Archive for the ‘India’ Category


William Dalrymple’s new book, “The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803”, will be published next year by Bloomsbury & Knopf—–

A long but very interesting excerpt………

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

For a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant

William Dalrymple

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.

There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi. The riches include hookahs of burnished gold inlaid with empurpled ebony; superbly inscribed spinels and jewelled daggers; gleaming rubies the colour of pigeon’s blood and scatterings of lizard-green emeralds. There are talwars set with yellow topaz, ornaments of jade and ivory; silken hangings, statues of Hindu gods and coats of elephant armour.

Such is the dazzle of these treasures that, as a visitor last summer, I nearly missed the huge framed canvas that explains how they came to be here. The picture hangs in the shadows at the top of a dark, oak-panelled staircase. It is not a masterpiece, but it does repay close study. An effete Indian prince, wearing cloth of gold, sits high on his throne under a silken canopy. On his left stand scimitar and spear carrying officers from his own army; to his right, a group of powdered and periwigged Georgian gentlemen. The prince is eagerly thrusting a scroll into the hands of a statesmanlike, slightly overweight Englishman in a red frock coat.

The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.

It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.

Using its rapidly growing security force – its army had grown to 260,000 men by 1803 – it swiftly subdued and seized an entire subcontinent. Astonishingly, this took less than half a century. The first serious territorial conquests began in Bengal in 1756; 47 years later, the company’s reach extended as far north as the Mughal capital of Delhi, and almost all of India south of that city was by then effectively ruled from a boardroom in the City of London. “What honour is left to us?” asked a Mughal official named Narayan Singh, shortly after 1765, “when we have to take orders from a handful of traders who have not yet learned to wash their bottoms?”

It was not the British government that seized India, but a private company, run by an unstable sociopath

We still talk about the British conquering India, but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath – Clive.

In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history: the military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia. It almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history. For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil, Walmart or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarised East India Company. Yet if history shows anything, it is that in the intimate dance between the power of the state and that of the corporation, while the latter can be regulated, it will use all the resources in its power to resist.

When it suited, the EIC made much of its legal separation from the government. It argued forcefully, and successfully, that the document signed by Shah Alam – known as the Diwani – was the legal property of the company, not the Crown, even though the government had spent a massive sum on naval and military operations protecting the EIC’s Indian acquisitions. But the MPs who voted to uphold this legal distinction were not exactly neutral: nearly a quarter of them held company stock, which would have plummeted in value had the Crown taken over. For the same reason, the need to protect the company from foreign competition became a major aim of British foreign policy.

[Robert Clive, was an unstable sociopath who led the fearsome East India Company to its conquest of the subcontinent.Photograph: Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The transaction depicted in the painting was to have catastrophic consequences. As with all such corporations, then as now, the EIC was answerable only to its shareholders. With no stake in the just governance of the region, or its long-term wellbeing, the company’s rule quickly turned into the straightforward pillage of Bengal, and the rapid transfer westwards of its wealth.]

Before long the province, already devastated by war, was struck down by the famine of 1769, then further ruined by high taxation. Company tax collectors were guilty of what today would be described as human rights violations. A senior official of the old Mughal regime in Bengal wrote in his diaries: “Indians were tortured to disclose their treasure; cities, towns and villages ransacked; jaghires and provinces purloined: these were the ‘delights’ and ‘religions’ of the directors and their servants.”

Bengal’s wealth rapidly drained into Britain, while its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced “like so many slaves” by their new masters, and its markets flooded with British products. A proportion of the loot of Bengal went directly into Clive’s pocket. He returned to Britain with a personal fortune – then valued at £234,000 – that made him the richest self-made man in Europe. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, a victory that owed more to treachery, forged contracts, bankers and bribes than military prowess, he transferred to the EIC treasury no less than £2.5m seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal – in today’s currency, around £23m for Clive and £250m for the company.

No great sophistication was required. The entire contents of the Bengal treasury were simply loaded into 100 boats and punted down the Ganges from the Nawab of Bengal’s palace to Fort William, the company’s Calcutta headquarters. A portion of the proceeds was later spent rebuilding Powis.

The painting at Powis that shows the granting of the Diwani is suitably deceptive: the painter, Benjamin West, had never been to India. Even at the time, a reviewer noted that the mosque in the background bore a suspiciously strong resemblance “to our venerable dome of St Paul”. In reality, there had been no grand public ceremony. The transfer took place privately, inside Clive’s tent, which had just been erected on the parade ground of the newly seized Mughal fort at Allahabad. As for Shah Alam’s silken throne, it was in fact Clive’s armchair, which for the occasion had been hoisted on to his dining room table and covered with a chintz bedspread.

Later, the British dignified the document by calling it the Treaty of Allahabad, though Clive had dictated the terms and a terrified Shah Alam had simply waved them through. As the contemporary Mughal historian Sayyid Ghulam Husain Khan put it: “A business of such magnitude, as left neither pretence nor subterfuge, and which at any other time would have required the sending of wise ambassadors and able negotiators, as well as much parley and conference with the East India Company and the King of England, and much negotiation and contention with the ministers, was done and finished in less time than would usually have been taken up for the sale of a jack-ass, or a beast of burden, or a head of cattle.”

By the time the original painting was shown at the Royal Academy in 1795, however, no Englishman who had witnessed the scene was alive to point this out. Clive, hounded by envious parliamentary colleagues and widely reviled for corruption, committed suicide in 1774 by slitting his own throat with a paperknife some months before the canvas was completed. He was buried in secret, on a frosty November night, in an unmarked vault in the Shropshire village of Morton Say. Many years ago, workmen digging up the parquet floor came across Clive’s bones, and after some discussion it was decided to quietly put them to rest again where they lay. Here they remain, marked today by a small, discreet wall plaque inscribed: “PRIMUS IN INDIS.”

