Sunday, February 13, 2011

Low cost, who, China?

MADE IN CHINA. These three words have influenced the world as no other in recent times. With China being the low-cost manufacturing centre for a range of products as wide as the Great Wall of China, conglomerates as well as the countries backing them have sought to appease the world’s most populous country (at least for now). However, recent events in India conclusively lead us to the fact that China is only so in title with its south Asian neighbour emerging in covert as the actual low-cost destination for industries, despite a massive conspiracy being hatched to scuttle it’s rise.

And no, this is no repeat of Economist’s “China’s dragon v/s India’s tiger” features or a speculation on the cables inadvertently leaked by well...Wikileaks. If what you have read until now sounds incomprehensible, here is an instance of how India is going at great lengths to assert itself on the global manufacturing map and how the same is being portrayed in the most hideous manner by its media.

The 2G telecommunication spectrum scam, or simply the 2G scandal, is misinterpretation at its worst. At its heart we have our Hon former Union minister for Telecommunication, Andimuthu Raja, who dared to encourage newly-started telcos by auctioning to them spectrum at subsidised rates (after all, don’t we have government subsidies for food and fuel, to name a few?). How else can we give a fillip to a new entrant in the telco sector (brand new to be precise, if you take into account that some companies involved were formed hardly days prior to the auction of spectrum), which is dominated by giants like Bharti and Vodafone? Come to think of it, Raja was not just a politician; he was a statesman beyond compare due to his foresight, as he dared to challenge the low-cost philosophy of the Chinese. Since it was impossible for him to achieve this all by himself, he had to seek the help of a few, most notably his party mentor and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who in his home state had sent the radical message of exerting cultural identity even at the cost of one’s life by distributing citizens colour TV sets and dhotis/saris during Pongal this year, when they did not have enough to eat (I only hope that the legendary Che in his grave learns a lesson or two from this great human being). Unfortunately such measures were termed populist by the opposition parties. It is a matter of concern that he is waging a losing battle there, but we choose to digress no more.

Such was the involvement of MK in India’s hitherto unprecedented telecom revolution that he is said to have personally examined the issue, and asked his daughter, the poetess parliamentarian Kanimozhi, to help our statesman. In fact, it now comes to light that a media house of the DMK, Kalaignar TV, too, was deeply involved in transforming our country by managing certain transactions involved. This means that generations of the future would find it hard to fathom that such a man ever walked on the earth (with due apologies to Albert Einstein!). Sadly, all these persons get in return are the accusation of having purloined some of the nation’s precious resources. If Manmohan Singh could be featured on Newsweek for his financial acumen, these two definitely need something more commemorative.

The S-band spectrum scandal (it hurts me whenever I am forced to use this word), where ISRO had reportedly offered exclusive spectrum to a private company at low prices, is another case in point. It is even more offending when the media instead of applauding the organisation for its gesture, speculates a fraud. Messrs Radhakrishnan and Co., in my eyes you have done the country a great service, and have no reason to feel ashamed. I am of the certain belief that China was tipped about these schemes and planted stories in our ever-salivating media houses in order to stymie their runaway successes.

The Adarsh Housing Society project, which again has the slur of ‘scandal’ attached to it, was one such revolutionary scheme, and to this day, has no parallel. Taking a leaf out of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of social justice, certain ministers of the Maharashtra government permitted the construction of plush apartments in Mumbai, adjacent to the Arabian Sea, and their sale at throwaway prices, all with the intention of accommodating people who have never had the experience of residing in a posh locality. But, in the end, the chief minister who had approved the project was unceremoniously booted from office, as the media got wind of the low-cost tag implications of the project, which must have caused sleepless nights to many a Chinese intelligence and Communist Party official.

And the list does not end there. A similar thread runs in innumerable of its counterparts - from the Bofors scandal (truly, the greatest of its kind) to the fodder scam involving Laloo Yadav; from the Sukh Ram bribery scandal to Harshad Mehta’s Hawala stock-broking scam; from the Telgi stamp paper scam to the Commonwealth Games scandal.

As I type, I utter a silent prayer so that our nation may derive the strength to become the cynosure of the world for all the right reasons.

Jai Hind.