Then I found myself answering my own questions. I remembered that Mamati-di formed her economic ideas in a time when the ‘foreign hand’ was India’s most feared bogeyman. A time when foreign investment was viewed as a new East India Company. On top of this, she has spent her whole life in a state that was ruled by communists for more than thirty years. She could not possibly have learned to question standard wisdom or search for new political and economic answers. So if foreign investors do decide to take their chances and start investing in the Indian retail business, they should stay away from West Bengal and other states that are ruled by chief ministers of leftist disposition. But, that is not India’s real problem. Our real problem is that the economic ideas that Mamata-di articulated so pithily are widely believed.
Not just by an older generation of Indians but by younger, middle-class Indians who in the past two years have rallied around the movement against corruption. And, it is not just new, young political leaders who believe that India is such a pathetic country that it can be destroyed by Walmart but NGOs, social workers and even (believe it or not) socialites. Together they constitute a mindset that is slowly but certainly eating into the economic gains made in the past two decades.
So confident is neo-leftism these days that its proponents have no compunction about articulating their bizarre views on television and online. Last week, I accidently came upon a BBC interview with our most bellicose ‘environmentalist’, Vandana Shiva, and nearly fainted with shock when she said that before 1997, Indian farmers lived in blissful harmony with nature. It was the advent of multinational seed companies like Monsanto, she added, that had shattered this rural idyll. Clearly Ms Shiva never travelled in rural parts in those times or she would have seen that the average Indian farmer lived off subsistence farming. If his meagre crops failed, his family starved. She seems also to have forgotten those shameful days when we imported shiploads of PL 480 grain. She believes that the green revolution was a fraud on Indian farmers.
Then in my mailbox arrived a press release from my least favourite NGO lady, Medha Patkar. It said that her ‘people’s movement’ now believes that ‘development’ is the enemy of the people. The word development encompasses schools, healthcare, roads, electricity so what her coalition of NGOs recommend is a return to those days when 80 per cent of our population lived without these things.
Why has the loony left suddenly returned from the graveyard of dead ideologies? Why are no political leaders speaking out against economic ideas that spell ruin for India? Well, because the current political landscape is painted in so many shades of pink that our only saffron party has been frightened into spouting economic ideas that even the communists abandoned towards the end of their rule in West Bengal.
An even more important question that we should all be asking is why our political leaders are so sure that foreign investors are queuing up to invest in Indian retail? Why should they not go further east, as they did before, and invest in countries like Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia that have a more salubrious investment climate? It is India that needs investment in these difficult economic times and not the other way around but this is not something our opposition MPs noticed when they stalled Parliament over FDI in retail last week.
As for Mamata-di and her fear of ‘Bhawlmart’, she should get over it as soon as she can. The FDI policy that the Finance Minister has devised allows every state to choose its own way. So when the lives of farmers in other Indian states are transformed by better opportunities and better markets, Bengali farmers will start demanding FDI in retail and then perhaps their chief minister will acknowledge that her definition of the ‘peepul’ is narrow. It could by then be too late for a Bengali renaissance, so bad luck once again for West Bengal.
Apology: My column in the Sunday Express on November 18 questioned the judgment both of the CAG in his estimation of ‘notional loss’ and of the Supreme Court in cancelling the 122 licences. Unfortunately, in the wording of a sentence, anger overtook reason. When I said that the judges should be ‘in the dock’ with the CAG, that was metaphorical not literal. What I meant was that the ruling was flawed and the government should seek its review. My intention was and is to disagree, not to show any disrespect to the Bench. I deeply regret writing the sentence and any misunderstanding it may have caused.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh
Monsanto & its propagation of genetically engineered terminator seeds , the extinction of a lot of beneficial insects that are ideal biological form of pest control have all been very vocally highlighted by a lot of American farmers themselves. Hence Vandana Shiva is quite right in her assessment of Monsanto.
I grew up in Calcutta under Jyoti Basu.These cantankerous "anti-peepul" & " down down with America" "amaar naam thumar naam Vietnaam"- all belong to most Bengalis ( most of them like Keralites are leftist minded). Hence Mamata or any person ruling Bengal is in the unenviable position of riding a ferocious tiger. They cannot impress the people without these anti-peepul blah blah.They glorify poverty.
While freely calling everyone names, BJP has been cleverly left out by only uttering a vague "the only saffron party" and a silly apology on its behalf, when it is BJP that has been most vocal against FDI! Just like capitalists' illegal cornering through cronyism, Tavleen should be in the dock for her political cronyism!
Agree with you Tavleen Singh. Common sense suggest that politicians have no incentive to explain hard decisions to people, if they can get away giving dole. Politicians need people to come to power and need businessmen to run the country. Mamata has vote but no business, look at the pathetic state of affairs in West Bengal. Those who shout about bad business, never make any decision, have no desire to educate people and make their lives better. Indians are emotional people, so logic hardly works here. Despite, governments that work quietly and deliver are rewarded. Look at Gujrat and MP.
What about the apology to Mr. CAG? Just because you couldn't get away from making those statement against SC and you can get away without submitting an apology to Mr. CAG should be no basis for deciding whom to apologize and whom to not. What is said in vitriol is equally bad in taste for both the bodies.
OK you are right that Mamtadidi is ill advised by her highly educated english speaking anglo-Indian half brothers.But is there a Bharat Mata at all? If she is there should she be depicted as one of the 36 Crores Goddesses in Gucci with one lac seventy K Crores jewelery on her person and be worshiped exclusively by the likes of those who distribute sweets when young Muslim in the nae of KASAB is hanged in her lap? We are ourselves a bundle of confusion with fourth rated madia and Katju's idiots taking potshot at each other to earn more TRP for their NRI BHARATPITA.
While I appreciate your apology, there was no misunderstanding among understanding readers of the metaphorical usage of the phrase - on the dock - & its true message. In fact, if Indians are to enjoy the real freedom of thought, words & expression like the First Amdt of US Constitution, then Bhawlmart or peepalmart of Mamata di is not our problem. The real cancerous disease %u2013 thanks to our divisive politicos & their cohorts in the babudom or elsewhere %u2013 there is no One Bharatmata called India with 130 core faces with one breath of Indianness, as Poet Bharati dreamt, but there are millions of crab mindsets in the big Indian basket each trying to pull the other down from reaching out, in the process our needless misery and suffering being attributed to foreign powers and MNCs. As you rightly said: those socalled foreign enemies of our development have no time to wait for the local loonies to be cured. Instead go elsewhere to help mutually develop and progress.
Respected Madam You have written on FDI in retail. I hope you are aware of the objective of this policy. Unfortunately I am not able to find any authenticated paper on it. What I am able to get from media this policy will help the farmers ,consumers and economy by bringing investment in infrastructure. If all the city and every person get the product from these shop only 10% of of our population will get the good product at low cost what about 90% people. How the problem of 905 people will be solved? I do not any future plan? If you know kindly share it. You can check out the %. What be total % of farmers who will get the benefit out it. What will happen to rest of them? only farmers who is able to produce at lower cost will get the benefit. Regarding estimated investment - It include the investment in infrastructure for this one need Land and uninterrupted Electricity(Storage). I need not to tell You on this matter. Kindly check out our record of Anti Dumping Law. I think it w