Today, as the company’s most articulate recent critic, Nick Robins, has pointed out, the site of the company’s headquarters in Leadenhall Street lies underneath Richard Rogers’s glass and metal Lloyd’s building. Unlike Clive’s burial place, no blue plaque marks the site of what Macaulay called “the greatest corporation in the world”, and certainly the only one to equal the Mughals by seizing political power across wide swaths of south Asia. But anyone seeking a monument to the company’s legacy need only look around. No contemporary corporation could duplicate its brutality, but many have attempted to match its success at bending state power to their own ends.

The people of Allahabad have also chosen to forget this episode in their history. The red sandstone Mughal fort where the treaty was extracted from Shah Alam – a much larger fort than those visited by tourists in Lahore, Agra or Delhi – is still a closed-off military zone and, when I visited it late last year, neither the guards at the gate nor their officers knew anything of the events that had taken place there; none of the sentries had even heard of the company whose cannons still dot the parade ground where Clive’s tent was erected.

Instead, all their conversation was focused firmly on the future, and the reception India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, had just received on his trip to America. One of the guards proudly showed me the headlines in the local edition of the Times of India, announcing that Allahabad had been among the subjects discussed in the White House by Modi and President Obama. The sentries were optimistic. India was finally coming back into its own, they said, “after 800 years of slavery”. The Mughals, the EIC and the Raj had all receded into memory and Allahabad was now going to be part of India’s resurrection. “Soon we will be a great country,” said one of the sentries, “and our Allahabad also will be a great city.”

***

At the height of the Victorian period there was a strong sense of embarrassment about the shady mercantile way the British had founded the Raj. The Victorians thought the real stuff of history was the politics of the nation state. This, not the economics of corrupt corporations, they believed was the fundamental unit of analysis and the major driver of change in human affairs. Moreover, they liked to think of the empire as a mission civilisatrice: a benign national transfer of knowledge, railways and the arts of civilisation from west to east, and there was a calculated and deliberate amnesia about the corporate looting that opened British rule in India.

A second picture, this one commissioned to hang in the House of Commons, shows how the official memory of this process was spun and subtly reworked. It hangs now in St Stephen’s Hall, the echoing reception area of parliament. I came across it by chance late this summer, while waiting there to see an MP.

The painting was part of a series of murals entitled the Building of Britain. It features what the hanging committee at the time regarded as the highlights and turning points of British history: King Alfred defeating the Danes in 877, the parliamentary union of England and Scotland in 1707, and so on. The image in this series which deals with India does not, however, show the handing over of the Diwani but an earlier scene, where again a Mughal prince is sitting on a raised dais, under a canopy. Again, we are in a court setting, with bowing attendants on all sides and trumpets blowing, and again an Englishman is standing in front of the Mughal. But this time the balance of power is very different.

Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador sent by James I to the Mughal court, is shown appearing before the Emperor Jahangir in 1614 – at a time when the Mughal empire was still at its richest and most powerful. Jahangir inherited from his father Akbar one of the two wealthiest polities in the world, rivalled only by Ming China. His lands stretched through most of India, all of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh, and most of Afghanistan. He ruled over five times the population commanded by the Ottomans – roughly 100 million people. His capitals were the megacities of their day.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the great Mughal cities of Jahangir’s India are shown to Adam as future marvels of divine design. This was no understatement: Agra, with a population approaching 700,000, dwarfed all of the cities of Europe, while Lahore was larger than London, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid and Rome combined. This was a time when India accounted for around a quarter of all global manufacturing. In contrast, Britain then contributed less than 2% to global GDP, and the East India Company was so small that it was still operating from the home of its governor, Sir Thomas Smythe, with a permanent staff of only six. It did, however, already possess 30 tall ships and own its own dockyard at Deptford on the Thames.

Jahangir’s father Akbar had flirted with a project to civilise India’s European immigrants, whom he described as “an assemblage of savages”, but later dropped the plan as unworkable. Jahangir, who had a taste for exotica and wild beasts, welcomed Sir Thomas Roe with the same enthusiasm he had shown for the arrival of the first turkey in India, and questioned Roe closely on the distant, foggy island he came from, and the strange things that went on there.

For the committee who planned the House of Commons paintings, this marked the beginning of British engagement with India: two nation states coming into direct contact for the first time. Yet, in reality, British relations with India began not with diplomacy and the meeting of envoys, but with trade. On 24 September, 1599, 80 merchants and adventurers met at the Founders Hall in the City of London and agreed to petition Queen Elizabeth I to start up a company. A year later, the Governor and Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, a group of 218 men, received a royal charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over “trade to the East”.

The charter authorised the setting up of what was then a radical new type of business: not a family partnership – until then the norm over most of the globe – but a joint-stock company that could issue tradeable shares on the open market to any number of investors, a mechanism capable of realising much larger amounts of capital. The first chartered joint-stock company was the Muscovy Company, which received its charter in 1555. The East India Company was founded 44 years later. No mention was made in the charter of the EIC holding overseas territory, but it did give the company the right “to wage war” where necessary.

Six years before Roe’s expedition, on 28 August 1608, William Hawkins had landed at Surat, the first commander of a company vessel to set foot on Indian soil. Hawkins, a bibulous sea dog, made his way to Agra, where he accepted a wife offered to him by the emperor, and brought her back to England. This was a version of history the House of Commons hanging committee chose to forget.

The rapid rise of the East India Company was made possible by the catastrophically rapid decline of the Mughals during the 18th century. As late as 1739, when Clive was only 14 years old, the Mughals still ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kabul to Madras. But in that year, the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah descended the Khyber Pass with 150,000 of his cavalry and defeated a Mughal army of 1.5 million men. Three months later, Nadir Shah returned to Persia carrying the pick of the treasures the Mughal empire had amassed in its 200 years of conquest: a caravan of riches that included Shah Jahan’s magnificent peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond in the world, as well as its “sister”, the Darya Nur, and “700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones”, worth an estimated £87.5m in the currency of the time. This haul was many times more valuable than that later extracted by Clive from the peripheral province of Bengal.

