The Sandalwood State anoints its Maharaja (Part XIV)

By Philip Mudartha
Udupi Today Media Network

 

Thursday, 23 May 2013: The year was 1963. A mud track was branching off Katpady-Belman main road, in Udupi district, at Subasnagara to meander through Kunjargiri, Pajaka, Madhvanagara, Padubelle and Shantipura before merging back into the main road at BC Road junction off Panjimaru. No one in his right mind would risk his money and introduce a daily bus service through these villages.

 

Owners of Sri Manjunath Motors were crazy enough to do precisely that.

 

By March 1969, when I rode their bus service for the first time, I paid 10 naya-paise for one-way trip from Shantipura to Udupi Town. I went back a year ago. Several private transport companies were plying the route. Traffic and business was brisk. The route was lucrative and making profits as in 1969.

 

 

Then there was a lower middle class boy, Madava Anantha Pai from Tonse, an obscure village in Udupi district. He went to Madras and became a doctor earning a medical degree from Madras Medical College. Immediately, he got a job offer from Hong Kong. He did not take up the lucrative job offer.

 

Instead, he did the craziest thing anyone can think of. He set up a business.

 

On a barren rock of a hillock five miles away from home, then famous for hungry tigers on the prowl, he set up Canara Industrial & Banking Syndicate Ltd in partnership with his brothers. That was ninety years ago! This hillock is none other than Manipal, the internationally recognized university town. It also is headquarters, among other institutions, for the nationalized public sector Syndicate Bank and Pai family controlled private enterprise Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG).I went there as a tourist a year ago. From the heights of End Point, I could see people and their money pouring in from everywhere and anywhere in the world. It was no longer Mannu (mud) and Palla (low land).

 

 

Nayaks, Kamats, Pais and Shenoys were the pioneers. Many emulated them

 

The Konkanni Speaking Saraswat Brahmins emigrated from Goa and settled in Uttara Kannada (UK), Udupi and Dakshina Kannada (DK), the three coastal districts of Karnataka. They are a minority group among mainly Kannada and Tulu population totaling 5 million people. They have neither been given nor asked for any caste based reservations. Yet, they are a prosperous community of entrepreneurs and businessmen.

 

The districts population forms 7% of state total. Their 19 MLAsare a minority in the legislature and have limited clout on administration. Yet, the districts host comparatively better educated, more prosperous and healthier populations because of private enterprise.

 

Let me cite a more recent example in IT and ITES business sector. Narayana Murthy and his small team were obscure code writers in an equally obscure software firm. They ventured out with a few lakhs of rupees. They built a global enterprise which has caused heartburn in Washington DC and deprived sleep of occupant of Lincoln’s oak bed.

 

 

The minority is always naturally, instinctively and aggressively entrepreneurial.

 

Unless, it is chained, hemmed in and prevented by the state. It has to be, for its survival and advancement. It will not only survive but excel againstodds. It willwin against competition and hurdles placed by the power of state and state-owned enterprises. They will find policy loopholes and voids and use it to advance their business interests. They will convert every problem and roadblock into an opportunity, especially those caused by an overtly socialist polity.

 

The businessmen, entrepreneurs and wealth creators are the real minorities.

 

The masses and their elected state government treat these minorities with disdain as untouchables. When the list of candidates for assembly elections were released, the media highlighted that a majority of them were crorepatis, as if it is a crime to be wealthy. It is a crime to be wealthy by foul means. But, when one has an opponent as powerful as a state, who is the law maker, law breaker, police and judge at the same time, what would the poor rich do? The resort to foul means is their protection in the absence of minority status. The state is not bound by any ethical standards and can deprive them of livelihood. Then why should the entrepreneurs be martyrs at the altar of an unethical ideology?

 

That in essence is the plank on which a new liberalism will resurrect

 

I was spellbound to read the international best-seller titled India Unbound. I suggest that every literate Indian should read it and think about our national direction.

 

Its author, Gurcharan Das, became a refugee due to Partition of British India. He became an international student in US schools due to his father’s overseas job. He became a Harvard scholar, but returned to India to sell Vicks. In various roles including as CEO of Proctor Gamble India, he had first-hand experience of the high handedness of state and its officialdom. He understood how License Raj stifled individual potential and capacity for innovation, productivity, wealth creation and prosperity. Many a times, he had regrets: why did he leave US?

 

The License Raj was introduced to channel scarce resources into proper production required for poverty alleviation. Both Nehruvian Socialism and Indira Gandhi’sself-reliant ultra-socialism became counter-productive. They succeeded in protecting entrenched and powerful private enterprises owned by Tata and Birla and managed keep new competition from challenging them. Only those in the mold of Ambani who learnt the art of back-room manipulating and bribery succeeded to break into the club. Even the Paishad to resort to raising funds clandestinely through capitation fees and make political donations. The successful private transporters and businesses learnt how to get permits (road, liquor, bar, cabaret, etc.) through nepotism and bribery.

