Oh, The Sweet Taste of Capitalism!


When the flood-gates of the Indian economy opened up in the 1990s, the whole nation rejoiced. They felt that they have been waiting for this day all their life. This writer included, that was the moment equivalent of the Second Coming. The petty grievances of the weak Left were never to be considered and nobody thought they needed to pay even a customary hearing. We tasted the first sweet output from the liberalisation: private TV channels. When the relatives of the leader of a political party started a TV channel we thanked them profusely, because their channel was ‘colourful’; we got to see more film-related programmes and more film-stars. We couldn’t thank the government enough when they brought in MTV. Oh those music videos! Oh those dancers gyrating against the walls! Liberalisation and capitalism was going to make us all Americans!

Sure enough, Coke and Pepsi came. Life was just great! KFC came, although those stupid, backward-looking farmers protested in front of the store that got KRC worried and hold off opening more branches. We were just inches away from becoming full-blown Americans that was spoiled by those poverty-loving farmers.

Then came the next revolution in Capitalism: the cars! Tired of seeing clunky Ambassadors, occasional Padminis and some boxed Marutis, we were treated with Fords, Toyotas, GMs, Daewoos and Hondas. Indian streets never looked better! Private car companies came to our homes with attractive EMIs eagerly offered by private banks. Those private banks were air-conditioned, plush and we were attended to by young, beautiful women officers who were so eager to do business with us that they often forgot to adjust their necklines. Gone are those days of public sector banks, where you’d have to wait endlessly standing outside the manager’s cabin in the dingy, cob-webbed branch; only, in the end, to be denied the loan because you couldn’t show a house in Poes Garden for their collateral security requirement.

How stupid Nehru must have been to have professed socialism and allowed public sector companies to grow! How stupid our people must have been for voting him again and again to power so that he could implement those backward-looking policies with uninterrupted zeal!

The next revolution was even more exciting. Earlier, during those dark, socialist days, a phone connection meant a deposit of 3000, huge sum for most of us, followed by a wait of three years, which even after installation, took nearly two to three months to work properly. Voila enter our private telecom players! They gave you a phone connection the same afternoon! You couldn’t believe your eyes! And you didn’t even have to pay any security deposit!

We began to worship our leaders. We created neologisms to eulogise them. We added ‘economics’ to the names of our leaders to make it sound like they, themselves, are synonymous with good economics.

Once the flood-gates were opened, there was no stopping. Some of our stinking public sector enterprises were sold out to private businesses. The businesses which took over were rich, family owned businesses. We didn’t mind. We hated those public sector companies anyway. What right did they have to burn the ‘taxpayer’s money’ and breed inefficiency! Well, yes, along with MTV and Coke, we also imported the American term ‘taxpayer’s money’ although most of us don’t pay any tax. But who cares.

Egged on by the energetic media, trumpeted by the middle-class that has just begun to taste the IT-blood, our state governments too joined the bandwagon. They started eagerly attracting ‘investments’. They started privatising their state businesses. They privatised the generation and distribution of Electricity. Followed by broadcasting, communication and power, other, more tangible assets began to be privatised.

(To be continued..)