The destruction of Mughal power by Nadir Shah, and his removal of the funds that had financed it, quickly led to the disintegration of the empire. That same year, the French Compagnie des Indes began minting its own coins, and soon, without anyone to stop them, both the French and the English were drilling their own sepoys and militarising their operations. Before long the EIC was straddling the globe. Almost single-handedly, it reversed the balance of trade, which from Roman times on had led to a continual drain of western bullion eastwards. The EIC ferried opium to China, and in due course fought the opium wars in order to seize an offshore base at Hong Kong and safeguard its profitable monopoly in narcotics. To the west it shipped Chinese tea to Massachusetts, where its dumping in Boston harbour triggered the American war of independence.

By 1803, when the EIC captured the Mughal capital of Delhi, it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000- twice the size of the British army – and marshalled more firepower than any nation state in Asia. It was “an empire within an empire”, as one of its directors admitted. It had also by this stage created a vast and sophisticated administration and civil service, built much of London’s docklands and come close to generating nearly half of Britain’s trade. No wonder that the EIC now referred to itself as “the grandest society of merchants in the Universe”.

Yet, like more recent mega-corporations, the EIC proved at once hugely powerful and oddly vulnerable to economic uncertainty. Only seven years after the granting of the Diwani, when the company’s share price had doubled overnight after it acquired the wealth of the treasury of Bengal, the East India bubble burst after plunder and famine in Bengal led to massive shortfalls in expected land revenues. The EIC was left with debts of £1.5m and a bill of £1m unpaid tax owed to the Crown. When knowledge of this became public, 30 banks collapsed like dominoes across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill.

In a scene that seems horribly familiar to us today, this hyper-aggressive corporation had to come clean and ask for a massive government bailout. On 15 July 1772, the directors of the East India Company applied to the Bank of England for a loan of £400,000. A fortnight later, they returned, asking for an additional £300,000. The bank raised only £200,000. By August, the directors were whispering to the government that they would actually need an unprecedented sum of a further £1m. The official report the following year, written by Edmund Burke, foresaw that the EIC’s financial problems could potentially “like a mill-stone, drag [the government] down into an unfathomable abyss … This cursed Company would, at last, like a viper, be the destruction of the country which fostered it at its bosom.”

The East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773 it was saved by history’s first mega-bailout

But unlike Lehman Brothers, the East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773, the world’s first aggressive multinational corporation was saved by history’s first mega-bailout – the first example of a nation state extracting, as its price for saving a failing corporation, the right to regulate and severely rein it in.

***

In Allahabad, I hired a small dinghy from beneath the fort’s walls and asked the boatman to row me upstream. It was that beautiful moment, an hour before sunset, that north Indians call godhulibela – cow-dust time – and the Yamuna glittered in the evening light as brightly as any of the gems of Powis. Egrets picked their way along the banks, past pilgrims taking a dip near the auspicious point of confluence, where the Yamuna meets the Ganges. Ranks of little boys with fishing lines stood among the holy men and the pilgrims, engaged in the less mystical task of trying to hook catfish. Parakeets swooped out of cavities in the battlements, mynahs called to roost.

For 40 minutes we drifted slowly, the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat, past the mile-long succession of mighty towers and projecting bastions of the fort, each decorated with superb Mughal kiosks, lattices and finials. It seemed impossible that a single London corporation, however ruthless and aggressive, could have conquered an empire that was so magnificently strong, so confident in its own strength and brilliance and effortless sense of beauty.

Historians propose many reasons: the fracturing of Mughal India into tiny, competing states; the military edge that the industrial revolution had given the European powers. But perhaps most crucial was the support that the East India Company enjoyed from the British parliament. The relationship between them grew steadily more symbiotic throughout the 18th century. Returned nabobs like Clive used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats – the famous Rotten Boroughs. In turn, parliament backed the company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the French and British East India Companies trained their guns on each other.

As I drifted on past the fort walls, I thought about the nexus between corporations and politicians in India today – which has delivered individual fortunes to rival those amassed by Clive and his fellow company directors. The country today has 6.9% of the world’s thousand or so billionaires, though its gross domestic product is only 2.1% of world GDP. The total wealth of India’s billionaires is equivalent to around 10% of the nation’s GDP – while the comparable ratio for China’s billionaires is less than 3%. More importantly, many of these fortunes have been created by manipulating state power – using political influence to secure rights to land and minerals, “flexibility” in regulation, and protection from foreign competition.

Multinationals still have villainous reputations in India, and with good reason; the many thousands of dead and injured in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 cannot be easily forgotten; the gas plant’s owner, the American multinational, Union Carbide, has managed to avoid prosecution or the payment of any meaningful compensation in the 30 years since. But the biggest Indian corporations, such as Reliance, Tata, DLF and Adani have shown themselves far more skilled than their foreign competitors in influencing Indian policymakers and the media. Reliance is now India’s biggest media company, as well as its biggest conglomerate; its owner, Mukesh Ambani, has unprecedented political access and power.

The last five years of India’s Congress party government were marked by a succession of corruption scandals that ranged from land and mineral giveaways to the corrupt sale of mobile phone spectrum at a fraction of its value. The consequent public disgust was the principal reason for the Congress party’s catastrophic defeat in the general election last May, though the country’s crony capitalists are unlikely to suffer as a result.

Estimated to have cost $4.9bn – perhaps the second most expensive ballot in democratic history after the US presidential election in 2012 – it brought Narendra Modi to power on a tidal wave of corporate donations. Exact figures are hard to come by, but Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), is estimated to have spent at least $1bn on print and broadcast advertising alone. Of these donations, around 90% comes from unlisted corporate sources, given in return for who knows what undeclared promises of access and favours. The sheer strength of Modi’s new government means that those corporate backers may not be able to extract all they had hoped for, but there will certainly be rewards for the money donated.

In September, the governor of India’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan, made a speech in Mumbai expressing his anxieties about corporate money eroding the integrity of parliament: “Even as our democracy and our economy have become more vibrant,” he said, “an important issue in the recent election was whether we had substituted the crony socialism of the past with crony capitalism, where the rich and the influential are alleged to have received land, natural resources and spectrum in return for payoffs to venal politicians. By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harmful to free enterprise, and economic growth. And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harmful to democratic expression.”

