What is the progress of Dholera SIR
Capitalism: A Ghost Story, Part 1
Is it a house or a home? A temple in honor of the new India or a shelter for its ghosts? Since the Antilla is in Mumbai's Altamont Road, mysterious and as a silent threat, nothing has been the same as it was before. "Here we are," said the friend who led me there: "Pay your respects to our new ruler."
The Antilla is owned by Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man. I had already read about it: the most expensive single-family house of all time, with 27 floors, three helicopter landing pads, nine elevators, hanging gardens, dance halls, sports halls, six parking floors and 600 servants. The vertical lawn caught me unprepared, however: a vertically floating lawn, 27 stories high and attached to a huge metal grille. There were dry spots, smaller - exactly right-angled - pieces of lawn had fallen out, the much-vaunted trickledown hadn't worked.
But something else certainly worked: Gush-Up - the big money fountain! And that's why in a country of 1.2 billion people, the hundred richest of them have assets equivalent to a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP).
On the street (and in the "New York Times") people whisper that the Ambanis did not move to the Antilla themselves after all the effort. But one does not know exactly anything. The talk continues, whispers about ghosts, misfortune, about Vaastu and Feng Shui. Maybe Karl Marx is to blame for everything. (The eternal curses.) Capitalism, said Marx, who "conjured up such enormous means of production and means of transport, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the subterranean forces that he conjured up."
The 300 million among us Indians who belong to the new middle class that emerged from the IMF “reforms” and who today form the “market” live side by side with the spirits of the underworld, the poltergeists of dead rivers, dried up wells, deforested mountains and bare woods; the ghosts of the 250,000 indebted peasants who took their own lives and the 800 million who were driven into poverty and dispossessed to make way for us. And those who try to survive on less than 20 rupees a day - the equivalent of just 35 cents.
Mukesh Ambani himself is worth $ 20 billion. He controls the majority stake in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a $ 47 billion company with global business interests. These include petrochemical products, crude oil, natural gas, synthetic fibers, special economic zones, food retailing, schools, research in the field of life sciences and services in the area of stem cell storage. RIL recently acquired 95 percent of the shares in Infotel, a television consortium that includes 27 television news and entertainment channels including CNN-IBN, IBN Live, CNVC, IBN Lokmat and ETV in almost every regional language. Infotel has the only nationwide license for 4G broadband communications, a high-speed “info pipeline” which, if the technology works, could determine the future of communications. Last but not least, Ambani also has a cricket team.
RIL is one of the handful of corporations operating India. Others are Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar and the other Reliance group, ADAG, which is owned by Mukesh Ambani's brother Anil. Their greed for growth spills over to Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their networks are wide-spread, visible and invisible, above and below ground. Tatas, for example, have over 100 companies in 80 countries. In India they are among the oldest and largest private energy producers. They own mines, natural gas fields, steel mills, telephone, cable television, and broadband networks, and they run entire communities. They produce cars and trucks and they own the Taj hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a bookstore chain, an important iodized salt brand and the cosmetics giant Lakme. Your advertising slogan could well be “You can't live without us”.
All of this is in line with the gush-up gospel: "The more you have, the more you can get!"
The era of privatization has made the Indian economy one of the fastest growing in the world. And yet mineral raw materials are one of India's main export items - as in any good old colony. India's new mega-corporations - the Tatas, Jindals, Essar, Reliance or Sterlite - are those who have fought for direct access to that tap from which money gushes, money that is transported deep from the earth's interior. Here, what business people dream of came true - to be able to sell what they did not have to buy beforehand.
