The Scheme by Kalipatnam Rama Rao

  kalipatnam Rama RaoHey! Did you hear about it, the big trial in the city court? I was so wrapped up in my sister-in-law’s wedding preparations. I haven’t been reading the newspapers lately…

Yesterday I ran into Sissy Sarma and Divodas. They were on their way home, after attending the court proceedings.

 

We were chatting…

Sissy Sarma mentioned that there were nearly one hundred and fifty defendants and one thousand witnesses. Bhimarao, walking by my side, cut in, “What’s it? A squabble?”

“Oh, NO. It’s a plot!” Sissy Sarma said.

 

The word plot cracked me up. Why wouldn’t it?

I’d call it a scheme or a plot if it had happened between two or three people, and behind the closed doors. That’s scheming. But involving some one hundred to one hundred and fifty persons? And that too, one thousand witnesses on your side alone? That clearly shows that it has happened in broad daylight. You can call it by any other name, certainly not a conspiracy. No sir*. If you ask me, I’d say calling it a conspiracy is a conspiracy in itself. What’s the matter? Are you embarrassed to call it a rebellion?

 

So, that’s what I told them.

“Hey, mister, couldn’t you find the two separate words–conspiracy and rebellion, in your law books? Or, are you thinking of that English phrase: You hang them first; and then, give it a name. Is that what it is?” I asked him.

“No, no. That’s not it. True it’s a crime to overthrow or even try to overthrow a government that is lawfully elected. No matter where it took place; and by how many persons, that still should be termed conspiracy,” said Sissy Sarma.

 

Did you notice the force in his words? I wanted to shut him up but I held my tongue. The high-brow scholar spoke in his ostentatious tone, “What do you mean? Are you saying that both the royalty and the domain are immutable?”

 

They are mutable all right, he replied, but that should happen in strict accordance with the constitution. Thus, Sissy Sarma continued his shabby discussion on the constitution and the fundamental rights of the civilians. That’s when I told myself ‘no use keeping my mouth shut,’ and jumped into the argument.

“Come on, sir! You don’t mean that the people who wrote the constitution are that stupid!” I said.

 

That was enough to shut up Sissy Sarma. Divodas couldn’t take the heat from my pedantics either, and so, slipped away quietly into a nearby store, on the pretext that he wanted to buy some betel nut.

“I can’t argue with you,” said Sissy Sarma, annoyed, and walked away in big strides.

 

Yes, sir. Persons like him might be knowledgeable in matters like the constitution. But I don’t think he knows how the constitution was written or why for that matter.

Let’s talk about you, for instance. Let’s say you wanted to start a cooperative society, or a housing scheme, or a small cultural club.

 

Are you asking me, why?

Well, probably because you are some kind of an idealist. Either you want to improve your own lot or the lot of the others: your family, friends, or even neighbors; or, may be, because someone else has accomplished something and you want to outdo him … Something like that. One must have a goal. It could be just the love of service. Secondly, you need to set some limitations. You can limit it to your caste, community, the labor-class, farmers, the oppressed ex-landlords, … something; you can figure it out yourself. There are no organizations that do not have limitations.

 

You may or may not openly admit it but you make sure that you have some limitations.

Next, whatever your reasons are, for starting the organization, you also need to muster the support of a few others with similar interests. You can enlist their support but make sure that they don’t run you over. They must accept your leadership, follow your instructions and carry out your orders. That determines how you should draft your bye-laws.

 

You do have to be meticulous and draft the rules in such way that the rules allow you to tie up the hands and the feet of the people who might turn against you down the road. And you will also include the rules that protect your interest.

 

Let’s say, you are including a phrase ‘any citizen of this town’ in the law you were writing. You’ll also add a clause, ‘a domicile for at least twenty years’. Why do you think that clause is necessary? Because twenty-five years back you were not in this town, and it is over twenty years since you’ve moved in. That’s why. The process is the same when you introduce amendments to the bylaws.

 

You know there are some dumb democrats; they don’t know the nitty gritty details of the European democracy. As long as the mob is on their side, and they are benefiting from it, they keep jumping up and down like apes and holler the worn out phrases like the voting rights, the secret ballot, and such. If, by any chance, the people turn around and cross over to the opposition party, then the same democrats swap their song and would say, “To hell with democracy; our country is not ready for democracy; we are good only for ‘mobbocracy’*; no, sir, we are not good for democracy.”

 

[Note: A play upon the English term, for satire]

 

But, a true democrat would not give himself away like that. He won’t let even a fly rest on the system.

His very approach is different. Know how?

Of course, you know and I know. The senior citizens stayed away from voting in the recent elections, unlike in the past. The younger generation is better, by comparison. Why is that? ‘Cause the seniors have seen through the game we* are playing. It takes a while for the kids to see that. That being the case, what do you think, we should do? Okay. We will suggest that the voting age should be lowered to 18. That is what I call a real democratic plot!