His anxieties were remarkably like those expressed in Britain more than 200 years earlier, when the East India Company had become synonymous with ostentatious wealth and political corruption: “What is England now?” fumed the Whig litterateur Horace Walpole, “A sink of Indian wealth.” In 1767 the company bought off parliamentary opposition by donating £400,000 to the Crown in return for its continued right to govern Bengal. But the anger against it finally reached ignition point on 13 February 1788, at the impeachment, for looting and corruption, of Clive’s successor as governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings. It was the nearest the British ever got to putting the EIC on trial, and they did so with one of their greatest orators at the helm – Edmund Burke.

Burke, leading the prosecution, railed against the way the returned company “nabobs” (or “nobs”, both corruptions of the Urdu word “Nawab”) were buying parliamentary influence, not just by bribing MPs to vote for their interests, but by corruptly using their Indian plunder to bribe their way into parliamentary office: “To-day the Commons of Great Britain prosecutes the delinquents of India,” thundered Burke, referring to the returned nabobs. “Tomorrow these delinquents of India may be the Commons of Great Britain.”

Burke thus correctly identified what remains today one of the great anxieties of modern liberal democracies: the ability of a ruthless corporation corruptly to buy a legislature. And just as corporations now recruit retired politicians in order to exploit their establishment contacts and use their influence, so did the East India Company. So it was, for example, that Lord Cornwallis, the man who oversaw the loss of the American colonies to Washington, was recruited by the EIC to oversee its Indian territories. As one observer wrote: “Of all human conditions, perhaps the most brilliant and at the same time the most anomalous, is that of the Governor General of British India. A private English gentleman, and the servant of a joint-stock company, during the brief period of his government he is the deputed sovereign of the greatest empire in the world; the ruler of a hundred million men; while dependant kings and princes bow down to him with a deferential awe and submission. There is nothing in history analogous to this position …”

Hastings survived his impeachment, but parliament did finally remove the EIC from power following the great Indian Uprising of 1857, some 90 years after the granting of the Diwani and 60 years after Hastings’s own trial. On 10 May 1857, the EIC’s own security forces rose up against their employer and on successfully crushing the insurgency, after nine uncertain months, the company distinguished itself for a final time by hanging and murdering tens of thousands of suspected rebels in the bazaar towns that lined the Ganges – probably the most bloody episode in the entire history of British colonialism.

Enough was enough. The same parliament that had done so much to enable the EIC to rise to unprecedented power, finally gobbled up its own baby. The British state, alerted to the dangers posed by corporate greed and incompetence, successfully tamed history’s most voracious corporation. In 1859, it was again within the walls of Allahabad Fort that the governor general, Lord Canning, formally announced that the company’s Indian possessions would be nationalised and pass into the control of the British Crown. Queen Victoria, rather than the directors of the EIC would henceforth be ruler of India.

The East India Company limped on in its amputated form for another 15 years, finally shutting down in 1874. Its brand name is now owned by a Gujarati businessman who uses it to sell “condiments and fine foods” from a showroom in London’s West End. Meanwhile, in a nice piece of historical and karmic symmetry, the current occupant of Powis Castle is married to a Bengali woman and photographs of a very Indian wedding were proudly on show in the Powis tearoom. This means that Clive’s descendants and inheritors will be half-Indian.

***

Today we are back to a world that would be familiar to Sir Thomas Roe, where the wealth of the west has begun again to drain eastwards, in the way it did from Roman times until the birth of the East India Company. When a British prime minister (or French president) visits India, he no longer comes as Clive did, to dictate terms. In fact, negotiation of any kind has passed from the agenda. Like Roe, he comes as a supplicant begging for business, and with him come the CEOs of his country’s biggest corporations.

The idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India

For the corporation – a revolutionary European invention contemporaneous with the beginnings of European colonialism, and which helped give Europe its competitive edge – has continued to thrive long after the collapse of European imperialism. When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.

Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family. This should come as no surprise: as Ira Jackson, the former director of Harvard’s Centre for Business and Government, recently noted, corporations and their leaders have today “displaced politics and politicians as … the new high priests and oligarchs of our system”. Covertly, companies still govern the lives of a significant proportion of the human race.

The 300-year-old question of how to cope with the power and perils of large multinational corporations remains today without a clear answer: it is not clear how a nation state can adequately protect itself and its citizens from corporate excess. As the international subprime bubble and bank collapses of 2007-2009 have so recently demonstrated, just as corporations can shape the destiny of nations, they can also drag down their economies. In all, US and European banks lost more than $1tn on toxic assets from January 2007 to September 2009. What Burke feared the East India Company would do to England in 1772 actually happened to Iceland in 2008-11, when the systemic collapse of all three of the country’s major privately owned commercial banks brought the country to the brink of complete bankruptcy. A powerful corporation can still overwhelm or subvert a state every bit as effectively as the East India Company did in Bengal in 1765.

Corporate influence, with its fatal mix of power, money and unaccountability, is particularly potent and dangerous in frail states where corporations are insufficiently or ineffectually regulated, and where the purchasing power of a large company can outbid or overwhelm an underfunded government. This would seem to have been the case under the Congress government that ruled India until last year. Yet as we have seen in London, media organisations can still bend under the influence of corporations such as HSBC – while Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s boast about opening British embassies for the benefit of Chinese firms shows that the nexus between business and politics is as tight as it has ever been.

The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. Walmart, which is the world’s largest corporation in revenue terms, does not number among its assets a fleet of nuclear submarines; neither Facebook nor Shell possesses regiments of infantry. Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. The most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out. The East India Company remains history’s most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power – and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders become those of the state. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current.

William Dalrymple’s new book, The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803, will be published next year by Bloomsbury & Knopf

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The first wave of the Roma are thought to have left India probably with the armies of Alexander of Macedon around 326 BC, who took them along as “they were iron smelters and experts in making war weapons”. The word Roma itself is believed to have come from the Sanskrit domba, or the modern dom or its variations, found in several Indian languages, referring to lower castes engaged in a range of menial works and, at places, in itinerant singing and dancing professions.