The eviction into the slums
The other major source of entrepreneurial wealth comes from the lands these people have hoarded. All over the world, weak, corrupt states and administrations helped Wall Street brokers, agribusiness firms and Chinese billionaires get their hands on vast expanses of land. (Which of course also leads to control over water resources.) In India, land is being withdrawn from millions of people and handed over to private companies - in the "public interest": for special economic zones, infrastructure projects, dams, highways, car or chemical plants and Formula 1 racetracks. (The fact that private property is sacred never applies to the poor.) As always, reassuring locals that the real job creation is to move them off their land and rob them of everything they ever owned. But we have long known that the supposed link between GDP growth and job creation is a myth. After 20 years of “growth”, 60 percent of the workforce in India are working for their own account, and 90 percent of the Indian workforce is in the informal sector, ie without social security.
After independence, popular movements - from the Naxalites to Jayaprakash Narayan's Sampoorna Kranti - fought for land reforms and for the redistribution of agricultural land from the disposal of feudal landowners to landless farmers until the 1980s. But today, any thought of redistributing land or wealth would be labeled not just undemocratic, but downright insane. Even the most radical movements are now limited to defending the little land that still belongs to little people. The millions of people without land, mostly Dalits and Adivasis (formerly untouchables and indigenous people), who have been driven from their villages and who now live in slums and shanty towns, both in small towns and in the megacities - these people themselves come into radical discourse no longer before.
While the fountain of money pumps wealth upwards and concentrates on a shiny needle point on which our billionaires spin their pirouettes, the falling tides crash into the fabric of democratic institutions. They invade the courts, parliaments and the media, and do them serious damage in the process. The louder the electoral carnival rages, the weaker our conviction that there really is such a thing as democracy becomes.
"Memorandums of Understanding"
Every new corruption scandal that comes to light in India makes the previous one seem downright staid. The 2G scandal broke out in the summer of 2011. We learned that various companies had siphoned $ 40 billion in public money by installing a man of their choice as central government telecommunications minister. He had then sold the licenses for the 2G spectrum - the telecommunications standards of the second generation - far too cheaply and, on top of that, illegally passed them on to his own. Tap logs of the relevant phone calls leaked to the press and made it clear how a whole network of industrialists and their front companies, ministers, high-ranking journalists, including a television presenter, were involved in this story. It was like a raid in broad daylight. The tapes only confirmed the diagnosis that many people had long since made.
The privatization of telecommunications frequencies and their illegal sale do not go hand in hand with war, displacement and ecological overexploitation per se. But the privatization of the mountains, rivers and forests of India. But this has a much weaker echo among the middle classes - perhaps because it does not appear as clearly as an open financial scandal, but perhaps also because all of this supposedly serves the “progress” of India.
In 2005 the state governments of Chattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand signed hundreds of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU). These contracts with a number of private corporations entrenched those bauxite, iron ore, and other mineral resources worth billions of dollars for an apple and an egg. At the same time, these contracts themselves violated the twisted logic of market freedom, because the license fees to the state were only 0.5 percent to a maximum of 7 percent of the actual value.
A few days after signing a MoU with Tata Steel about the construction of an integrated iron and steel works in Bastar, the Salwa Judum, a kind of "vigilante", appeared there for the first time. The government claimed it was a spontaneous uprising of the local population tired of "repression" by Maoist guerrillas in the forest. It turned out to be a government-armed and sponsored mining operation to occupy the site. In the other states, comparable militias were set up under different names. The Prime Minister announced that the Maoists are "the greatest threat to India's internal security". That was a declaration of war.
Operation "Green Hunt"
On January 2, 2006, ten police forces appeared at the site of another Tata steel mill in Kalinagar, Orissa state. They should seemingly signal that the government is serious. Police opened fire on villagers who had gathered there to protest what they believed were insufficient compensation for their land. Thirteen people, including one police officer, were killed and 37 injured. More than six years have passed since then, and although the villages concerned are still under siege by armed police, the protest has not died down.
