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Anyone to ‘Occupy Dalal Street’
Issue Date - 10/11/2011
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Now that Sarah Palin is out of the American Presidential race and Lindsay Lohan probably back in the jail, the whole of America – and hence the whole of the world – is talking about the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Sans the sound and fury, this grassroots outburst of rage is about a majority no longer willing to lie down and let a small minority of the elite fix the rules of the game and even the whole system to gain at the cost of the majority.

That got me thinking. Why is India not witnessing a similar movement that can be labelled as ‘Occupy Dalal Street’? After all, if you are familiar with colloquial Hindi, the very name given to India’s stock market and financial powerhouse reeks of fixing and worse. To fall back upon colloquial Hindi, what is the role played by a Dalal in India? And what image do you conjure up in your mind when someone tells you: “ Oh, that guy is a dalaal”? If contemporary Wall Street in tandem with Washington (Despite Obama’s once soaring and now empty rhetoric) represents the worst of crony capitalism, Dalal Street in tandem with Delhi (Despite Indira Gandhi adding the word ‘Socialist’ to the Indian Constitution during the Emergency in 1975) has always represented the worst of predatory and marauding crony capitalism. So with public anger at an all time high, why not an Occupy Dalal Street movement or a movement to banish Dalals from Indian deal-making?

During the early heady days of the Anna movement, when it was the national pastime to label all politicians and all bureaucrats as crooks; and when the brouhaha over the 2G scam was at its peak, I had asked a simple question in this magazine: how is the media so enthusiastically joining the mob in condemning the system even as it bends over backwards to portray all Indian businessmen and industrialists as visionaries and demigods? I had asked, if politicians and bureaucrats have looted you and me in the 2G scam, what about the businessmen who actually dish out the moolah? I am yet to get any credible answer.

I know, some will argue that the Indian system forces businessmen to pay bribes; otherwise they would compete with Mother Teresa for saintliness. Even naïve journalists, NGO activists and political workers know that Indian businessmen are often far more crooked, venal and corrupt than the much reviled class of politicians and bureaucrats. Recently, a group of Indian industrialists made a public demand in a letter to the hapless Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to stop a group of businessmen hijacking the country in cahoots with politicians. Yes, they specifically stated that many of their fellow businessmen are crooked, bent and worse. Did we get any serious debate in the media on the role of crooked businessmen in making India a banana republic? Sorry folks, when it comes to crooked businessmen, our media has more important things like advertising revenue to consider. Crooked businessmen give the moolah to netas; they also give ads!

Our system is so rotten that even Kiran Bedi has the effrontery to portray her patently unethical behaviour as a righteous deed. To borrow again from colloquial Hindi, or Urdu, if you insist: Is Hamaam Mein Hum Sabhi Nange Hain!

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