Bailing out the King of Good Times
Vijay Mallaya, the self proclaimed ‘king of good times’, and his fleet of aircrafts have fallen from the skies. In the last two weeks the Kingfisher airlines had to ground more than 200 flight routes and scores of Mallaya’s ‘hand picked staff’ have gone on strike. Vijaya Mallaya has sent an SOS signal to the government of India and has pleaded for a bailout. This plea, in the expectation of receiving subsidized loans, is totally hilarious. But this hilarity can well turn into a mockery of the Indian republic and its citizen if the government goes ahead and bails this private enterprise whose greed and bad business sense has brought this situation on to itself.
I am traveling in interior Jharkhand since the last week, meeting various Adivasi groups each fighting and protesting impending displacement that will be caused by corporations that have their eyes set on the mineral wealth here. These are Adivasis, the original inhabitants of these forests and regions, whose relationship and entitlement to their land and forests far predates any state – Moghul, colonial British or modern Indian – or the idea of state. Even so, the corporations have the audacity to conceive of looting these original inhabitants (and have done so many times in the past) because they have utter faith on the heavy muscles of the overzealous government of India. It is perhaps this faith that prompted Mr. Mallaya to seek help from this corporate friendly government.
Why should I and other taxpaying citizens bail out a company that is private enterprise? Why should I bail out a private company that earns millions more through its breweries and other enterprises? Why should I bail out a private company that can spend millions in buying a whole team of cricketers, make them play instant cricket to packed stadiums wearing its logo and earning millions more in the process? Why should I bail out a private airline when my own national carrier (Air India) is bankrupt? What did I do wrong that Mr. Mallaya is expecting that I should cough up my hard earned money so that he can continue to have good times?
If I, and my government did have the money, here’s a list of urgent matters that I would want to bail out:
– The thousands of children dying of malnutrition
– The millions of landless farmers caught in debt trap who still waiting for the effective implementation of the various Land Reforms Acts
– The millions of under-trail prisoners rotting in the various jails in India because they don’t have enough money to bail themselves out (and most of them have already spent more time in jails than they would have if they had been found guilty!)
– The many hundreds of desperate farmers who are about to commit suicide because of failing crops and mounting debts
– The thousands of Dalit children who drop out of schools every year because some teacher or fellow student repeatedly insult them by calling them inferior and untouchables
– The millions of rural artisans who are giving up the artistic professions and forced to migrate and live in filthy slums because we have not yet worked out effective marketing of their produces
– The dozens of human rights activists imprisoned under false charges of sedition and violence against state (some of them even sentenced to death by hanging!)
– The millions of tribals in this country who have been forced out of their farms and ancestral lands because other ‘barons’ of the corporate India are hell bent on mining out the last piece of coal, iron and bauxite from under their homes
This list, very unfortunately, can go on and on and extend endlessly. A short trip outside the brightly lit cities of our country taken with an open heart and ear will result in an atomic explosion of that extended list.
I am sorry Mr. Mallaya, but I cannot bail you out.