The Romani language has obvious similarities with languages spoken in northern India, and many of the commonest Romani words, including the numerals, are near identical to their modern Hindi names. Examples: the Romani yek (Hindi ek); dui (do); trin (teen); shtaar (chaar); panchi (paanch); sho (chhe); desh (dus); bish (bees); manush (manushya, or man); baal, kaan and naak, which are the same as the Hindi words for hair, ear and nose; kalo (kaala, or black), etc.

In her speech to the International Roma Conference and Cultural Festival in New Delhi last year, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj counted painter Pablo Picasso, actor-filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, entertainer Elvis Presley, Hollywood icon Michael Caine, tennis star Ilie Nastase, and actor Yul Brynner among prominent Roma

See below a very interesting piece by Pooja Khati of the INDIAN EXPRESS, “Meet the Roma: 2,000 years ago, the first ‘Indians’ to go to Europe”.

(A Roma caravan in a meadow in England in 2009. (Source Wikimedia Commons)

Who are the Roma?

The Roma or Romani are a travelling people who live mostly in Europe and America, and whose origins are widely accepted by anthropologists, historians and geneticists as lying in northern India. The Roma are known by different names in different countries — Zigeuner in Germany, Tsiganes or Manus in France, Tatara in Sweden, Gitano in Spain, Tshingan in Turkey and Greece, Gypsy in the UK, etc. Some of these names have clear derogatory connotations and are considered racial slurs by the Romani people. In her speech to the International Roma Conference and Cultural Festival in New Delhi on February 12, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj counted painter Pablo Picasso, actor-filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, entertainer Elvis Presley, Hollywood icon Michael Caine, tennis star Ilie Nastase, and actor Yul Brynner among prominent Roma.

What is the world’s Roma population? Where do they live?

The precise number is unknown, in part because of the reluctance of many Roma to disclose their ethnicities in official national censuses for fear of attracting harassment or persecution. Minister Swaraj told the Roma conference that as of 2016, the global population of the community is estimated to be around 20 million. Roma peoples live in some 30 countries across West Asia, Europe, America and Australia. The largest Roma community is in Turkey — around 2.75 million. Some 1 million are estimated to live in the US, and around 800,000 in Brazil. Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Spain and France all have sizeable Roma populations.

So, what is the Indian connection of the Romani people?

The Romani language has obvious similarities with languages spoken in northern India, and many of the commonest Romani words, including the numerals, are near identical to their modern Hindi names. Examples: the Romani yek (Hindi ek); dui (do); trin (teen); shtaar (chaar); panchi (paanch); sho (chhe); desh (dus); bish (bees); manush (manushya, or man); baal, kaan and naak, which are the same as the Hindi words for hair, ear and nose; kalo (kaala, or black), etc.

The first wave of the Roma are thought to have left India probably with the armies of Alexander of Macedon around 326 BC, who, Swaraj said at the conference, took them along as “they were iron smelters and experts in making war weapons”. The word Roma itself is believed to have come from the Sanskrit domba, or the modern dom or its variations, found in several Indian languages, referring to lower castes engaged in a range of menial works and, at places, in itinerant singing and dancing professions.

The cultural similarities between the Roma and Indian communities include an association of the colour white with mourning, applying of mehndi on palms by Roma brides, and laws of ritual purity and taboos of birth and death. A woman in childbirth is considered impure, and must have her baby outside her caravan home or tent lest it be polluted. The high incidence of child marriages, and belief in gods similar to Shiva, Kali and Agni too are considered evidence of their links to Hindu culture.

The authors of a 2012 study analysed some 800,000 genetic variants in 152 Romani people from 13 Romani communities across Europe and concluded that the Roma people left northern India about 1,500 years ago; and those Roma who now live in Europe migrated through the Balkans beginning about 900 years ago.

Why are the Roma regarded with fear by some people and persecuted by some governments?

Popular narratives in film and literature represent the Roma as people of unpredictable temper and mystical or occult powers, including fortune-telling. They are also often represented as thieves or law-breakers, adding to the general negative perceptions about them.

The prejudice has translated into persecution by governments almost since the beginning of their migration to Europe. They were enslaved or killed in Germany, Italy and Portugal, faced discrimination because of the colour of their skin, and were accused of bringing the great plague to Europe.

The Nazis sent the Roma to labour camps. In 1934, Turkey passed a law allowing the government to deny the Roma citizenship. In the 1980s in Czechoslovakia, Roma women were forced to undergo sterilisation. Even now, there are incidents of Roma children being taken away from their parents, and women having their ears chopped. In 2010, 51 illegal Roma camps were removed by the French authorities, triggering an uproar and threats of action from the EU.

So where is the ‘Roma question’ headed?

The main aim of the Delhi conference was to bring to the attention of governments the issues being faced by the community. It was proposed to study the political, social, and economic challenges it faced, and to examine the constitutional safeguards available to them. A 2011 survey in 11 European countries had found that only one out of two children from the community went to school on average, and only one out of three adult Roma was in a paid job. Almost 90% of Roma in these countries lived below the poverty line, and almost half of them had faced discrimination because of their ethnic background.

 

Truth about language in India

Posted: April 4, 2017 in Hindi, India, Urdu
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This is a very interesting piece on Sanskrit and I have decided to share.

by Santosh Kumar Khare

Sanskrit played the elitist role in ancient India, being the language of religion, government and literature. Pali and subsequently Prakrits and Apabharamshas were spoken by the masses. This is evident from classical Sanskrit plays, which have brahmins and noblemen speaking Sanskrit while lower orders (including women!) use Pali. Sanskrit gave way to Persian in most of India during Islamic rule.

Regional dialects and languages continued to develop at popular levels, acquiring words from Persian, Arabic and Turkish. In northern India the process produced the patois of Amir Khusro and a highly polyglot lingua franca. Called Hindavi or Urdu, it developed in bazaars and military camps through contact between Persian Turkish-speaking elites and soldiers on the one hand and the Bhasha-speaking locals on the other.

