Monday, December 5, 2011

Sponsored Fear

By now there is hardly any politician or editor who has not written or spoken about FDI in retail. There is nothing much anyone can really add and I am no economics expert and don’t have a stand on it. I simply believe that retail FDI is neither good nor bad and will not make a significant difference. But it sure might help the real estate business which is in the doldrums for a while. “In my local market, shopkeepers say that even the smallest shops are worth a crore” So writes economist Swaminathan Aiyar in TOI. He must be kidding or out of touch with reality. If you go to a kirana store in the suburbs of Mumbai any shopkeeper will tell you that the ‘tile’ on which you’re standing is worth a crore. So Aiyar calls it a battle between the ‘Aam bania’ and the ‘Aam Aadmi’.

Aiyar adds: “Dominated by banias, small shopkeepers are notorious for cheating customers through adulteration and fiddled weighing scales. They are also notorious for evading sales tax and income tax. That's why the bania is widely despised (although it is wrong to tarnish all with the same brush)”. Really? If this man is an economist then I count myself as a rocket scientist. The biggest crimes against state and aam aadmi haven’t exactly come from small traders but from the biggest corporations. The biggest frauds haven’t come from banias and corner-shops and I need not go into a list of such looters. To the credit of the wiseguys in the Congress they have managed to make almost everyone get into the debate of FDI. Let’s take an example – the one of Big Bazaar (BB). Any supplier dealing with BB would tell you that they have to accept an extraordinary terms of credit, sometimes even up to six months and still remain unpaid. And when BB does badly the first ones to disappear are the poor check-out clerks and bagging attendants. So much for the huge employment that large retailers will generate. Another one, Subhiksha, after grand pronouncements quickly disappeared. These debates in the media were not all spontaneous. Some of them appear to be ‘sponsored’ (as they usually are), especially on TV channels.

When faced with a bad season in parliament on 2G scam, inflation, black money, terrorism, Lokpal bill, it was important for the ruling Congress to come up with bold action. So just around the third day of the winter session of parliament they drop the FDI bomb. This was neither an economic event nor a political event. It’s called “Wag the dog” and a media event. The law of distraction by phenomenon. It’s a strategy by which the public can be distracted, for a good length of time, from important issues, by one which occupies more news time. This strategy works usually when you suddenly have a war which puts everything on the backburner. But in absence of war a media-event will help. This is precisely what Retail FDI was – a media event forced by the ruling party. And what better trick than to instil a good deal of FEAR among citizens about some monster called FDI. It’s always a great strategy. So you had the NDTVs, the CNN-IBNs, TimesNows and all the major and minor newspapers out on the topic.

Sometimes help comes from unknown quarters. The Mullaperiyar dam came into focus with its own fears and politics. Politicians and people of Kerala drummed up the fear of the dam cracking up. They might have had some genuine concerns and in response politicians and people from TN rubbished the claims of the dam being a threat. Any PM would have intervened to quickly reassure both parties of action and fairness.  Should MMS have intervened and brought about a truce between the two states? Are you serious? This was a God-send that should be welcomed at a time when fear is the key. And on cue our media goes into another frenzy. FDI and Mullaperiyar, that’s a combination that is tailor-made for the orgy that happens nightly on TV. I cannot but be reminded of these famous lines from Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’: “All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the street…” That much pretty much describes the banal nonsense on night time TV.

Fear helps. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma probably never had so much exclusive time on TV as he did on the FDI issue. Articulate as he is, Sharma did something the Congress would have considered a crime in any other situation – he even cited Narendra Modi being in favour of FDI. And guess what.. NDTV played up that interview over and over again, more often than they normally do, to push the FDI agenda. Clips from that interview where Sharma mentioned Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh being in support of FDI were played out a zillion times. Manmohan Singh, in between, found time to suddenly visit Imphal and inaugurate a new Assembly building. The success of fear-mongering finally culminated in an all-India bandh by over 50 million traders on December 1. Mission accomplished for the Congress!