In Chhattisgarh, the Salwa Judum vigilantes roamed hundreds of forest settlements, pillaging, raping and murdering. They evacuated 600 villages and forced 50,000 people to be sent to police camps, while 350,000 of these forest dwellers were forced to flee. The head of government in Chhattisgarh announced that anyone who could not get out of the woods would be classified as “Maoist terrorists”. In parts of modern India, for example, anyone who plows fields and sows seeds is considered a terrorist. As a result, however, the atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum only led to a strengthening of the resistance and the ranks of the Maoist guerrilla army to gain popularity. In 2009, the central government then proclaimed the so-called Operation Green Hunt. Two hundred thousand paramilitaries were deployed in both Chhattisgarh and Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Three years of “low-intensity conflict” did not achieve the goal of “bleeding out” the rebels of the forests. The central government then announced that it would now deploy regular Indian land and air forces. We don't refer to something like this as a "war". Here one prefers to speak of “creating a favorable investment climate”. Thousands of soldiers have already advanced into the operational area. A brigade headquarters and air force bases are under construction. One of the largest armies in the world is taking its precautions to “defend itself” against the poorest and most poorly nourished people on earth. Now we are just waiting for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to be proclaimed. It should grant the armed forces immunity from criminal prosecution and the right to kill “on suspicion”. In view of tens of thousands of unmarked graves and secret pyres for cremation in Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland, one can certainly speak of an army under urgent suspicion.
The influence of the media
While the army is preparing for the new mission, the primeval forests of central India are still under siege. The villagers are afraid to come out and buy groceries or medicines. Draconic and undemocratic laws have resulted in hundreds of people suspected of being Maoists and imprisoned. The prisons are full of Adivasi, many of whom do not even know what the crime is.
Recently, Soni Soni, an Adivasi teacher from Bastar, was arrested and tortured in police custody. Stones were shoved into her vagina to "confess" that she worked as a courier for the Maoists. After a wave of outrage, the woman was sent to the hospital in Calcutta for an examination, where the stones were removed from her abdomen. At a Supreme Court hearing, activists presented the stones in a plastic bag to the judges. The only result of the protests was that Soni Soni remained in custody. Ankit Garg, on the other hand, the police commissioner who conducted her interrogation, was awarded the President's Medal of Merit on Republic Day - for bravery in police operations.
Only because of the mass uprising and this war do we find out about the ecological and social structural change in Central India. The government is silent. Contracts, such as the Memorandums of Understanding, are all secret. Sections of the media are trying to make the public aware of what is going on in central India. However, the vast majority of India's mass media is open to blackmail because the lion's share of its revenue comes from advertising large corporations. As if that weren't bad enough, the dividing line between media and business interests is beginning to blur dangerously. As already mentioned, RIL has 27 TV channels. But it also works the other way around. Some media houses are now involved in industry for their part.
There is - as just one example of many - the daily newspaper "Dainik Bhaskar", which appears in English, Hindi and two other languages and is one of the largest regional newspapers with 17.5 million readers in 13 EU countries. The publisher owns a further 69 companies involved in mining, power generation, real estate and the textile industry. A complaint was recently submitted to the Chhattisgarh Supreme Court against one of these 69 companies, DB Power Ltd. The corporation is accused of using "arbitrary, illegal and manipulative practices". The company's own newspapers are said to have tried to influence the outcome of the public hearing on an open-cast coal mine. In the end, it is not a question of whether DB Power actually wanted to exert influence in this way. Rather, the point is that media corporations are able to do that. You have the power to do it. Indian law allows them to gain a position that inevitably exposes them to serious conflicts of interest.
The Kalpasar dam construction project: billions invested as blood money
Little is learned from other parts of the country either. In Arunachal Pradesh, a sparsely populated but heavily militarized state in northeast India, 168 large dams are under construction, most of them privately owned. In Manipur and Kashmir, high dams are being built that will flood entire stretches of land. These two states are also highly militarized. There - as happened in Kashmir at the beginning of the year - people can be killed simply because they protest against power cuts. How could they stop the construction of a dam?