During the 19th century English displaced Persian as the rulers’ tongue while regional vernaculars continued to evolve among the masses. Although attempts to embellish Hindavi/Urdu – the literary form was called Rekhta – started in Shahjahan’s times, its development into formal language ironically came about after the ascendancy of English. This was accompanied by a policy directive from the Court of Directors of East India Company in 1832 to replace Persian with local vernaculars as the language of the courts so that the public could understand the proceedings.

The notion of Hindi and Urdu as two distinct languages crystallised at Fort William College in the first half of the 19th century and was given official endorsement in an order promulgated by the NWP and Oudh government (present day UP) in 1900 requiring provincial officials to know both. As far as the script was concerned, the shift from the Persian to the Nagari script stretched from the 1870s and 1880s (Bihar and Central Provinces) well into the 20th century (UP and Delhi).

It is important to bear in mind that modern Hindi and Urdu started with narrow social bases. They represented competing interests of emergent middle class urban Hindu and entrenched Muslim/Kayastha Group respectively. Both had their eyes on lower-level government jobs in the British raj. Hindi and Urdu therefore had to differentiate themselves from each other and in the process from the common vernacular.

Their linguistic and literary repertoires were built up accordingly, Urdu borrowing heavily from Persian/Arabic and Hindi from Sanskrit.

From EPW commentary Dec 14, 2002
‘TRUTH ABOUT LANGUAGE IN INDIA’
by Santosh Kumar Khare

The Partition of India

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Britian, India, WH Auden
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British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe arrived in British India for the first time on July 8, 1947. He had exactly five weeks to draw the borders between an independent India and the newly created Pakistan. He chaired two boundary commissions, one for Punjab and one for Bengal, consisting of two Muslims and two non-Muslims.

The resulting boundary award was announced on August 17. Partition along the Radcliffe Line ended in violence that killed one million people and displaced 12 million. Radcliffe burnt his papers, refused his Rs 40,000 fee, and left once and for all.

While drawing the border, Radcliffe was faced with unyielding demands on both sides, communal tensions, doubtful census numbers, tough economic, administrative and defence considerations and some say even interference from Viceroy Mountbatten. Was Radcliffe biased? Was he ill-informed?

Here’s one of the best criticisms of Radcliffe and his 1947 job by the poet WH Auden in Partition.

“Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
‘Time,’ they had briefed him in London, ‘is short. It’s too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we’ve arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.’

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

The next day he sailed for England, where he quickly forgot
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.”

Partition, 1966 by WH Auden


Things were going exactly as Srinivasan had feared, his Mother would come in from India and crush his American way of life under her strong South Indian influence. For a genetic scientist like Vasu, as Srinivasan was called by his friends, the only kind of order was disorder. So consumed he was by his research that the world and it’s affairs mattered little to him. When his last girlfriend walked out on him, “Find a girl on planet Srinivasan,” she had screamed as she stomped out.

Now Vasu’s Mother had taken over the administration of the planet. It irritated him, this milk at night and chywanprash every morning. “Have you been wearing the same pair of Jeans for the past three days?” Mother was beginning her morning interrogation.

Vasu stared at the hot idlis in front of him, the chywanprash to follow and the wardrobe interrogation that had begun. Something snapped in his mind. “Mom I love you and I love that you come all the way from India to take care of me but please don’t fuss over me! It irritates me! And then I cannot work!”

His Mother did not really care if Vasu was upset, “The idlis are getting cold,” was her matter of fact response.

“You don’t really care, do you Mom?”

“I care about you Vasu. The work you do is alright. If you don’t do it, someone else will do it.”

“Mom, I am genetic scientist. I am working on the evolution of man. Theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, have you heard of him? ” Vasu was exasperated with her unwillingness to understand. His Mother sat down next to him and smiled, “I know Darwin, Vasu. I also know that what you think he discovered was old news in India.”

” Yeah sure Mom!” Vasu said with sarcasm.

“Well if you are too smart then listen to this, ” his Mother countered.” Have you heard of Dashavatar? The ten avatars of Vishnu?” Vasu nodded. “Then let me tell you what you and Mr. Darwin don’t know. The first avatar was the Matsya avatar, it means the fish. That is because life began in the water. Is that not right?” Vasu began to listen with a little more attention.

“Then came the Kurma Avatar, which means the tortoise, cause life moved from the water to the land. The amphibian. So the Tortoise denoted the evolution from sea to land. Third was the Varaha, the wild boar, which meant the wild animals with not much intellect, you call them the Dinosaurs, correct? ” Vasu nodded wide eyed.

“The fourth avatar was the Narasimha avatar, half man and half animal, the evolution from wild animals to intelligent beings. Fifth the Waman avatar, the midget or dwarf, who could grow really tall. Do you know why that is? Cause there were two kinds of humans, Homo Erectus and the Homo Sapiens and Homo Sapiens won that battle.” Vasu could see that his Mother was in full flow and he was stupefied.

“The Sixth avatar was Parshuram, the man who wielded the axe, the man who was a cave and forest dweller. Angry, and not social but the seventh avatar was Ram, the first thinking social being, who laid out the laws of society and the basis of all relationships. The eight avatar was Krishna, the statesman, the politician, the lover who played the game of society and taught how to live and thrive in the social structure. The Ninth avatar, the Buddha, the man who rose from Narasimha and found man’s true nature. The nature of Buddha, he identified man’s final quest of enlightenment. And finally, my boy, will come Kalki, the man you are working on. The man who will be genetically supreme.”

Vasu looked at his Mother speechless. “This is amazing Mom, how did you.. This makes sense!”

“Yes it does Vasu! Now have your chywanprash! ” “


J Jayalalithaa has not left behind a void. She has left behind a legacy. It is the legacy left for her by her mentor, MGR and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

The various DMK’s spawned by the Dravidar Kazhagam  (DK) of Periyar – the DMK of CN Annadurai followed by the Karunanidhi’s DMK, MGR’s ADMK, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Vaiko’s MDMK, Vijayakanth’s DMDK etc have something in common besides their antecedents.