 

[Note: In Telugu culture, the all inclusive pronoun “we” does not necessarily mean that the speaker is a participant. In this reference, ‘we’ is equal to ‘they’, meaning the people in power]

 

Whatever you do, you should come out like a true liberal. The other person fails to see you for who you are; you should bark only when the other fellow is weak. Never allow those, who don’t appreciate your philosophy, in key positions.. Even if somebody sneaks into a key position, you should make sure that they don’t mess up the organization. That should be your main goal. Starting from the simplest of the administrative details, each bit and piece should be oriented toward that goal.

 

Now, you think you are smart, right? Remember that they all have scrutinized the constitution, like splitting hairs, and studied it every which way, I mean, back and forth, up and down, a million times. It is running in their blood. Tell me this. Do you think they have drafted the constitution without some notion of where to drive the nails, to avoid a rebellion by the opposition– which articles contain what loopholes and so on.

 

Actually the phrase, ‘in accordance with the constitution’ is enough to tell us that we can not change anything, if we follow the rules of the constitution.

 

In short, it is like a home without exits but for one door, and that one door has a bed frame nudged against it. Under the circumstances, there are only two ways out for anyone who wants to get the family back on track. Either he should strangle you in the middle of the night or smash the walls. There is no third way out.

 

Somebody said that, “butchering Hiranyakasipu like an animal’ was not fair.”

The other person, a devotee of Vishnu, snapped, “What about the boon Hiranyakasipu has asked for?”

 

[Note: The story from Hindu mythology states that Hiranyakasipu, a demonic king, prayed Lord Siva and obtained a unique boon. According to the boon, he could not be killed by a man or an animal, on earth or in the air, and so on, practically making it impossible to eliminate him. After that, he became increasingly evil. Lord Vishnu took the form of Narasimha, half man and half lion, and tore out his guts in a manner that was not in direct contradiction with the aforesaid boon. The narrator says, according to one person, being killed, literally mauled, by a lion is not fair; yet that was necessitated by the boon, he had sought earlier]

 

Hiranyakasipu, in modern times, is the same; you can’t underestimate people like him. Paltry fellows are becoming millionaires, multi-millionaires, and billionaires, in no time; and, as if that is not enough, they are planning to climb up higher. Nobody, neither the people, nor the architects of the constitution are able to control them anymore. The modern Hiranyakasipu are hiding behind the constitution. There is not a thing on earth or in the constitution to stop them. I am not going to spell it out but that part of their body that should be cut short is beyond repair. That is why, the people have assumed the form of the ferocious Narasimha* [the form the Lord Vishnu took, half man and half lion].

 

[Note: See the previous note on Hiranyakasipu]

 

Have you ever heard such extremist thoughts in our history? If you don’t trust me, look it up in the entire literature of puranas and the historical documents.

 

So, all I’m saying is, whatever that scheming is, it should have happened at the outset itself, at the time of writing the original constitution. It happened for sure, when the Five-Year Plans* were implemented. There is enough evidence available right in front of our eyes to prove it.

 

[Note: After achieving independence, the India government drafted economic plans called Five-Year Plans, and implemented them. Most of them, as pointed out in the story, failed to accomplish their goals]

 

That is the real conspiracy. That is the original taproot. The rest of them are the off-shoots that grew out of that taproot. You have introduced a germ into the body called society. The body is weak, no doubt. But the body still has some immunity left in the system. In stead of being happy for having it, you are administering the medicine to kill, not the germ, but the immunity system.

 

Didn’t I say that the scheming has taken place at the very beginning, when the original plans were conceived. Now let me explain to you how the planning has happened. First, listen to me, and then tell me what would you call it, if not ‘scheme’, in your language,.

 

Have you heard of a man called P. P. Vaidyanatham? At first I didn’t realize what kind of a crook he was. It took me a long time to see him through. I thought he was somebody in the Ministry of Central Education. Just recently I’ve come to know that he had served two consecutive terms as a member on the Planning Commission.

 

I think, it is in nineteen hundred and seventy, I don’t remember the exact month, I was skipping pages through the Time magazine, and stumbled on his picture with his name written in huge letters in the magazine.

 

I got curious, wanted to see what was all that about. There was a two-and-a-half long column article written about him! Imagine an Indian being featured in the Time magazine. He wasn’t even in the position at the time. I was so impressed and decided to keep an eye on him.

 

It seems, he has the entire industrial network of the production in South Central India in his palm. He could wave his index finger and change the course of the entire importing and exporting business, so to speak. That is what the columnist wrote.

