Thursday, September 25, 2008

On violence and CEO deaths

The lynching of the CEO of an Italian auto parts manufacturer is bad enough. What's worse is the Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes' justification of the violence proportioning the blame on the management that "pushed the employees to the limit." I am no longer shocked at the politician's lack of tact, and complete callousness. My few years of observing Indian politics has taught me that we cannot expect any better from them. But, what got my goat were a few comments on Nita's post on the same issue. Especially a comment by Odzer where he pretty much justified the killing because he was a big shot. I agree that we do not hear about the death of the "common man" every day. I also agree that there is so much publicity because he was the CEO of a company. But tell me something. Does the fact that Mr. Chaudhry made a lot of money as the CEO of an Italian firm justify his killing? Does his family not mourn his death as much as the family of a sweeper who dies? Especially when the person was killed?

The problem is not just with this case. The problem lies in the basic distrust of those who make lots of money. This was a trend I noticed during the recent financial meltdown. Most people I spoke to were far from sympathetic to the fact that thousands of investment bankers lost their jobs. In fact, most of them simply said, "They made so much money for so long. It won't hurt them to be without a job now." What we do not understand is that someone is not making money at someone else's expense. Life is not a zero-sum game. For CEOs and investment bankers to be successful, a factory worker or an investor does not necessarily have to suffer. Why are we so apathetic towards the plight of a top official? We kept quiet when an engineer from IIT was murdered in Bihar. But, the Singur issue is burning. We all sympathise and empathise with those poor farmers who are being exploited by the tyrannical Tatas. But, we fail to look at the other side of the issue or take into account the loss incurred by Tata Motors. And this is simply because the Tatas are the rich capitalists exploiters. I may sound extremely pissed off. The fact is that I really am. As long as we cling on to feudal and outdated notions of industry, ownership and investment, we will never progress. That's what the Communists really want right? So that they can blame the big, bad capitalist world for the stagnation? We are a democracy> If we do not progress, if we stagnate and suffer in chronic poverty, it is because we elect people like Oscar Fernandes who will do anything to preserve his vote bank. After all, we only get the governance we deserve.

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