Is that all? No, not yet. From the time parliament session commenced in November the clown prince, Rahul Gandhi, had only one thing on his mind – change Uttar Pradesh in 10 years. He did not attend parliament even for a single day and was wisely busy with the UP campaign and the youth congress rally. What’s his game? More fear of the Mayawati govt, of more UPites turning into beggars if Congress wasn’t brought back to power in the state and how the Elephant in Lucknow was eating up all the money meant for the aam aadmi. In hind sight Rahul Gandhi’s campaign was the only comic relief in this season of fear. Does RG have any views on FDI in retail? You will know in 10 years! Not enough!

Manmohan Singh mentioned it is “difficult to roll-back FDI”. I had jokingly tweeted asking why and if the kickbacks were taken in advance. Well, here’s the answer: It is reported that Walmart spent over 60 crores in lobbying for retail FDI in India. Where exactly does lobbying money go in India? Ummm, maybe some PR firms like the one Nira Radia operated? Maybe a small percentage but a good chunk has to go elsewhere where real decisions happen. So with parliament being stalled with all this FDI thing and other issues our media comes up with another gem. Both NDTV and CNN-IBN start a campaign, “No work, no pay” for MPs.

“No work, no pay” for MPs if parliament doesn’t work. It must take an extra-ordinary helping of stupidity for the morons in the media to further mislead and deflect the discussion on issues to such silly campaigns. If the Kirana banias are so anti-consumer as Swaminathan Aiyar suggests there is no real reason to believe that foreign businessmen coming into India are going to be exceptionally friendly. They aren’t going to be here for charity either. Such perverted arguments fuel the fears that a failing govt thrives on. Aiyar believes every shopkeeper is worth a crore, so much are our MPs worth? You’ll need a flashlight even on a sunny day to find an MP who isn’t worth crores and yet our stupid media peddles the “no work, no pay” argument. Nothing but mindless populist dialogue that you will find in a cheap Bollywood movie. The govt creates the fear and the media plays the sponsor.

But even organised and sponsored fear has to take a breather. The death of Bollywood legend Dev Anand shocked everyone and news channels covered it with flashbacks and obits. For once, even if it was repetitive,  it was nice to hear just good old Dev Anand songs through the day on Sunday, December 4. The nation, including political leaders, came together to pay homage to this great artist. But make no mistake, fear will be back. Corrupt governments throughout history have used fear to survive. In 21 century India they have a sponsor – our news media. Sponsored fear will be back.


  1. Dear Ravinar,

    As always it was great to read your analysis of the situation. You tear apart the fake & provide the genuine reality of sick nexus between politicians & Media.
    A good example of how Media deflects the attention is when Media keeps on repeating the question to BJP about its prime ministerial candidate so that it could start the mud slinging program on the BJP & create fissures within BJP to deflect attention from Congress Governments mis-governance.

  2. The argument that corner kirana store will go out of business is ridiculous, yet if that argument has to be made it should be against organised retail-with or without FDI...kaha ki line kaha bol rahe hai all the opposing parties!!

    Also, W(hy)TF only congress knows how to play politics and all? baki parties kya bachche run kar rahe hai...?

  3. I do not know this "mediacrook". Instead of yelling from rooftop everyday, he/she will do well to get hands dirty to bring about change.Swamy has shown how it can be done.This is one of the major reasons why I don't like sermonising of the kind mediacrooks do or worse wimps like Narayanamurthy does.NRN is the best example of people who have wealth/celebritystatus/international standing but does not have cajones to take on the crooks.What is the point of parroting our ills when everyone is aware what is going on.

  4. Please visit this link for double standards of media the proposed Lok Pal bill all out efforts should be made to include media also.It is high time we as consumer should boycott products advertised on these channels. It is no wonder that today the best source of information is INTERNET.

  5. Dear second Anonymous, though i share a part of your argument, not everything u told is true. According to your argument, all media should go at once because they are sermonizing most of the times. If you think they are doing their duty, i feel Ravinar is doing his duty of exposing the crooks of the media.

