Posts Tagged ‘Slum Landlords’

India’s Present – Britain’s Future under the Conservatives?

February 23, 2016

I’ve been reading John Kampfner’s book, Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty, which describes the process around the world in which nations are becoming more authoritarian, more dictatorial, as the rich and middle classes retreat from any kind of political involvement and simply concentrate on making money, blind to, or unconcerned with the political corruption, poor public services and glaring poverty and inequality around them.

One of the nations he discusses is India, where talks to a number of activists, journalists and radical politicians about this process of political stagnation. He describes the fury of the rich after the Mumbai terrorist atrocities in 2002 at the politicians’ failure to protect them, despite the fact that for many poorer Indians, political violence and its consequences are much more common. The country is considered safe, and compared with Pakistan, which is widely considered a failed state. Yet India has three times as many terrorist attacks as their neighbour to the West. He writes

The fury of wealthy Indians at the Mumbai bombings arose from the realisation that their pact had been broken. They had enjoyed a comfortable relationship with politicians and the state. They would finance political parties and line the pockets of their elected representatives. They would privately connive in corruption, while berating its existence in public. They would demand little from the state and receive little in return, except the right to avoid taxation. They would not have to rely on lamentable public services. Their air-conditioned 4X4s would glide over uneven roads; their diesel-fed generators would smooth over the cracks in the energy supply (in some cities power can go off for up to twelve hours at a time); their private tanks would ensure a constant supply of clean water. The elite had seceded from active politics and had been happy to do so. They never asked questions of the security forces when violence was meted out to the less fortunate. But what they did not expect, or take kindly to, was that their lives would be put at risk by incompetents at the Home Ministry, police departments, army or intelligence services. (p. 157)

This doesn’t quite describe the attitude of the Tories over here, as they are all too keen to exploit terrorism atrocities on the general public to extend the power of the coercive surveillance state. But in other aspects, it’s very true. There is corruption, and the rich are paying what are effectively legal bribes in the form of donations to the Tories and other parties. For all their professed concern over public services, the actual quality of service has declined as a result of privatisation and cuts. But they are unconcerned at this, because the sales of these public enterprises directly enriches them. Furthermore, they don’t use the same public services we do. I’ve got a feeling one of the Tories involved either in the rail network or bus services was caught making a disparaging remark about having to use them. He didn’t. He moved around the country in his chauffeur driven limo. And there may well be power outages. Private Eye has been forecasting that unless new power stations are built quickly, next year or at least a mere few years into the future, Britain will suffer blackouts and power cuts. And the rich over here, as in India, are completely indifferent to the grinding poverty outside their own small circle.

Remember: India and Developing Nations like it are the model held up for British workers to emulate by Priti Patel and the others behind Britannia Unchained. In order to compete with the Tiger economies, British workers should worker harder, for less pay and with fewer welfare benefits. Kampfner gives this description of the appalling plight of Indian’s masses:

In the twenty years of liberalisation, the poor, the 75 per cent of the population living on less than $2 a day, have lived a parallel existence. Their plight is as acute now as it’s ever been, inextricably twinned with malnourishment and illiteracy. The grinding routine of India’s downtrodden, and the humiliations they endure, has been documented in trenchant critiques by Pankaj Mishra, Arundhati Roy and others. Books and films have described the deals between the slumlords, the police and the politicians, the extortion and protections rackets, the beatings, the constant threats of relocation and demolition, the particularly misery the monsoons bring. Research academies provide a welter of statistics, charting levels of inequality. For all the economic growth, less than 1 per cent of the budget goes on public health. Child malnutrition levels remain higher than much of sub-Saharan Africa. UNICEF studies have shown that more than half of all women and three-quarters of all children below the age of three in India are anaemic. The problem is not lack of information or transparency, but a lack of will.

Let’s see, growing starvation and malnutrition? Yep, that’s over here, due to cut welfare benefits and low wages, people are being driven to use food banks simply to survive.

Slum landlords and demolition. Well, there was Peter Rachman in the 1950s, and then Nicholas van Hoogstraten in the 1990s, who were two of the most notorious. The Tories housing policy is pushing housing beyond the reach of all but a dwindling number of the rich, and the poor are being pushed out of their homes as they’re bought up and gentrified. And people have been forced on to the streets by the bedroom tax.

Of course, the problems faced by contemporary India are far vaster than those in Britain. At the moment. But India, and nations like it, are the Tory model, regardless of what they spout about ‘One Nation’ Toryism and helping the poor. This is what we’ve got to look forward to for our country, if they remain in power.

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