CN Annadurai hailed from Conjeevaram (Kanchipuram) and was a Mudaliar. Just like my mother. The Mudaliar community was prominent in the Justice Party with its strong underpinnings of anti-Brahminism. Annadurai reduced the Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker call for an independent Dravida Nadu of the four south Indian regions to that for an independent Tamil homeland- Tamil Nadu.

The DMK made a strong showing in 1960 with its anti -Hindi and secessionist plank quite prominent. But Annadurai dropped it in 1962 on Jawaharlal Nehru’s personal appeal in the wake of the Chinese attack that year. Only the anti-Hindi plank remained (as it does till today).

After Annadurai died a couple of years after the DMK decisively trounced the Congress in 1967. He was succeeded as CM by MK Karunanidhi, a Telugu. The next CM, MG Ramachandran was a Malayali. Jayalalitha was a Mysore born Kannada speaking Iyengar. Vaiko is also a Telugu. Even Capt.Vijayakanth, now heading a near extinct party is a Telugu.

In India, few seem to notice or care about the irony of the standard bearers of Tamil sub-nationalism all being non-Tamilians. I am Malaysian, but sadly (for me) I am both a Mudaliar and a Tamilian but with no Tamil. A bit like Mani Shankar Aiyar whose familiarity with Tamil might be even lesser than mine.

This takes me to the fact that German nationalism reached its virulent high when it was led by an Austrian – Adolf Schickelgruber later Adolf Hitler. It is a strange paradox. The Soviet dictator and Russian supremacist, Stalin was a Georgian. Napoleon, whose French Empire ambitions plunged Europe into two decades of warfare was an Italian from Corsica.


Stupidity has no limits….
With every new film Rajinikanth releases, milk becomes so much in demand in some parts of India that it is stolen from markets, resulting in shortages that potentially endanger malnourished children, officials and activists say. Die-hard fans can pour about 11,000 to 16,000 gallons of milk a day over billboards and cardboard cutouts of Rajinikanth in the weeks after a new release. In this case is KABALI, a new release by “Thalaivar”, a box office record breaker, the first Tamil movie to be dubbed in Bahasa Melayu.
A friend from India told me “height of stupidity we have had enough wastage of milk on Shivalinga, now Rajnikant”.

Fans spraying milk on a poster of the Indian film star Rajinikanth to celebrate the screening of his latest film last month in Mumbai. Credit Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press

Stardom in India Has Its Price: Thousands of Gallons of Milk

In a country where movie stars are treated like gods, some actors are worshiped like deities.

The 65-year-old Tamil actor Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known as Rajinikanth, is one of India’s most celebrated and well-paid movie stars. For decades, fans have regularly bathed pictures of him in thousands of gallons of milk, a sign of devotion usually reserved for Hindu idols.

With every new film Rajinikanth releases, milk becomes so much in demand in some parts of the country that it is stolen from markets, resulting in shortages that potentially endanger malnourished children, officials and activists say.

Die-hard fans can pour about 11,000 to 16,000 gallons of milk a day over billboards and cardboard cutouts of Rajinikanth in the weeks after a new release, said S. A. Ponnusamy, president of the Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers Employees Welfare Association, who opposes the practice. Mr. Ponnusamy said some fans had resorted to stealing milk before daybreak when dairy workers drop it off outside shops.

Last month, before the release of Rajinikanth’s latest film, “Kabali,” a box office record breaker, the milk dealers’ association asked the actor to “sternly admonish” his loyal fans for wasting milk, and it encouraged him instead to organize blood and organ donation drives outside movie theaters.

Early this year, the social activist I. M. S. Manivannan filed a lawsuit against Rajinikanth and his supporters in Bangalore to prevent the wasting of milk in light of the high infant mortality rate in Karnataka State. The court issued a temporary injunction, ordering Rajinikanth to tell his fans to cease the practice. He is expected to respond to the court in a written statement at a hearing next month. In the past, the actor has admonished his fans for the practice, but to little avail.

SEE THE REST HERE…..

 


In China they say that Buddhism came from India but was developed in China. As this sign does.

The two paintings are of the Bodhidharma who brought Buddhism from India to Luyong, then the capital of imperial China.

“Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu. In Japan, he is known as Daruma.”

It is believed that he was a “South Indian from Kanchipuram district” and the third son of a great Indian king. His ambition lay in the Mahayana path, and so he put aside his white layman’s robe for the black robe of a monk. Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, traveling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei.

If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.Bodhidharma



By Mohan Guruswamy

My proposed talk in Singapore at the Lew Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the “Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI) Review Seminar on Competitiveness Ranking, Simulation Analysis and Development Strategies for 35 States and Federal Territories of India”

The question that bothers us Indians from time to time is “who are we?” Modern anthropologists classify us Indians as belonging to one of four ethno-racial groups, Caucasoid, Australoid, Mongoloid and Negrito. Geneticists say that the modern Indian population derived from two ancestral populations – ancestral north Indians (ANI’s) and ancestral south Indians (ASI’s). ANI’s are related to the West Eurasians and the ASi’s are distinctly related to the indigenous groups like the Andaman Islanders. We are now an admixture of these two groups. Modern India now has over two thousand ethnic groups.

Modern Indian languages have evolved from all the world’s four language families. Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman. We also have a language that belongs to neither of them – Nihali, spoken in parts of Maharashtra. India has 1652 individual mother tongues. The 2001 Census tells us that 30 languages are spoken by over a million each, and 122 by over 10,000 each.

India has almost 1.2 billion people, and the Union of India consists of 31 States and Union Territories, with some more being currently midwifed. The biggest of these is Uttar Pradesh with a population of 199.6 million or 16.49% of India’s. It is as big as Brazil. The smallest political unit is Lakshadweep which has just 64,000 (0.01%). Quite clearly the omnibus term India, incidentally derived from the name of a river that hardly flows through it, masks a diversity of nations.