  6. @ Anonymous/ Dhruva

    LOL! The argument is like asking all movie critics to go make a movie themselves. Or like asking all journos criticising govt. to become govt officials. Everyone chooses a task ... its just a question of whether its being done well.

  7. Right on spot as usual!!

    9/11 aftermath fear generated by bush administration, fox news and other medias in US was the reason for two mindless wars and multi billion dollar war industry and then infant Private military contracting/outsourcing industry.

  8. Swaminathan A Iyer wrote (taken from your post):

    Dominated by banias, small shopkeepers are notorious for cheating customers through adulteration and fiddled weighing scales. They are also notorious for evading sales tax and income tax. That's why the bania is widely despised (although it is wrong to tarnish all with the same brush).

    So the points are that Banias "cheat" and "evade taxes". If FDI is taken as an amelioration of these two ills then this reasoning must rest on the following propositions:

    1. Foreign investors are, generally speaking, more MORAL than Indian banias.

    2. Indian Law enforcement is weak.

    3. Both 1 and 2.

    If Indian Law enforcement is weak then, without Prop. 1, FDI will most likely lead to even greater "cheating" and "tax evasion". So, a more serious situation will be when Prop. 1 is true, i.e. Indian banias are cheats while Foreign Investors are more Moral. However, if we generalize this same argument, we must also suppose that Indian intellectuals are cheats, thus discrediting S. A. Iyer himself!

    Of course, for once, we can whole-heartedly agree with S. A. Iyer. Mohandas (K. Gandhi) was a bania; and he surely was a cheat. However, the brahmins of the ilk of Jawahar and S. A. Iyer have not fared any better!

    And Indian Media being "cheats" has been Ravinar's refrain, to say the least, for quite some time!

    By the way, take a look at our post: A Proposal : Voluntary Disclosure of Corruption and Exemplary Punishment Act!

  9. Dear Ravinar,

    I am taking the liberty of putting my second comment on this topic.

    I just heard that Mr Kapil Sibal has contacted social networking sites such as Face Book & Twitter to ensure that no one puts any inflammatory speech on Social Networking sites. Personally I would consider this as a weak & sad attempt by Congress Govt to prevent youth of this country from using the freedom of expression in garb of spreading hatred. It seems the Govt is trying not to let Team Anna use the Internet & television media as earlier.

  10. Yes Kapil Sibal is urging the social media to screen the contents. what non-sense !! This is the only place where democracy is truly alive. do they want to kill it ?? !!

  11. On second thought I ponder on whether the Govt is just trying to deflect attention from Price Rise & Tabling of Feeble Jokepal by planting such non sensical thoughts into Media & then shelve them after the Hu halla. You never know what goes into the minds of pervert politicians like Idiot Kapil Sibal


    Gurumurthy torpedos SA Iyer with figures.

    Sandhya Jain -- a great article

    FDI in retail: Back to Champaran
    Sandhya Jain

  13. dhruva , you said "If you think they are doing their duty, i feel Ravinar is doing his duty of exposing the crooks of the media. "
    No sir, What Mediacrooks is writing is known to all of us, it is in the public domain.If he /she is in the know of things happening in media , I mean the inner workings, he should do an investigative journalism of the shenanigans with facts naming the names and shaming these crooks.Simply commenting on what is already known is a waste of time for all

  14. There are a few confusions in the links mentioned in one of the above comments.

    Neither S. Gurumurthy nor Sandhya Jain clearly specify their stand on Corporate Retail Chains, whether National or Multinational?

    For example, if Walmart is bad then how about, say, Reliance Fresh? Or, for example, is it that Reliance Fresh (figuratively speaking) is bad and Walmart is worse?

    More over, what are their models of Ethical Economics, elaborated using examples? One may talk about employment, but what about consumer rights? After all, the same employee is a consumer as well.

    We are not advocating FDI in retail here. But what must also be borne in mind is that there was, not so very long ago, a long period when people used to wait for six long years to get Bajaj Chetak Scooter. (Do people even remember what that was?)

    We surely do not want to make our own farmers or traders, or put more generally fellow citizens, die of hunger consequent upon unemployment, however, we also do not want our fellow citizens having to wait for six years to get a Bajaj Chetak Scooter!

