- - Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

America’s latest Clinton scandal — the 2010 sale of U.S. uranium to a Russian-controlled mining company, which allegedly benefited the Clinton Foundation to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — has reminded me of the old proverb that says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

By saying this I do not mean that money in itself is evil. It’s greed, the love and worship of money, that corrupts and leads us down slippery slopes where morals become relative in the face of personal gain.

America is waking up to the crude reality that materialistic greed is the great high deity of today’s world. In this new religious order, money always takes precedence — even if the cost is risking national security.

In fact, whatever the final outcome of this scandal, Americans should be alarmed that something like this could happen right under their noses. It requires the complicity of an entire system — cooperation between multiple federal agencies, politicians and global financial interests and powers — to pull off the sale of 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

I write this because in India, where I’m from, a similar narrative about greed and systemic corruption is also coming to a head. And it’s been largely triggered, among other factors, by a book that was published nearly a decade ago.

In his 2009 book, “Post-Hindu India,” scholar Kancha Ilaiah unmasked an elite caste group coalition, which has monopolized large sectors of the Indian economy. Mr. Ilaiah coined the term “social smuggling” to describe how wealth has been historically kept within the borders of powerful caste groups, whose exclusive business practices based on a historical notion of caste privilege have perpetuated the poverty and exploitation of the majority of the Indian population who are lower castes.

Today, members of these elite caste groups own most of India’s largest banks, transportation businesses, pharmaceutical providers and media companies. They also wield incredible influence within India’s political structures. Mr. Ilaiah calls the modern economy abetted by globalism this group has created “crony caste capitalism,” alluding to how it revolves around this tight-knit community. The richest of the rich in India are dominated by these caste groups.

Globalization catapulted India into a global power, but the fruit of the new, open capitalist Indian economy has been largely gleaned by a small elite group. It’s one of the tragic consequences of globalism: The rich and powerful get richer, while the poor and oppressed who are the majority lose out.

This past year, while “majority middle” India has suffered greatly under a mishandled demonetization effort and the bungled implementation of a Goods and Services Tax, top businesses have actually experienced an economic boom — all the while the economy has undergone a serious downturn.

India is now ranked 100th in the world hunger index. More than one-third of the world’s stunted children are in India. This isn’t because India does not produce enough food. It’s because those who buy the grains, clean them and market them put the price beyond the income of “majority middle” India — the India of the farmers who commit suicide because their crops don’t get the minimum price value promised by the local governments. In the era of globalism, when India is becoming a global power, hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide due to economic despair.

What’s perhaps most disappointing about the growth of the rich elite in India is that an accompanying philanthropic culture has been sluggish at best. Even while India has made positive gains in recent years in its giving, it’s still one of the lowest-ranked nations in terms of charity. In fact, the previous government had to pass a compulsory 2 percent allocation toward corporate social responsibility to encourage giving. The monopoly on the Indian economy by the elite might be one of the driving reasons why the rich in India are not as generous: Economists have found billionaires are less likely to give if they’ve inherited their fortunes than if they’ve built their own wealth.

While philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in the West have pledged the bulk of their wealth to social development, few of India’s billionaires — and India has the fourth-highest number of billionaires in the world — have followed their example. In fact, when Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett traveled to India to invite billionaires to participate in their Giving Pledge, the response toward charity from the wealthy in India was embarrassing.

In the state of Gujarat, which has local elections this month, there is widespread economic discontent. The middle majority is upset because wealth creation focused on hoarding without philanthropic responsibility is immoral.

Mr. Ilaiah has touched the same raw nerve those probing the Clinton scandal touched in the U.S.; he has exposed greed and elitism for what they are. And just as middle America coalesced against the political establishment in the 2016 election, so is middle India rallying against the economic and political establishment.

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the states where the controversy over Mr. Ilaiah’s book originated, a rainbow coalition of people from both low and upper castes who have lost out on globalism are coming forward to support his call for investment in education, public health, joblessness and the agrarian crisis.

India finds itself in the throes of a great struggle between greed and justice for the millions of Indians who are yearning for equitable economic opportunity and freedom.

India cannot move forward in its goal to become an economic superpower before solving this ethical dilemma of caste crony capitalism.

Joseph D’Souza is the moderating bishop of the Good Shepherd Church and Associated Ministries of India.

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