In late 2012 India became the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms and has grown at an average rate of over 7% since 2000. Between 208-11 it grew at more than 9%. In consonance with global trends India’s growth also has tapered off these past two years. Nevertheless overall the trends have never been like this before and there is optimism about the long term, despite recent troubles. In a country where many state GDP’s are bigger than many large countries. For instance the biggest regional economy in India, Maharashtra at $233 billion is bigger than South Korea and would rank number nine in the world. The next biggest, Andhra Pradesh is as big as Switzerland in GDP terms. Many Indian cities too have large economies. Last year Mumbai’s GDP in PPP terms was $209 billion and it would rank ahead of Denmark.

This overall performance however masks a diversity of performances. The HDI of Kerala is India’s highest 0.790 while the other end of the spectrum is Chhattisgarh with 0.358, which would place it just alongside Chad, one of the world’s poorest and most backward countries. At 0.790 Kerala would find a place in the high HDI list of nations.

While in 2011-12 India grew at 6.88%, large states like Uttar Pradesh (6.23%) and Andhra Pradesh (6.44%) grew at less than the national rate. States like Gujarat excelled with 20.79%, while India’s most prosperous state, Punjab, languished with 5.79%.

The incidence of poverty is always a contentious matter in India. While the government tries to downplay the numbers by having a somewhat self serving index (now 22%), other measures such as the UNDP’s $1.25 a day suggest that almost 37.5% of Indians live in dire poverty. Others have a very different tale. India’s abysmal track record at ensuring basic levels of nutrition is the greatest contributor to its poverty as measured by the new international Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI). About 645 million people or 55% of India’s population is poor as measured by this composite indicator made up of ten markers of education, health and standard of living achievement levels.

The new data also shows that even in states generally perceived as prosperous such as Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka, more than 40% of the population is poor by the new composite measure, while Kerala is the only state in which the poor constitute less than 20%. The MPI measures both the incidence of poverty and its intensity. A person is defined as poor if he or she is deprived on at least 3 of the 10 indicators. By this definition, 55% of India was poor, close to double India’s much-criticized official poverty figure. Almost 20% of Indians are deprived on 6 of the 10 indicators.

But even more a matter of concern is the growth regional disparities. Eastern India has been languishing and has the densest concentration of poverty. While the northern and southern states have showed very good performances on this front. India’s west has its main industrial centers and naturally overall figures tend to be good here. But if the big cities are removed, here also we get a bit of a dismal picture. Clearly the southern and northern states seem to be doing better. I will not get into more details. I am sure the studies we will see presented here today will cover this and much more.

But I would like to leave this seminar with a question? In a global system having almost two hundred independent states at various states and stages of development, we can have a wide disparity, as each one of these economies represents a sovereign entity, bounded by a border. But in a system that in bound by its constitution, its history and its civilization as one, as is India, can we afford to risk too much diversity in economic well- being? One immediate problem is a feeling of deprivation to the benefit of others. The credit /deposit ratios only fuel this. The southern states have an average C/D ratio of 92.25, with Andhra Pradesh leading with 105.14. The northeast lags well behind with 34.42, while eastern India has 50.30. The big state of Bihar just has 28.61 in comparison Tamil Nadu has the highest with 112.65. Clearly something is going on here. And there will be consequences.

Some of these are in evidence already. The population growths are very varied now. While southern India will stop growing before this decade ends, the major northern states of Bihar, UP, Rajasthan and MP will keep growing till well past 2060. It also means the South will age faster, and already we see noticeable migrations. What frictions this will cause are a matter for discussion, as is the composition of India’s Parliament where the constituencies are related to population.

Finally, it is clear that there can be no growth without pain, often to others. But without growth there will be all round pain. The challenge for India is to spread the growth more equitably and share the pain more evenly. I look forward to your deliberations and hope to gain much from them.

Mohan Guruswamy studied Public Policy and Management at Harvard University, is Advisor at Ministry of Finance India, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council of the United States and Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, and, is a friend.


My Muslim hero has always been Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. He is better known as Rumi. Rumi is an Islamic Sufi mystic from the 13th century who lived in what is now Konya, Turkey. I got really interested in Rumi when I first read about Rumi a number of years ago and ever since then I have been searching and learning about Sufism. I chose Rumi as my Muslim hero because I believe that Rumi is a shining example of the things I admire most about culture. Growing up as a non-Muslim in Malaysia I had become accustomed to the powers-that-be treating me differently because of my religion. I got used to thinking that the first thing the government see when they look at me is not the type of person I am, it’s my religion.

I assumed that’s how its going to be for a long long time in Malaysia because religion is used to the maximum by the powers-that-be. That all changed when for the first time I met a Sufi in India in 1980. I was welcomed with open arms and he wanted to get to know me the person. He brought me to the Sufi Center in New Delhi. For the first time in my life I forgot about my religion and could just be myself. It was a complete culture shock for me because for once I wasn’t judged based on my religion. I cannot even put into words how good it felt. I think this is a shining example of Rumi’s teachings on love and tolerance.

I see so many similarities between Rumi’s teachings and Hinduism and even Christianity. Sufism also has meditation as an essential part of prayer. For instance Rumi and his followers used simple music in meditation and prayer so that they can bring themselves closer to God. Perhaps the most critical and mind boggling event was when I saw both Muslims and non-Muslims praying together. This made me open my eyes. It taught me that I too can participate in things like Ramadan without compromising my identity or my belief.

These cross culture experiences have led me to be a stronger and well-rounded person. Therefore Rumi will always be my Muslim hero because he has helped me to understand the true meaning of peace, tolerance and love.

I want to post here a video of another Muslim I admire a lot, someone I recently discovered. He is Author of “The Arab Awakening” and Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, Tariq Ramadan. In this video Professor Tariq shares his thoughts on applying Islamic values in a multi-ethnic society like Malaysia. Among some of the other things he talks about in this video is the Hudud Law, equality between the rich and poor, setting up of an Islamic state and the level of tolerance Muslims should have towards homosexuals.

Watch this…