    What is a policy (or set of policies) solution which avoids all such pitfalls? Our humble (and arrogant) point is that neither UPA nor their critiques have even a clue! However, Indian Policy Planners need to address these issues at fundamental levels. Until then, happy complaining!

  15. "Anonymous" quoting that simply commenting on what is already known may please stop reading/commenting this site.
    You may be smart and intelligent enough to know all this. We are not. So please let us take the advantage.

  16. I agree with Kunal Mistry. Media packages its programs in such a way that normal people does not understand that it is made to con, deceive or divert attention. We need blogs such as this one to help understand and differentiate between fake and genuine. I have been reading some of the earlier posts here and other blogs and am in a state of shock to know how much i have been taken for a ride, feeling heated.

    On the topic in this post - i have seen kirana shops close when FoodWorld opened in our neighbourhood. Every single grocery store including vegetable shops went out of business within 2 years. I think it is really important for the govt make a wise decision keeping in mind the welfare of the common man. But considering this govt is busy filling its own pockets, i hardly expect it to do anything to save the aam aadmi.


  17. Sorry in the above post, the last line in the first para should read "feeling cheated". The "c" got missed in the last word.


  18. Biggest fraud is "max. Retail Price" which no one talking about is source of inflation and fraud by Govt and manufacturers.

    So Bania don't cheat in branded product.
    So un-branded produce/products our Govt. Food Administation dept make cheat to all of us.

    First make above things well then point to Bania.

  19. The Anonymous agreeing with KunalMistry wrote:

    "i have seen kirana shops close when FoodWorld opened in our neighbourhood. Every single grocery store including vegetable shops went out of business within 2 years. I think it is really important for the govt make a wise decision keeping in mind the welfare of the common man. But considering this govt is busy filling its own pockets, i hardly expect it to do anything to save the aam aadmi."

    Indian neuro-genetic make-up is so contaminated with Jawahar memes (read Socialism - Affirmative Action) that most people can not think of anything better than Government doing Welfare of the Common Man. However, this welfare-ism is the poison killing our nation!

    There is no need for the government to protect the aam-adami from business houses. If the government stops protecting business houses that's enough; aam adami will take care of himself!

    The government practices crony-capitalism (oligopoly) in the name of Welfare, while Socialism engenders big time Corruption in the government. If people force the government to stop indulging in this, that is sufficient; then people can easily take care of themselves.

    Our mantra should not focus on "The Government Should DO This, etc.", rather we should focus on "What the Government should get out out of doing what it has not been able to do in more than six decades"

  20. Hello Samalochaka, the aam-aadmi can only ask what he wants and not what he does not want. From what you say, we should not say "protect your people" but "stop protecting business houses". Doesnt make sense at all. We would ask someone to "be honest" and not say "dont be corrupt".

  21. Hilarious one

    yo boys i am singing song
    UPA soup song
    Flop internet song
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    internet correct
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    No censor please
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri.di

    distance la sibal-u sibal-u
    moon-u color-u white-hairsibal-u
    white background night-u night-u
    night-u color-u black-u

    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di

    white skin-u lady-u lady-u
    lady-u heart-u black-u
    Sibal eyes-u eyes-u meet-u meet-u
    Our internet future dark

    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di

    Swamy notes eduthuko
    apdiye kaila Sibala eduthuko
    pa pa paan pa pa paan pa pa paa pa pa paan
    sariya court le kudu
    super court order ready
    ready 1 2 3 4

    whaa wat a change over Swamy

    ok Swamy now tune change-u

    kaila internet
    only english..

    hand la internet
    internet la censor
    eyes-u full-aa fear-u
    cyber life-u
    censor-u come-u
    internet reverse gear-u
    Sibbu Sibbu
    oh my Sibbu
    you showed me censor-u
    bull-u bull-u servile bull-u
    i want u hear now-u
    god i m dying now-u
    Sibal your white lady is happy how-u

    this song for UPA soup boys-u
    we dont have choice-u

    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di
    why this sibalveri sibalveri sibalveri di

    censor flop song

  22. @Anonymous

    If you are linguistically challenged, then this might help you.

