Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ambani/Mittal and Lohia: A Tentative Remark

One of the news that most Indian news portals flashed persistently throughout today was about Mukesh Ambani and Laxmi Narayan Mittal being the richest Indians. We, the Indian readers, are supposed to be waiting for one of these men to become THE richest man in the world. Because that will strengthen our tentative hopes that India is indeed becoming a developed nation. We are in a hurry to overtake America and other Western societies. We want to be rich like them. We want to be like them in all aspects. And in all this we forget that one of the reasons, besides others, for them becoming rich was colonialism. They were able to find a way to boost their economies at the cost of other nations.* Ram Manohar Lohia (on whom I am sipping lately) had an interesting insight about this. He said that we can't be advanced like West unless we ourselves become colonizers.** Either we find colonies on other planets or "colonize" the people within our own country. The latter is indeed happening. Singurs and Nandigrams are examaples of this internal colonialism. We can stretch it further to Kazakhstan where Mittal was accused of slave labour. Mukesh Ambani did not want to think beyond his profit in last year's gas crisis, completely overlooking public interest. Of course, the issue also exposed the inaptness of the petroleum ministry. It's ironical that these men have become mascots of our national pride.

We want more and more to look like Westerners in the way we do our business and the way we evaluate it's benefit to our society and our people. Is that the only way? The recent global recession and, closer home, the Satyam fiasco, should propel us to look for alternatives.

(16 March 2010: Apparently that insight came to Lohia via Gandhi, who expressed similar thoughts in his journal Young India on 7 October 1926 [cited by Kishan Pattnayak in his Vikalphin Nahin Hai Duniya, New Delhi:Rajkamal, 2000, p 87.])


* One can counterbalance this with Max Weber's idea of puritan ethics and developement of capitalism in Western Europe but that's for some other time.

** Lohia also recognizes the fact that the 'greatness' of modern Western civilization owes to spiritual dynamics of faith, which has been ultimately undermined by an unbridled cult of 'industrialism'.

1 comment:

Iris said...

Your horizon seems to expand both socialist way and economist way together.:)

This post made me think ArcelorMittal("AM") again-the King of the 21st century Metal. Global top metal company which has never built any virtual factory, but through strategic M&As, It keep recreating firm value, having those dying aquiree companies have thier lives again. That's what I have known of it so far.

Put aside the unconditional national pride for external success of AM, your re-evaluation would give a positive impact on slow-right way, not on fast-wrong way, if I term it simply.

Putting the term 'colonialism' to economic-related activies would require us to be most prudent. It's quite a political term. Some would feel discomfort. I don't exactly know what you meant by 'in cost of other nation'. Are you referring to their M&A eat-eaten activity?

M&A is rather supported by national level and enterpreneual level. Unproductive&inefficient dying companies sometimes want other possible inquirer to take over them. It can be a great solution to minimize every sacrifice affecting from firm, employee to society and world.

Even though Kazak slave thing is a bad news, it doesn't necessarily need to be called 'colonialism'.

Those large companies now need to go together with people. In that sense, corporate social responsibility is a requirement. If those companies seems go wrong way, consumers would have to boycott.

As a 3rd party, I see India differs from America in culture, religion, political system, and economic activities. American economic system is quite a failure.(I am not talking about market failure). Many expect India would be G2 by 2020-2030. I hope India not be America over again.