 

Eventually, I gathered lot of information on him. Here is what I’ve come to know: He was at first like anybody else only a ‘happeny tuppeny’ industrialist prior to independence. Of course, he was a kind of a freedom-fighter too. He went to London to obtain his ICS diploma. He didn’t get along with the Britishers there. Therefore he returned home, joined hands with a couple of merchants and money-lenders. Thus he started two or three businesses. He started writing articles like “Use only items produced by Indians” and grew up into writing huge books like “Indian economy under British rule”. He grew up, you know, like the bug in the cow dung that grows tentacles and expands into the level of an octopus.

 

[Note: Indian Civil Service diploma was a requirement to serve in high administrative positions under British rule in the early 20th century]

 

Now, he owns shares at least in 90 percent of the companies in the South; if not shares, partnership. If not him, his brother-in-law, or mother’s brother’s wife’s brother’s children,… somebody related to him in someway will have a partnership or shares. One person at least will be in a key position.

 

You know what my friend says:

If you try to find where the keyboard of the Capital is, no, you can’t find it in the city, not anywhere in that neighborhood. You are certain to find it only in the secret vault in his head office, in Tirucchi or Tirunalveli or some other place. That’s what my friend says. May be there is some exaggeration in it. But, you will agree that he is that kind of person.

 

That columnist in the Time magazine called him the Wizard of South India Chamber of Commerce. What do you think of that?

 

Some say that it takes a crook to appreciate another crook. Forget my words. He is a crook, so what? Aren’t there enough things in life, he has accomplished? Can we write them off like they mean nothing?

 

Here is his modus operandi. You show me the building you want to rent, in the heart of the town, if you will; and I will make sure that you got it. I will give you the principal to start the business. You pick the business after your heart. You will have five years to work on. At the end of the five-year period, you refund the principal. I am telling you, if you don’t file for bankruptcy by that time, I will bite my tongue.

 

People talk. So what? The tongue flaps, it has no bones. It twists and turns anyway you want. He became a crook, it is true. How do you think he became a crook? He became a crook because others let him and made him a crook. He still deserves credit for his work. You can not ignore his expertise and leadership qualities. Don’t talk as if possessing expertise and leadership qualities is a crime.

 

Sometime back, one of our local politicians was pointing a finger at him. Then I told him…

“Yes, sir. I agree we are a little short when it comes to national pride. If you have even an ounce of it, you wouldn’t pass him over with a cluck. It is unfortunate that he was born in this country and ended up in this setup. Could you imagine, how he could have prospered if only he were born in that great system, the great country, you call the heaven? Guess what could have happened to him?”

“He would have been the same even then,” Sarma replied.

“That is my point. So, just shut up,” I told him.

 

Yes, sir. If someone is blind, we have ways to get back his sight. What can we do about a person who has the sight but refuses to see?

 

Well, what I am saying is, in our country we have the opportunity to produce great leaders. That’s because ours is a spiritual country. That’s the reason.

 

We may have a Raman or a Tagore, once in a while, in the field of sciences or literature. That’s possible. I am not denying it.

 

 

When it comes to economy, it is a different story. Let’s admit it. We have the ‘primitivist’ among the primitive societies when it comes to economy. We live in a world ”where we still barter rice for curry leaves. That is our country.

 

So, we cannot ignore him, write him off as if he were nothing. He is such a great industrialist-cum-economist, you know. How can you snub a person who has made history! If you want, you can, but, I think one must have the pluck to make history. You’ve got to admit that.

 

But then again what does it matter, whether ordinary people like us, appreciate it or not? Even the greatest of the great leaders didn’t have the courage to disregard his guts.

 

Our leaders have decided that, after gaining the political freedom, we have to work for our economic freedom. While the Leftists and the Rightists in the country were raking their brains–wondering whether we should choose the capitalist economy or the socialist economy, this fellow introduced a new theory called mixed economy.

 

It is not really a new theory, except in name. The European countries have walked down that road in the past. This new theory is a kind of ruse to confuse the working class any time the working class gets smarter and starts hollering the lingo like socialism and such other nonsense. He has mastered that technique and called it mixed economy. I am not sure whether he invented the name himself, or borrowed it from others. I have my doubts about that, you know.

 

The political leaders, who are in power, especially those who are being beat up by the leftists and the rightists, were impressed with this new theory. They invited him to sit on his planning commission. Guess what he said in response? He said, “I am not a member of your party. You take me in now but I will walk out as and when I please. I will not take ‘no’ for an answer from you.”

 

The politicians accepted it, and then, he came up with another condition.

 

“You have the majority in the planning commission. After I got you to accept my proposal, it would be your job to get it passed. You, or the leaders of your party, must enter into a gentleman’s agreement with me, that you will make sure that my proposal is accepted, no matter what, I mean, under any circumstances.”

 

Such an air-tight plan. What other choice do they have? They all kept saying ‘yes, yes,’ for each and every one of his conditions and took him in.

 

Gandhi advised his followers to weave khadi; and also to go to jail. But, did he ask people to skim through the huge volumes on subjects like industrial organization? Did he suggest them to enter politics and study the mechanics of government? Did he ask people to enlist in the army and defend the country in war and peace?

