Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Malthusian Economics

Malthusian economics, as we know well from the works of Charles Dickens, was essentially posed to get rid of the poor and usher in the industrial revolution. Today, we understand the digitalisation revolution as an ongoing aspect of just such similar politics, as preliminary to the journey to Mars. By forcing the population into the strait jacket of conformity to a laboratory society, the Modi government has made it very clear the politics of  its extremism. Ghettoisation of Muslims in Gujerat was the first step, Extinction of the Poor the second, as this government supports industrialised farming and conspicuous consumption, promising smart cities and sanitised waterfronts. Amit Shah promises a car to every villager, as he does not have to face the traffic jams and the poison gas of the city of Delhi, in his siren wailing, gun toting -security guarded,  airconditioned and curtained car.
In America, Trump’s victory establishes the reign of similar right wingers. There too, the poor will be sent off to war, to “fight for their country”. The poor are enlisted from the agricultural populations in stifled hinterlands, and those who in the city,  find no other avenues to work. They are promised University education, on their return, or are treated for medical and psychiatric disorders in state funded camps. While they work very hard to normalise, their real life is represented in the patterns of loneliness and despair, and constant running away, mentally and physically, that makes them typical of a new class of refugees. The occupation of war keeps the arms manufacturing, the medical industry and the insurance companies well integrated with the genetic manipulation of food industries.
A demonetised proletariat in India is rendered servile, and kept from earning their daily wages. They are subjugated by the machineries of the state, which include private security agencies,  as well as police, who threaten them with dire consequences should they break out of the interminable queues to which they are shackled, in order to buy their bare necessities. A death here and there, a suicide now and then, are all flecked off as the unnecessary detritus of a well oiled state machinery that speaks to itself.  The banalities of Mr Jaitley can only come from being completely out of touch with the every day life of the nation. As for the black money, it is turning into white, at the invitation of the government, and we presume that the quantities of used notes will now be recycled into making new notes, which will return to the public, when the machines have been recalibrated. Everyone waits anxiously in queues to withdraw from the bank, and to pay the daily labourers they may employ as carpenters or gardeners or maids. The ideologies of the political parties are varied, so each political party, which has behaved exactly as we expect them to do, which is populist and petty bourgeoisie, including the Communists, ask the same question, “Why were we not told?”
Trump’s contribution to war mongering has been so arrogant, that it causes some embarrassment to the viewer. Modi’s call to war against terrorism carries much the same rhetoric. By demonetisation, the State’s coffers are full, and war is one way of spending the cash. Let’s hope that the military does not become a collective of mercenaries looking to exchange lives for promised pensions. When the Government said, after a tragic suicide by an ex soldier that the  promised OROP was only  to collect votes, the nation was completely startled. A young girl’s suicide after several attempts to get money out from the bank has been horrific. No one more than the Indian media has been alert to the travesties of justice in this government. Can we just stop to ask why the RSS thinktanks in the Government would believe that they can do what they want, without thinking of the consequences. The Ambanis are not in the news, the Adnanis have everything their way, the Swiss accounts of those who siphoned money out of the country are in a haze of anonymity. The rich do not look discomfited one bit, their credit cards are numerous, and their servants stand in queues for them. Whose laughing now all the way to the bank?
Prime Minister Modi  did not know that majority of Indian people are not yet digitalised, because they are wage workers, who  may have mobile phones, but only literacy and computer skills allow for internet banking? For those who are elderly, or first generation literate, the miniscule screen of the mobile blips too fast, before they can punch in the required information. We know, even in the case of 40 naval officers who lost money in internet banking, that education and power are not enough to tackle the hackers in IT. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Business Houses

Family Firms                                                                                                       
 The late K.M Mathew, describes in his autobiography, the famous Mammen Mappillai family, founders of the Malayala Manorama in Kerala. Written at the age of 90 years, Mathew wanders through a labyrinth, with the help of his mother’s ring, symbolising love and integrity, left to him by his father, who had melted down his wife’s ornaments and had a ring soldered for each of his children. So, K M Mathew calls his memoir, “Ettam Modram” or “The Eighth Ring”,  (Penguin Viking 2015) as he was the eighth child.
The book takes on the analogy of the Ancient Mariner, with the parallel of the sea farer who tells a tale, but we remain transfixed as readers as the author writes about the travails of the family which go through unusual situations of wealth and poverty. It is as much a history of Kerala, told from the point of view of dominant caste politics, as well as their relationships with their friends and those who served  them. One of the chapters is devoted totally to the collusion politics of  C.P Ramawami Aiyar against the St Thomas Christians and the Mammen Mapillai family in particular. Participation in the Freedom Movement by the author’s father, , eight years in prison and then to return broken hearted to the bedraggled circumstances of their lost fortunes is told with intimate detail. The banks that Mammen Mappilai owned were shut down, the newspaper closed, and the family had to restart it’s ventures.
“Appachen could not bear the disappointment when the establishment that he had nurtured with his dreams and hard work, and that had grown to become the biggest insurance company in India, changed hands. It had flourished better than our bank. I sometimes think that even if it had not crashed, both the bank and the insurance company would anyway have been nationalised later, in 1969. The insurance company that Chaidambaram Chettiar took over from us became a part of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the LIC, when all the insurance companies in the country were nationalised.” (128)
Failure was not an embarrassment to the Mammen Mappillai family. The women kept cows and sold the milk to support the family. They all lived together, when circumstances forced them to, shifting out to their own homes when their economic condition improved. Their lovely home at Kuppapuram, near Allapuzha town became their icon, in the days when  several members of the family were shunting around in small houses  in Presidency towns, while finding new trades. The balloon factory became their first successful business during the second world war, with it’s market in Bombay, where one of the brothers lived and traded. The factory itself was in one of their tea plantations,  in Kerrikunda in Chikmagalur District. The smell of latex killed off one of their brothers, K.M. Jacob or Chacko, who had resisted the appearance of the factory next to his  well maintained colonial bungalow, in the tea estate. However, the profit motive and the good of the family  as a cluster, was seen to be sufficient reason to establish  the factory, in spite of the resistance of the brother who had inherited the family gene for bad lungs.
 How the balloon factory led the way to the Madras Rubber Factory is an enthralling story.  The  Manorama Family keeps its rural sensibility, and overthrows a multinational company, using their wit, loyalty of workers, and adherence to norms. Tragedy overtakes them many times, but they just pick themselves up and start again. Among his father’s papers Mathew finds a note to the children about losses incurred while building an empire. These include the failure of a chit fund, which is a type of local banking; a lemon grass producing oil unit; a wholesale business in Kottayam; a coir processing unit; losses incurred in the Kottanad, Tamarasserry, and Nilambur estates; ship purchased and losses incurred; a cigarette factory; a tile factory; losses in land purchased in Punalur, Chengars, Pullikkanam. (199)  Ofcourse these losses were nothing to the closing down of the bank, insurance company and newspaper, during the time when C.P ruled Kerala in the name of the regent.
The women K.M. Mathew writes about dominate the narrative. His mother always hired a house in Alleppey, to have her babies, since she didn’t want to give birth in Kuppappuram which flooded regularly.  His sisters in law are marked by their grit and effeciency. As for romantic love, K.M. Mathew suggests that he never had cause to think about women before his marriage, because it was not the custom. His love for his wife, Annamma is a  palpable and grateful love  which was immortalised through a biography of the same name, which I look forward to reading. Docility and authority were the two virtues women were meant to have, apparently.