The most surveyed dam construction project is in the state of Gujarat and is called Kalpasar. A 34-kilometer-long dam is planned across the Gulf of Khambhat, crowned by a ten-lane motorway and a railway line. The aim is to create a freshwater reservoir fed by Gujarat's rivers by keeping the lake water away. (The fact that these rivers have already been reduced to mere rivulets by building dams and poisoned by chemical wastewater does not matter.)
Ten years ago, the project was abandoned because it would raise sea levels and change the environment of the coastline for hundreds of kilometers.This dam owes its unexpected comeback to the project to supply the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) with water. It is one of the most arid areas not only in India, but worldwide. SIR is another abbreviation for special economic zones or SEZ, a self-governing corporate dystopia consisting of “business parks, housing estates and entire megacities”. The SIR Dholera is to be connected to the other cities of Gujarat by a network of ten-lane highways. Who will pay for it all?
In January 2011, a conference with 10,000 business people from 100 countries was held at the Mahatma (Gandhi) Temple, chaired by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Gujarat. According to media reports, they promised to invest $ 450 billion in Gujarat. The conference was deliberately placed at the beginning of the year, the tenth anniversary of the massacre of 2,000 Muslims in February / March 2002. Modi is accused of not only leaving the bloodbath unpunished, but of instigating it himself. To this day, the relatives who had to watch their loved ones being raped, slashed and burned alive, as well as tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes, wait in vain for a gesture of justice. But Modi has swapped the saffron scarf and vermilion forehead - the insignia of the nationalist Hindutva movement - for a businessman's suit and is now hoping that $ 450 billion in investments will be accepted as blood money and balance the balance sheet. Maybe this will work. The business world enthusiastically supports him. The algebra of infinite justice finds strange ways.
The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor
The SIR Dholera is just one of the smaller "dolls in the doll" in the huge, matryoshka-like monster that is supposed to be created. The SIR Dholera will be connected to the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a 1500 kilometer long and 300 kilometer wide industrial belt with nine mega-commercial zones, a high-speed freight train, three sea and six airports, a six-lane intersection-free expressway and a 4000 -MW power plant. The DMIC is a joint venture that the governments of India and Japan, initiated by the McKinsey Global Institute, operate with their respective business partners.
According to the DMIC website, approximately 180 million people will be “affected” by the project. Any way affected will not run. The website reveals that a number of new cities are to emerge and the region's population will increase from the current 231 million to an estimated 314 million in 2019 - in the course of just seven years. When was the last time a state, a despot or dictator organized a population transfer that affected millions of people? Is it even conceivable that such a process could take place peacefully?
The Indian army may have to embark on a recruiting campaign unless they are caught off guard when they are ordered to operate across the country. In preparation for its role in Central India, the Army has unveiled its revised Doctrine on Military Psychological Operations to the public. It is about "a systematic process of delivering a message to a selected target audience, in which certain topics are to be emphasized, whereby desirable attitudes and behaviors are induced that favor the implementation of political and military goals of the country". In this process of “perception management”, it is said that “the media available to the armed forces will be used”.
The art of corporate philanthropy
The army is experienced enough to know that social engineering on the dimensions India's planners envisage cannot be achieved through the use of force alone. The war against the poor is one thing. But for the rest of us - the middle class, employees, intellectuals, “opinion makers” - something else is needed: Here, perception management is required. So we must now turn our attention to the fine art of corporate philanthropy.
The big mining conglomerates have discovered the arts - film, artistic installations and the countless literary festivals that have replaced the obsession of the 1990s with beauty pageants. The Vedanta Group, for example, which is currently ruthlessly rummaging through the homeland of the venerable Dongria Kondh tribe for bauxite, sponsors a competition for young film students under the motto “Creating Happiness”. She has commissioned the group to make films on the subject of sustainable development. By the way, the Vedanta company slogan is "Mining Happiness".