 

In 22 years of economic reforms, the corrupt structure has not crumbled

 

The Insider is a semi-autobiographical novel by late PV Narasimha Rao. His economic reforms and liberalization policies in partnership with Manmohan Singh were a reaction to the economic crisis and reluctance of global lenders to forgive us. In his PVN comes across as a staunch socialist. He even doubts socialistic credentials of IG and wonders if she had any ideology. MMS, P Chidambaram and even Yashwant Sinha from BJP camp were socialists who have half-heartedly unbound India because of compulsions. They have tried to chip away at license raj without dismantling the corrupt structures outright.

 

 

Neither Congress nor BJP have dared to dismantle, lock stock and barrel, state structures that choke the entrepreneurial spirit of citizens.They have opposed structural reforms while in opposition. They advocate them while in power, but do not take any action to legislate, while blaming the inaction on non-cooperative opposition.

 

They are comrades-in-arms, mutually supportive in private but going at each other in public. By this, the established and entrenched capitalists fund their party treasuries and clandestine expenses in exchange for keeping potential competition at bay.

 

Who killed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi?

 

Gandhi had no love for socialism and Nehru. His leaning towards Rajaji and liberalism was displayed in his refusal to join Nehru government. His agony was short-lived. He was extinguished by Godse bullets. But, his ideas were killed by the man whom he mentored and even helped to anoint as New Emperor of India. Great men are always betrayed by their pretending loyal mentee.

 

Rajaji tried to call Nehru’s bluff. In his old age, he went on to form Swatantra Party which remained as principal opposition till its death in early seventies. It could not withstand the populism unleashed by Indira and a welfare state on a deprived and poor nation looking for a free meal and a few freebies.

 

 

Now that socialism is on its death bed, will liberalism revive?

 

On April 12, 2005 the liberals in India got together and formed Liberal Party of India (LPI). Its by-line is “Rid India of Socialism and Bigotry”. Both national parties, Congress and BJP have not openly distanced from Socialism as economic policy. They have not distanced from bigotry of communalism because they are in alliance with religious parties and caste based or individual centered regional parties. Both have failed to articulate a clear national vision of economic prosperity and a singular national identity.

 

Gurcharan Das is a Charter Member among others according to its website. It does not list Giselle Mehta, only daughter and sole inheritor of late JM Lobo Prabhu, our acclaimed Swatantra party Leader from Udupi-Mangalore.

 

In eight years of existence, the party organization has not aggressively enrolled members and tried to broad-base its support outside its elite members. It has admirable policy pronouncements on its website, but its leaders, including GurcharanDas, do not seem to have made any mark outside the small group of educated and westernized urban citizens.

 

In Karnataka, the soil is ready but who will sow the seeds and farm?

 

Karnataka boasts of world-class health-care facilities in India, unaffordable to most Indians though. It has world class private coaches and buses that are not so common a sight in mandalized northern states like UP, Bihar, etc. It has a thriving private liquor and beverage business manufacturing world class IMFL and beers. Our private iron mining and quarrying industries form bulk of our export earnings. Sugar and agro-industries and trades keep the markets lively. The local mallige, coco-nut, cashew-nut, mango and areca-nut trade are cases in point.

 

 

Despite these examples of business successes by private enterprise, where state is not restraining, intellectual debate is lacking on privatization and cutting the size of government. The government has to be brought back on track to deliver its rudimentary function: law enforcement to protect citizens from harm by criminals among them including private businesses. There is hardly any literature and literary tradition to kindle awareness of virtues of selfishness, of harnessing profit motive and private enterprise in ensuring maximum public good. That is the liberal wisdom and ideals.

 

The Liberals will have to wait.

 

Their time has not come. But, they are responsible because they are waiting without tapping the opportunity available. They wait, without organizing, for the godot.

 

I conclude this series. But, I will return with an entirely different story of interest on current affairs.

 

 

Philip Mudartha, a prominent personality in Udupi, has adopted writing as one of his favorite hobbies. Many of his articles and travelogues are already published in Udupitoday, which can be located through 'search'  for 'Philip Mudartha' in 'top news' at the top toolbar of this website. We thank Mr. Mudartha, for sparing his valuable time to write exclusive articles for Udupitoday - Editor

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Comments

Philip Mudatha, Navi Mumbai

 I thank all my readers for staying with fourteen episodes of this series. I hope enjoyed reading as much as I did penning them. Some among them were regular in leaving a comment, which kept my spirits up and encouraged me to keep writing. It takes time and effort to do that. My special thanks to each of them. My thank you note to readers for greetings on my 60th birth anniversary and retirement. I acknowledge Jitu, a reader new to Udupi Today. The reader has a sharp intellect and is a very sensitive person judging from opinions expressed and notes shared. Thank you, Jitu. It is important for any writer to have readers like you, who want to stir debate and instigate the process of learning. My special thanks to you. I hope my theories will help to find a solution to your family problem, other than a criminal act. Keep visiting UT.

Donald Martis, Udupi / Dubai

 Every now and then few genius come into existence and they change the life of others. Dr. T.M.A. Pai is one such genius.

Rajesh Prabhu, Bengaluru

 It has been a great series covering from those old days until now. Looking forward to the new series.

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