    Instead of telling the government "save us", tell the government "get the hell out of this".

    If this too doesn't clarify it for you, then you deserve Kapil Sibal as your minister.

  23. Ravinar, very true. FDI was a diversionary tactic-period. Retail is not a crucial sector which needs reform.

    Indeed, we have a ruling government (Congress) which is a piece of work. They have a huge bag of tricks lined up to unleash on the common man. Any other party would have resigned, experienced guilt and shame, done some self reflection, or tried to put their house right. Instead we have these thick skinned mutants who just unleash trick after trick. It is the likes of Shekhar Gupta, Burkha, Sagarika and others that have been Enablers of this lot. Expectantly waiting for the time when this country's citizens are able to get these mutants out of power and the MSM enablers out of circulation!


  24. Samalochaka, relax darling. You appear to be very knowledgeable in every area. Understand that people commenting on this blog need not be an expert like you. This is just a platform to share thoughts, it doesn’t matter if we all disagree with each other. Calm down and cut that arrogance a bit. It’ll help you sweetheart!!

  25. @Anonymous:

    Relaxing ... Calmed down.

    Thanks for reminding us that this is just a platform to share thoughts.

    We are sorry to have overlooked the obvious that not everyone visiting here is in the same very-low-IQ-bracket as we are in!

  26. Samalochaka, have you heard of this?

    “Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people”

    Now judge for yourself the category you fall into. I pity people around you. Only when people like you change, this country will progress.

    I don’t want to waste time anymore but one last bit for you to remember, “Arrogance diminishes wisdom”. So inspite of being a know-all and very high-on-IQ, you are empty. SAD! Anyway, I will only wish you well, may all your dreams come true! Take care!

  27. @Anonymous:

    Small people usually never hear of great things. So we haven't heard of that quote. But it does not matter. Does it?

    As far as judging ourselves is concerned, we are like that hand which has one finger pointing outward while three fingers are pointing self-wards. But we always choose to ignore the three fingers accusing ourselves!

    We value your anger as well as your pity. Strong emotions mean a lot to us. In our humble and arrogant opinion, we as a society need larger and larger numbers of people who feel passionately, like hopefully you do. And we surely do not want you to change. Feel, feel strongly, and let that emotion flourish into transformational action.

    We hardly have any wisdom left there to diminish! So, you are right in judging us to be empty of wisdom.

    More often that not, we indulge in highly provocative style, for we are quite tired of the tolerance exhibited by our suffering countrymen. We often wonder, what will stir them into some action.

    Therefore, in as much as you have exhibited passion, your good wishes for us have come true. And we ever cherish such good wishes.

    Unlike this time, sometime in future, We also wish to make you 'HAPPY' rather than 'SAD'. And we wish that your wish that our dreams come true applies to this dream as well!

  28. For all those who want to know what Wal-Mart does to Local communities even in the USA. Watch these documentaries on you tube . They actually form hit teams to target and close local businesses. They can stoop so low as to opening life insurance policies on their employees and nominating the company as the beneficiary.
    It is not so much the fear of competition but the fear of unscrupulous competition that one is worried about. I run a small business and borrow from a bank at 12% – 15% so does a Big Bazzar but Wal-Mart and the others will come with funds at 2%. Also Big Bazzar will use the profits in India these retailers will take all profits out . All this talk about the farmers benefitting is all bullshit they will make the farmers produce to a certain specification for which they will fund the farmer and ensure he is in permanent debt to them so that they can keep getting a steady supply of commodities for years. Let us not fool ourselves this is a $450 billion company, today vested interests buy our politicians for peanuts imagine what these companies can do. By the way how many Indian company cold drinks can you buy in the market today ? I still remember the days of Goli Soda which you could buy for a rupee. The cold drink companies even control what you drink you either drink one or the other you will rarely find an establishment stocking both, not even water. Is this competition ? Is this what we want ?


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