 

 

I think, all our national leaders bypassed these crucial issues, and kept harping on every other aspect of education. Actually, they didn’t care about all other aspects either. They read history books and wrote autobiographies. Know why? So that they could make it into the pages of history books. A few others rewrote commentaries for Bhagavad Gita, or the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Not a single person seem to give the time of the day to the most important issues, and raise questions like ‘what should we do for our country? What does the country need?’ If, somebody had tried to raise the question, probably, the other leaders had squeezed his voice and shut him up.

 

That’s why, when the day arrived, they had to depend on the intellectuals, at times, on the intellect of the non-party members as well, for every tiny detail, starting from drafting the constitution to planning the government organizations. They called this “the people’s rule,” a “Rama rajyam” and, have succeeded in the process to convert it into the rule of the devil.

 

 

Can we blame Vaidyantham for being one of them? He kept blabbering about a socialist plan, created two plans, and got them approved by the government in a heartbeat.

 

Do you know the game he’d played? He said that we don’t need the socialist economy, nor the capitalist economy.

 

You know, we have a way, only one way of thinking in our country- the one our leaders taught us. Here is an example. Let me ask you this: Are the British our friends? Of course, not. Then, can we call them our enemies? No way. Not at all.

 

Are the Hindu religious practices good or bad? They are bad, very bad. On the other hand, if you remove the foolhardiness from our convictions, I can guarantee that there is no greater principle than the Hinduism in the entire world.

 

Now, let us take another subject, our language. Should we commend the virtues of the scholarly language of our pundits? Or, should we pick up the language of the ordinary folks, and put it on a high pedestal? Neither the first nor the second, if you ask me. The language of the respectable class, the polite language should be preferred by any token.

 

He grasped this national psychology of ours fast enough. If you ask him, “should we turn left or right”, he would say, “we should go straight ahead.” That is how he led them to the old school, the Bombay plan.

 

What is Bombay plan? Probably, you haven’t heard of it. In 1930s, I think it is Bose.

Bose was always forward in all respects, I mean, for good or bad. Anyway, Bose and a couple of other national leaders together drafted a national plan. On the other side, all the millionaires in the country got together and drafted a plan of their own. That was the Bombay plan.

 

[ Here is the mischief he (Vaidyanatham) had cooked up.

You know how they pop in a piece of meat between two slices of bread to make it palatable? That is what he did. He took a piece from the 1930s plan and another from the Royalists plan, 1938–sorry I called it the nationalist plan earlier– from that one, and he made a sandwich of his Bombay plan. And, he submitted it to the Parliament.

 

“What is this called?” they asked him. “That is called mixed economy,” he replied.

 

How many of them knew what mixed economy was; or, any economy for that matter? Even the highly-educated would not understand the ins and outs of it. Besides, most of our leaders don’t know nothing. They don’t even have a clue as to what they need to know, to speak the truth.

 

So, all those ‘yes’ men looked up to the senior leaders, like the way they always do. The senior leaders said ‘that’s fine,’ and approved it.

 

They finished two courses, and were on their third, before they realized that they were chewing pure meat; some of them were out and out fanatics of non-violence you know.

“What a racket!” they screamed and looked around. The man, the critical character in the planning commission, was long gone by then. By the time they’d come to their senses and found out what has happened, he was chairing the education commission. The other members of the planning commission, chagrin, rushed to the education commission. The critical character said, “Take your position and stuff it. I quit,” and walked away.

 

A few of them were furious. They screamed that it was a classic case of ‘our civilization gone amiss’, and that the politicians were dishing out the same Bombay plan, a little at a time, like a serialized novel. But, who is going to listen to them?

 

The members in the opposition party are also cronies of the big corporations, one way or another, right? Or, crooks in their own right. Among the rest, almost 75 percent of them are landlords. When they heard that the agriculture had been given priority in the plan, they were ecstatic, although they did not express it in so many words. In other words nobody raised any objection.

 

I have already mentioned that Vaidyanatham started out with agriculture. He said that the first preference would be given to agriculture. Why, do you think, he did that? There is one industry that would not prosper unless the agriculture was in good shape. That is the real reason. It was not because he wanted to help the farmers. Nor did he mean it as a solution for our food problem. If the country had benefited in these two areas, I mean, the farming and the food, they were just by products. The newspapers and the national leaders can kick and scream, all they want, about these two benefits, but in reality they were not their main concern. He banged on the table and spoke the truth.

 

Now, let’s move on to the second plan.

 

The bait, attached to this is even more luscious. Who’d you call ‘the people’? The poor people. If you want to improve the lot of the poor what should you do? The employment potential must improve. How can you improve the employment potential of the country, unless you start industries, big and small?

 

You can’t.