The Jindal Group also publishes a magazine about contemporary art and supports some of India's most important artists (who naturally use stainless steel). And Essar acted as the main sponsor of the “Tehelka Newsweek” think festival, which promised “high-octane debates” between leading thinkers from around the world. Famous writers, activists and even the star architect Frank Gehry were among those invited. (The setting for all of this was Goa, where activists and journalists were just uncovering mining scandals with massive violations of the law, and it became known what part the Essar group had in the war that flared up in Bastar.)
Tata Steel and Rio Tinto (a company with its own register of sins) were among the main sponsors of the Jaipur Literature Festival (or, with full title, Darshan Sing Construction Jaipur Literary Festival), which is hailed by connoisseurs as “the world's greatest literary show”. As Tata's “strategic brand manager”, the consulting firm Counselage sponsored the festival's press tent. Many of the world's best and brightest writers gathered in Jaipur and discussed love, literature, politics, and Sufi poetry. Some tried to defend Salman Rushdie's right to speak freely, through readings from his outlawed book, the Satanic Verses. On every screen and every newspaper photo behind them was the logo of Tata Steel, the kind, well-meaning hostess (and her company slogan - values harder than steel).
The enemies of freedom of speech and expression were the allegedly murderous gatherings of Muslims who, as the organizers of the festival informed us, could even endanger the school children gathered there. (We all know only too well how helpless the government and police in India can be when it comes to Muslims.) It is true that the hardline Islamic school Darol-Uloom Deoband protested Rushdie's invitation to the festival. Yes, some Islamists demonstrated at the venue. And it's also true that, outrageously, the state government did nothing to protect the site. That is why the whole story has just as much to do with democracy, voting and the elections in Uttar Pradesh as it does with Islamic fundamentalism.
However, only the defense of freedom of expression against Islamic fundamentalism received attention in the world press. It is important that she wrote about it. But the role of the sponsors of the festival in the war in the forest areas, the growing mountains of corpses and overcrowded prisons was hardly reported at all. Nor about injustice laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which even declare anti-government thoughts to be serious crimes. Or about the obligatory public hearing on the Tata steelworks in Lohandiguda, which, according to local residents, took place hundreds of kilometers away in Jagdalpur, on the premises of the corporate administration - in front of a 50-strong crowd and under the gaze of armed guards. Where was the right to freedom of expression? Nobody mentioned Kaliganar. No one spoke of the fact that people who deal with unpleasant issues with the Indian authorities were not granted visas or were intercepted at the airport - journalists, scientists and filmmakers on subjects such as India's secret involvement in the Tamil genocide during the war in Sri Lanka or the Nameless graves recently discovered in Kashmir.
But who among us sinners should have thrown the first stone? But not me, who live on the fees of the group's own publishers. We all watch Tata Sky, surf the Internet with Tata Photon, drive in Tata taxis and stay in Tata hotels. We sip our Tata tea from Tata porcelain cups and stir it with teaspoons made from Tata steel. We buy Tata books from Tata bookstores. Hum Tata ka namak khate grove. We live in a state of siege.
If the manslaughter demand for moral immaculateness is the criterion for who is allowed to reach for the stone, then only those people who have already been silenced are entitled to do so. Those who live outside the system - the outlaws in the woods or those whose protests are not reported in the newspaper, or all the civilized victims of dispossession who go from court to court, from instance to instance, and testify.
But our aha experience was a gift from the literature festival: Oprah performed! She loved India, she said, and she would come back again and again. That made us immensely proud. This pride is just the burlesque downside of art worship.
The Tatas have been practicing corporate philanthropy for almost a century. They give scholarships and run some excellent educational institutions and hospitals. Nevertheless, Indian companies have only recently been invited to the Star Chamber - into that radiantly lit world of global concert power, which is fatal for its adversaries, but which is otherwise so artistic that we are hardly aware of it.
End of the first part. The second of a total of three parts will follow in the August issue of “Blätter”. The translation is by Karl D. Bredthauer.
 Oprah Winfrey is a well-known US talk show host and entrepreneur. She visited India earlier this year. - D. Red.
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