New Delhi is like a huge five-star hotel, flooded as it is with lobbies of all types, shapes and interests. What is missing is an Indian lobby. We all know about Warren Anderson, former chief of Union Carbide during the Bhopal gas tragedy. He landed in Delhi and went to Bhopal.
Based on a non-bailable warrant, he was arrested and kept inside a guest house. Miraculously, its doors opened, and a flight took off by itself from Bhopal to Delhi and from there onwards to the USA.
Anderson left on December 7, 1984. Meanwhile, Adil Shahriyar, son of Muhammad Yunus — a close confidant of Indira Gandhi — was released from a 35-year prison sentence for illegal possession of firearms and drug trafficking following a pardon by president Ronald Reagan. Are the two events — the release of Anderson and Shahriyar — mere coincidences?
Rajiv Gandhi, who was also foreign minister in 1984, was apparently not aware of anything and a group of ministers (GoM) is looking into Anderson’s escape. Incidentally,home minister P Chidambaram and surface transport minister Kamal Nath, who were ministers of finance and commerce respectively in 2006, endorsed a proposal to let Dow Chemicals — the current owner of Union Carbide — off the hook with regard to “remediation,” or the clean-up of the contaminated site. Both are part of this GoM!
Another example is more bizarre. Naga political and student groups have been starving the Manipuris for more than two months by blockading the state. Petrol sells for Rs200 per litre and everything is scarce. But the Centre is still requesting (cajoling/begging) Naga militants to lift the blockade.
Now imagine what would have happened if it was the other way round: the Manipuris blockading the Nagas. It would not have continued for more than one day. The global Baptist Church would have created a ruckus and many delegations of leaders from Europe and the US would have rushed to India and our PM would have been forced to go to the north-east to make amends. But Manipur can starve since they don’t have a lobby.
In Delhi, we thus have a US lobby, a Chinese lobby (even unelectable Jairam Ramesh lobbies for Chinese businesses), a Middle Eastern lobby and, of course, a Pakistani Lobby. Obama’svisit reveals the power of the US lobby. It appears that in the last few days nothing of importance has happened in any part of the world. It’s just Obama all the way.
Then there are lobbies for the IT industry, for pharma, for liquor barons, for global arms merchants — lobbies for everyone from Aruba to Zimbabwe. But no lobby for India and Indians.
There are several reasons for it. One is our colonial genes. For our leaders, what is good for the US or Europe is good for India. We are physically here, but our minds are in Washington or London or Paris or Berlin.
Our leaders in Delhi do not consider India as a civilisation but as a market. Indians are just statistics. As former foreign secretary MK Rasgotra put it succinctly in an interview on the Anderson escape: “If, let us say, this gentleman Anderson had been arrested and tried in India, would corporates anywhere in the world… would they look at India in those circumstances?” Maybe. But the citizens of Bhopal are obviously dispensable statistics. They don’t have a lobby. That’s why the PR official of Dow, Kathy Hunt, said that $500 as compensation is plenty for an Indian.
Secondly, most of our leaders are rootless wonders. We don’t have an elected PM. Our home minister cannot get elected without coalition support. Our finance minister got elected only once, thanks to tacit opposition support. Rootless wonders do not fully grasp the pulse of the people.
We have also emasculated all organs of the state — the CBI, the CAG, the bureaucracy, etc. All are reticent about acting and speaking for India. Telecom minister A Raja is still around, and so are Suresh Kalmadi and Ashok Chavan. It’s quite clear that many of our leaders have ill-gotten wealth stashed away in foreign tax havens. Whether it is IPL or the Commonwealth Games, tax havens have a role to play in funding domestic activities.
Of late, even sedition has become fashionable, thanks to the mobile, one-woman, republic of Arundhati Roy. She does not perhaps know that the original Booker was a slave trader in Guyana. So her hands are stained by cash from the slave trade. But she is weak in history and wants to alter geography. If her audience protests against her seditious remarks, they are at fault, not she. As for Anderson, he left in 1984 saying, “I am free to go home. Bye-bye.”
Nobody is going to even mention Anderson’s name to Obama. The former proved with a few words that we are a cactus republic. Don’t call it a banana republic. Banana is a great fruit and offered to the gods. In these interesting times, when treason is considered respectable, we do need a lobby for India in Delhi.