March 17, 2008

life in financial markets: indiabulls, congress party, SEZs, farmers...

If you commute on the western branch of Bombay's suburban railway line you would be aware of the large advertisement hoardings/billboards on the eastern side of the flyover connecting western and eastern side of Bandra. This is to your right side as the train going from Churchgate/Dadar to Andheri/Borivli/Virar nears Bandra station, or to your left side when train going from
Andheri/Borivli/Virar to Churchgate/Dadar as the train just leaves Bandra station.

For quite some time I have been seeing the advertisement hoarding of Indiabulls among the couple of advertisement hoardings at this place. See the two pictures alongside this post (they are from the same photo, one full blown and one a portion of it) that I clicked from my mobile phone's camera when I was returning home on 10 March (i commute from Lower Parel/Elphinstone Road/Dadar to Kandivli while returning home).

The Indiabulls advertisement hoarding talks of loans of Rs 5 crore and more for builders and companies. As I was seeing this advertisement yet again on 10 March I remembered the news report of that day (or some recent previous day's) covering Congress Party's president Sonia Gandhi's and prime minister Manmohan Singh's speech at a farmers' conference in Delhi. They were harping on the Rs 60,000 crore worth of waiver of farmers' loans announced in this year's budget (it is another matter that the budget documents never specified any detail of how the amount of loans was arrived at).

I could not but be struck by the anomaly of it all. On the one hand, you have financial companies like Indiabulls whose promoters/management (Bangas) are/is reportedly close to the
top guys of Congress Party (including perhaps Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh), lending huge sums of money to builders who then go on to, among other projects, attempt to grab land under the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act which is nothing but a dirty land grab disguised as export-oriented economic development. Indiabulls itself has set up--and is trying to set up more--SEZs across the country.

The SEZs land grab forces farmers and other land owners across the country to sell their land to the government or the companies even though they do not want to sell it or if they want to sell then at one-twentieth or one-hundredth of the true potential vale of their lands. This is done through the abuse of the British-era Land Acquistion Act of 1890s that is still in existence in so-called free democratic India.
In most cases, the companies are actually only agents of their political masters.

Isn't is, therefore, hypocritical of the Congress Party to harp about their concerns about farmers when supposedly their own corporate cronies are grabbing the lands of farmers? Then, again, the loan waivers are meant to benefit the already well-off farmers who could afford to borrow from banks and government financial bodies, and not those small farmers to whom banks and government bodies do not lend and so who are forced to borrow from private money lenders at extremely high interest rates.
Being in power, the last 4 years, why hasn't the Congress Party adequately raised the minimum support price for the purchase of foodgrains from farmers? Why is government policy giving a free hand to the international seed companies to force/trick farmers into buying/making dependent on their expensive seeds? The Nationalist Congress Party and its politicians like its chief Sharad Power are a prime example of how to manipulate agriculture for their petty purposes. Not that any other party's government in power would have fared any less worse.

India, today, is faced between the devil and the deep sea. On the one hand you have Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi-Kamal Nath-Sharad Pawar-Narayan Rane-Prakash Karat-Buddhadeb who end up destroying the ecology of the country through extreme and distorted so-called development projects and in the process uprooting millions of tribals/villagers/others from their homes. On the other hand you have religious fanatics like the BJP-Shiv Sena-VHP-Bajrang Dal-RSS who kill minorities. Then you have people like Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Raj Thackeray who pretend to do good for their relevant caste-based or community-based constituencies.

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