 

Do you know the reason why the third world countries like ours can not start industries and the industries that started could not survive?

 

No, we don’t know the reasons.

It’s the infra-structure. If we were to import every nail we need for our machinery from abroad our country will go bankrupt in no time. We will file for chapter 13 within a quarter of the century, trying to pay off the loans, the interest and the compound interest due to delays, etc. The vipers take over the anthills. At the end, even the freedom we got after such a struggle would grow legs and walk away.

 

 

What do you think we should do under the circumstances?

Of course it is hard but we do have to take up all the industries, small and big, the easy ones and the difficult ones, all of them, we have to undertake at the same time; we have to do it ourselves.

 

We can’t accomplish it by just talking about it.

If there is a will, there is a way. What are the things we need for starters? First thing is the raw materials. And then we look for the man power. After getting these two in place, we will look for the investment. We will need the people who are experienced to manage these three elements.

 

That is correct. We do have the first two items. What about the other two?

We have them too! Let’s admit it. Some of us don’t have the foresight. May be, not all of us, most of us for sure, don’t have the foresight. If we could see ahead, we will not be issuing statements like “let’s nationalize this, let’s nationalize that”. Did you see what happened because of this nationalization mania. The moneyed people are scared away. Those who stood the test of time in the industries started asking questions. Unless these circumstances change, we are as good as not having the two powers–the investors and the experienced.

 

So, what should we do to change the circumstances?

 

Nothing. We should leave alone the current investments as they are. We should let the investors know that we will not interfere in their management. We should assure them that we will give all our support, if they want, to start new industries. Then the moneyed people feel reassured. Those who have the guts will get excited. When that happens, the potential for investments goes up. There is one more thing. We are paying the damages for the ex-zamindars, right? That money also would be diverted this way, in stead of wasting on personal pleasures and material goods abroad. Otherwise, not only that money, but the entire property saved by their grandfathers and great grandfathers also disappears.

 

 

That’s the truth.

 

He has gotten his argument this far, and then, presented his real scheme.

You know you need a second bull to make it a pair for the yoke. If we want to start industries with the money from the public alone, we are not getting anywhere. We have to round up all the groups. There is small glitch here though. You may claim that we have one thousand cows all together, counting yours and the those that belonged to the king*. But no sir, the rich who are coughing up the solid cash will not go for it. Therefore, we need to separate the entire investment into two sectors. The public sector is the one, run by the government that is elected by the people, and with the government money. The second one, the private sector is run by the investors using their own money, or by selling shares to small investors. The success of the mixed economy relies on our ability to make sure that these two sectors are working hand in hand, like the two bulls under one yoke. We have to make sure that the two sectors do not compete with each other, would not step on each others’ toes, make sure that each support the other; and, for that purpose, we need to determine the boundaries for each. It is only then, we can channel all our resources toward production activity; and we will achieve a fifty-year production level in just 25 years. That is what I am planning to do, he said.

 

What is this? On one hand, you are saying socialism is your goal; and again, you are talking about the private investment, and special favors for the general public, as if they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths; it doesn’t make sense…

 

He said, “Sir, your government is still a baby. You have million problems on your head. You can’t have a successful industry or business unless you are totally committed to it. You must, first, focus on settling down. When you are ready to take over, we will take away the entire public sector with the stroke of a pen. Once the industry is in place, where would they go?

 

Isn’t that a good logic or what?

Now, let’s see which industries are to be classified under the public sector and which ones under the private sector?

 

He suggested that it is only fair that the government should handle all the heavy industries and let the private sector handle the minor goddesses like sugar and clothing.

 

That is where you see the cat started popping its head out of the bag. When we say ‘heavy industries’, we mean the iron, the steel, the heavy machinery that are needed for all the industries, big and small.

 

The industries that produce consumer goods like cement, bicycles, everyday clothes, and sugar are small industries. You can call them big industries, if they produce on a larger scale, and call them small industries if they are produced on a smaller scale.

 

Now it appears like we are talking about only numbers here. But there is a world of difference between the big and the small industries. To put it another way, the rice bag on your head is a big industry, and the sweet rice pudding that goes into your stomach is a small industry.

 

That’s what Vaidyanatham said. We all know that the heavy industries require millions of rupees for investment. Even if we accumulate all the tattered coats* of the millionaires in the entire country, we will not have enough, not even for one big industry. It is easy to enlist the sympathy of the foreign countries, in the name of love or interest of the poor people in our country…

 

That’s why I am saying the government should undertake all the big industries.

 

That is the truth. In any country, no matter how poor the people are, and how rich the wealthy are, when it comes to wielding power, we do have to turn to the poor.

 

We (ordinary people) don’t know these things. They [the people in power] don’t let us know. But, they are very well aware of such things. That is why he stated that the common folks can undertake heavy industries.

 

One quick look will make it clear that he was saying the right thing. We also have, in addition, the examples set by the other socialist countries.

