty”

Posted in History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 12, 2007

Who Is The EnemyThis was Chidamabaram’s statement in the parliament and at least a couple of magazines – including India Today.

Nations Wealth

A nation’s wealth can be a number of things – intellectual wealth, economic wealth, social and political institutions and structures leading to wealth. But primarily, most look at wealth as a measure of economic wealth. And that is what Chidambaram was referring to and most of us accept. Therefore in this write up we will limit ourselves to the economic debate.

A few things.

Obviously, paper money cannot be a measure of wealth. Probably, the de la Rue family would have been the world’s richest family, if paper money was of value. The Bretton Woods mechanism under which the US dollar was the world’s reserve currency lasted as long as it was the only currency on the gold standard. The US Government broke the Bretton Woods mechanism by printing too many dollars. De Gaulle’s French Government started trading in US dollars for gold. In 1971 President Nixon abandoned the Gold standard. Thereafter the world got the first Oil shock and 10 years of stagflation. This French ‘perfidy’ strained US-French relations for the next 30 years. President Sarkozy is today trying to change that – and he can. The casus belli – the US dollar is no longer an issue. Today the US is the world’s largest debtor nation.

Measure Of A Nation’s Wealth?

How does one measure a nation’s wealth? A reliable method is, of course, gold reserves.

India’s private and governmental reserves of gold are by far the largest in the world. Estimates of total Indian gold reserves vary between 25,000 to 30,000 tons. The next highest is the United States with 14,000 tons of gold – with the US Govt accounting for 8000 tons. For at least the last 50 years, India has been world’s largest consumer of gold. (Pliny lamented 1800 years ago as to how imports from India were draining Rome of gold. In 1960’s, James Bond was sent after an arch villian, Auric Goldfinger, to close down illegal gold export from Britain to India in Goldfinger – the book.)

Secret of Japan’s rise

Year 1542. The Sado gold mines were discovered. In 16th-17th century, Japan became the second largest producer of gold in the world. Rapid rise of Japan after that and the rest of story is known to the world. Korea claims that Japan plundered Korea of hundreds of tons of gold from 1937-1944. Philipines, Indonesia have all raised claims against Japan for war time gold loot. Regardless, one American writer had definitely hit a jackpot – Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (By Sterling Seagrave, Peggy Seagrave). Ian Fleming is supposed to have based his story on the Yamashita chapter of WW2.

Sounds like a 5000 years of poverty?

The intellectual father of India’s freedom movement was a British MP of Indian origin – Dadabhai Naoroji. His seminal work on the British colonial loot of India cut away the legs of the Raj – and thereafter, the Raj could not stand. Statistical analyses by Angus Maddisson, Groningen University showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900.

India loss of wealth is a recent phenomenon. This trend of increasing poverty was halted only with Indian independence and subsequent growth of the Indian economy.
India’s rapid economic decline in the first half of the 20th century is what Chidambaram refers to as the 5000 years of poverty.

Lees Mody Pact

October 28th 1933. Much of India’s Hindu rate of growth can be traced back to this date. On that day, the Bombay Mill Owners Association signed the Lees-Mody Pact. This earned all Indian industrialists Nehru’s distrust. The British had succeeded once again in divide-and-rule.

Japan had become the largest buyer of Indian cotton – in spite of imperial preferences. Lancashire was hurting. Duty on Japanese textiles was raised from 31.5% to 75%. Japan stopped buying Indian cotton in retaliation. Cotton prices crashed. Montagu Norman was already wreaking havoc with his economic policies. demand had collapsed. Britain agreed to “help”. Customs duty was lowered for British goods only to 20%. Britain agreed to buy Indian stock piled cotton at lower prices. Indian mills and the Indian farmer paid the price. GD Birla said “They have lost their nerve …”. Churchill made life difficult in Britain as this pact did not deliver.

While the whole country was following a boycott of foreign goods (specially Lancashire goods), 21 businessmen led by Homi Mody (father of Russi Mody, Piloo Mody) agreed to the system of ‘imperial preference’ – which was behind India’s impoverishment. Earlier, Homi Mody had warned Gandhiji against the renewing the swaraj movement. The “money famine” had collapsed demand in India.

Mody had his own political ambitions. After Independence, Nehru did try and make up with Homi Mody later. Homi Mody was included in to India’s Constituent Assembly – even though he had served the British well.

Chidambaram Should Look At …

What Chidambaram should focus on is a monetary mechanism to leverage India’s 25,000 tons of gold to make India a capital rich country. From there India can start on its way to becoming the richest economy of the world – again.

Significantly, Chidambaram needs to answer if the Indian defence system is adequately funded for its task of protecting the world’s largest gold reserves!

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