 

There is one glitch, though.

Usually the socialist countries establish heavy industries with the idea of taking over the small industries eventually. What I mean is, in socialist countries, they use the people’s money only for helping the people.

 

On the other hand, here, you are saying that both the small and the large industries are reserved only for such investments. That is the only way they could prosper. You are making the people in the public sector get involved in the big industries, so that you could still have the chance, in case others try to sabotage your plan, to import the parts from abroad, when your machinery breaks down.

 

What does that mean? In simple English, you are preparing the ground the food for your baby cubs even before they were born.

 

This is where you can find his scam, if you look for it, and his skills in preparing the ground in the name of a plan to grow the poisonous tree in the future.

 

Nobody understood his plan, not the ‘yes’ men, nor those who opposed it, not even after a year and a half, after the big industries have been put in place.

 

In the large industries the investment is not the only problem. There are numerous other issues. Marketing is one of the major issues.

 

There is a considerable difference between the sales of the consumer goods and the sales of the industrial goods like the iron and the steel, as I’ve mentioned earlier.

 

We have millions of people to buy consumer goods. Things like soaps and daily wear are consumer goods. For many people, these are daily necessities. Such buyers do not form into organizations. Each one of them is a naive buyer. No matter how much you throw around your lingo like the production cost, the x-mill rate, and the retail power, it only adds up to their confusion.

 

They trust the storekeeper and accept price he quotes. If he says the rate went up, they’d say ‘okay’. On a rare occasion they may ask why or how the rate went up but they are not going to follow up on that. Ninety-percent of our people believe that the prices go up just the same way all other things grow, you know—the trees, the bugs and the humans, born as tiny things and grow up to new heights. Same way the prices go up naturally—that’s what the ordinary people believe.

 

That’s why, whatever the producer and the seller of the consumer goods say, is the final word.

 

That is not the case when it comes to selling the goods produced by the large industries. The consumers for them are the other industrialists, whether the native or foreign, doesn’t matter. I mean they are the super-crafty lions in grabbing the lion’s share of the profits. If anyone tries to confront them, unless that one is even of higher cadre, that person would be chewed up alive.

 

May be you know, may be you don’t, the mentality of the animals in the jungle. They don’t live like our goats and cows. Ours is group mentality. The jungle animals on the other hand are constantly on the alert. At best, the family is the biggest unit for them.

Once again, remember that they act like they are together only at the mating time. When it comes to eating time each for himself or herself. Even those who live in the same cave, when they start to bicker, they’d go for the jugular. That is the way in the families, too. Imagine how things would be, and how their relationship with other animals would be.

 

So…

All these loner animals again come together solid when it comes to hunting. You can say the same thing about the jungle animals or members of any other race, for that matter. They don’t compete with each other when they are being hunted.

 

In some ways, the businessmen and industrialists are like that.

For all these upper class rogues there are numerous platforms for getting together. A club is one such platform. Everyone, who has money, and is interested in amassing wealth, becomes a member of some such club. There are several clubs, like the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. There are again variations in those clubs too.

 

Let’s take the Lions Club for instance. They all belong to one fraternity. They have branches in every little town and, lately, in cities as well. Each branch in each town has a president; each zone has a chairperson; and each district—no, not our political districts—they have their own districts; each district has a governor; and so on. They are linked together; and then, there is some world organization at the top level. Our Indian Lion’s nature is a link in that chain.

 

Each link will have a leader. There is one person, the Lions International President at the top, in America, or somewhere; he is the leader for all the 320 districts in 149 countries. It is the same with the Rotarians.

 

They are purely social service organizations in name only. “Service above self” is their motto. You can imagine the kind of selfless social service they would render when the small countries join hands with the big countries.

 

They, the “well and widely organized, calculatingly intelligent and ruthless, greedy people” [sic] are the buyers for a particular kind of products.

 

For which products? For the industrial goods that are produced by the heavy industries in the public sector, and with the money of the people. Compare these buyers with the buyers of the consumer goods, meaning the ordinary people.

 

Then, let’s take a look at the sellers, as opposed to the buyers, I’ve mentioned earlier.

You know the common phrase, ‘having fun at somebody else’s expense’. The government invests the money that belonged to the people, and the smart industrialists, who don’t have anything to do with the money or the government, cook up plans and draw huge amounts in the name of honoriums or compensations.

 

There is no ceiling or upper limit for the wealth they amass. They do have a responsibility, accountability, but they don’t pay attention to it. Usually, they belong to the upper class, those lusting for the big bucks. Either way, those wisecres negotiate the terms with those over sized tigers, and close the deals.

 

Once again, I leave it to your imagination, the answers to the questions like: How do they conduct their business? When do they give in, and when do they go along with the other party? How do the parties are matched, who wins, and how does all this benefit us, the common people?

 

That’s it. Our seniors did not seem to have paid attention to such details. Or, like somebody said, they knew about these details and chose to ignore them. Anyway, by the time we got to the second Five-Year Plan, we are stuck in the quandary up to our eyeballs.

 

Our government went around, scratching the dough, here a little, there a little, and, when that was not enough, by passing the hat. Finally, they managed to complete the project. The large industries were put in place and production was started.

 

After that they continued to produce the goods all right.

One year passed by, and then, another half-year. They kept producing goods in huge quantities, but there was no market for their products. The products were being dumped in the public yards.

 

None of the local industrialists would come forward to point out the problem. They acted like they had conspired and decided to keep quiet…

 

We can’t export these goods either since there is no market for our products abroad. There is one market, the commonwealth market but there is no demand for our goods in that market. We cannot compete with the long-established markets of the other countries, like the Great Britain and Canada. No way. We can’t. We could not.

 

Then they called the people who could invest and asked them for their advice.

They said, “We don’t have the money to invest. Even if we have, we’ve got to be careful. You talk big, call it socialism and nationalization and such. Ours is hard earned money. We earned it, swapping our sweat and blood. If we give our money to you now as our investment, and, later, if you nationalize it, what we can do? Where we can we turn?”

 

The government replied, “Where else? Us. Didn’t we say that we would pay you compensation?”

 

We have a general practice in our villages. When we are heading to the court, people generally pop up one question, “What kind of case? The one, ‘you got it’?” If you say ‘got it’, you mean that you have got your opponent’s hair in your fist. By the same token, this has become an issue where they’ve ‘got it’. So, they can jerk us around anyway they please.

 

Finally, the government got the message that they got into a mess. They have realized that they were backed to the wall. Remember the jungle life I explained earlier- they got down to that level. Even without consulting with each other, they became a team on the spot and issued instructions to their sponsors. They, the sponsors, assailed the government from all sides simultaneously.

 

On one hand, the party members were dumping questions like in a torrent, and on the other hand, the press were attacking ed the government like bloodhounds. Talk about the editorials. You know the way our *lady writers write serials, just like that—the editorials became a serial novel.

 

[Note: Sarcasm on women writing in Andhra Pradesh]

 

Ah, talk about the press; let me tell you a little bit about the press:

A famous political philosopher once defined the press as “a huge instrument in the hands of the politicians backstage, one of the sneaky mechanisms in the name of people’s rule.”

 

The Press can make the government a huge success, if it pleases; or, it can ruin the government just as easily. It’s not just about the government only. If the press pleases, it can elevate a dead mosquito into a live, gigantic elephant, and, later, if it finds the elephant was not serving their purpose, can cut it short, to the size of the mosquito.

 

That is the reason even the most powerful politicians and their sponsors watch their step, and behave, when it comes to dealing with the press. They call it “briefing the press”, which is a way of currying favors. They pretend to be taking them, the press, into confidence, while making major decisions. It is not only our country but all other countries, follow pretty much the same pattern.

 

In our country also, most of the time–ninety percent of the time the gentlemen behind the curtain control the press. During the planning period, god knows what kind of understanding they’d come to, all the newspapers wrote elaborate articles supporting the plans and the planning methods. Now, the same newspapers opened fire, printed huge headlines, blaming the public sector and the planning affairs.

 

Why wouldn’t they?

The well-known columnists and the so-called distinguished editors, may go against their conscience, and go along with the government, if it were a matter simple oppression or suppression. But when the money and power come into play there is certainly no question of obligations or loyalties. If they do that, they will have to let go of all their amenities like the phones, cars and their rent-free apartments.

The persons in power do understand this logic of the press. They also know their game plan. But then, what can they do? Nothing. They got caught between the rock and the hard place.

 

The general populace lived under the delusion all along that the government is going to make a heaven out of this earth, with their industrial revolution. They presented it like there is a bridge between the socialist economy and the mixed economy, both at home and in the country.

 

Now…

You dare to admit that the industries do not survive in public sector? If you say that, the people will pull out the last strand of the hair on your head. Well, the hair can stay, the hair can go. That is not the issue. How can you disregard the truth? Okay, we agree on that. We cannot disregard the truth. And then what?

 

If the government is willing to hand over the industries, only the major industrialists are capable of running them, and that too, only with foreign collaboration. Both the parties are ready for that. Why then is all this hollering, screaming, mud-slinging, and bad-mouthing—why all this attack? I am coming to that: If you hand it over to the small industrialists, they don’t think twice about turning this country into another Arab world.

 

If you don’t hand over the industries to one or the other, if you hope to continue as it is, how long can you work with the production that has no market?

 

If you want to shut it down temporarily, what about the millions of rupees sunk into the industry already? The borrowed funds, a fancy dinner at somebody’s cost? Will the lenders let go of you that easy? No.

 

But there is a way to keep the lenders quiet.

What about the workers who depend on the industries for survival? It is a different matter if the unemployment is on the rise as a matter of natural course. That’s okay. These workers are accustomed to have some kind of steady income, big or small. If you demote them to nothing, and leave them without money even for a cup of tea, will they keep quiet? No ,sir. They’ll pull together all other phantoms, and recreate Dakshayajnam one more time.

 

Why bother with this tap dancing? Somebody suggested, “Why not the government undertake running the small industries with the industrial goods that the major industries have produced?”

 

Of course, the government can, but, even the smallest industry needs some investment. All the natural resources they had so far was hardly enough for the major industries in the public sector.

 

That’s where the really treachery lay.

When they make a snack out of you for the devil, you see, the little devils chew you up. That is the crux of the plan.

 

Thus, when all other doors were closed shut, the government ended up at the only door the Wizard of the South India Chamber of Commerce kept open.

 

The government got hold of some poor industrialists and offered all kinds of safeguards: Arranged loans from banks to those who complained about lack of funds; offered subsidiary funds for those who complained about the high costs of the Indian goods; offered protection from foreign competition even before asking for it; offered exemptions from some kind of taxation. The government had to do lot of explaining for this exemption scam, and they managed that too. In short, you name it, they’ve got it.

 

Those poor industrialists thus got into business. Some of them became multimillionaires and a few became little millionaires by selling their licenses to the super millionaires. and some others grabbed whatever they could and then filed for bankruptcy. THAT is what I call “The Scheme”!

 

The government annexed 566 zamindaris as if they were nothing. They abolished all zamindaris, big and small. Don’t ask me about the compensation, let’s not go there. It is during this period that all the industrialists and the millionaires were worried sick–worried when and how this progressive government was going to eat them up alive.

 

Imagine a person’s skill in getting that very government into the fist of the millionaires! Do you know what he did? Wow! It was like selling the story of the golden eggs to the same government, making them repeat it like a mantra; getting them stuck in debts up to their eyeballs; forcing them to spend a major portion of it on useless projects; calling it a kind of “economy” and drowning them in deficit budget; rendering both the bureaucracy and the ruling party corrupt, in the process; dissipating the last vestiges of self-confidence in both the people and the opposition parties; making the entire country, politically and economically, totally chaotic; that is not an ordinary feat to put up!

 

Certainly this has got to be “The Scheme”. Or the leaders we have trusted must be collaborating with the high way robbers.

 

The gem of our country, Nehru—What did he say? He said, “I put all these plans in place for the people; and see what has happened. The millionaires became multi-millionaires and the poor became poorer.” He said it with tearful eyes.

 

Would he lie? We may not know all the details, all that has happened behind the curtain but wouldn’t he know? Or, should we say, he was spilling crocodile tears? I don’t think so.

 

That is why I am saying, there is definitely some kind of conspiracy here. My information could be wrong. As Nehru is my witness, I know I am not wrong. As for you, the proof is in the pudding, you believe your eyes. That is your proof.

 

Thus while millions of people are grappling with famine, unemployment, and for daily necessities, the millionaires are piling up millions on millions, and they are doing fine, on other side of the fence.

 

Why? ‘Cause all their activities are being conducted within the limits of the law. Or else how can we explain this, you tell me. The same government that goes out to hunt the outlaws, who were hiding underground or in the wild forests, would not touch these millionaires living amidst us?

 

The government can’t do anything since the very constitution they have drafted is protecting these millionaires. That is why they are doing fine.

 

All this looks fine for us. We are not losing anything. But those who lost everything, the poor people, would want to change things. But you won’t let them. If they try to change, you will call them traitors, or, ‘schemers’. You would call their efforts to change things a ‘scheme’.

 

Let me ask you this.

 

Wouldn’t you call it a conspiracy, if the leaders, or somebody in power, mislead the ordinary people, and cheat them? Can you call the poor “traitors” because they try to expose their scheme, rebel against it, encourage others to rebel? Is that a conspiracy?

 

Which one is conspiracy? Which one is betrayal?

 

One can bluff his way out, as long as he has the press in his hand and the platform at his disposal. But the Truth is the Truth. They may tell you to shut up your eyes, ears and mouth, like Gandhi’s three moneys, and may even try to force you to keep your eyes, ears, and mouth shut. But?…

 

ÀÀÀ

 

[Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on thulika.net, September 2003.

 

Translator’s note:    The speaker, a sagacious villager, analyses the art of scheming in minute detail from the moment of its germination to the time it becomes a larger than life-size monster; and how the schemer manipulates the politicians and swallows the little people in the process. It is just about as scary as the Enron scandal.

The story is narrated in first person. The language is conversational; the tone is one of sarcasm and satire.   Author also coins some English words, ridiculing the English usage in India.]

(Published in Virasam special issue, “Nijam” [Truth], dated 15 August 1972)

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