By Anang Pal Malik
I once chanced to travel with a guy who had so much gold on his person that Bhappi Lahiri would look like a beggar in his presence. He had half a dozen private bodyguards in the corridor outside the cabin of the first AC coach of the Rajdhani, and an equal number were waiting outside on the platform.
I thought the guy was a politician, and my journey stood ruined, as at every stop the followers would crowd around him.
As the train pulled out of Mumbai Central, I discovered that the guy was very talkative, and was not a politician. He was the Consent Manufacturer. He was very open. He disclosed his yearly net income also at the outset- upwards of 400 crore.
Why was he on the train instead of First Class of a plane? He told me that he had a fear of flying.
As even for someone like me who prides himself on his knowledge of economics, the business of Consent manufacturing was something I was hearing the first time, I requested him to elaborate. And what emerged was an epic tale:
In Mumbai there is a scheme called slum rehabilitation scheme (socialism=schemes). It runs something like this: If a builder convinces some 80% ( I am quoting the figure from memory) of the slumdwellers of a cluster, he can give them flats of government-specified size in a multi-storey tower on the same plot of land so freed, and on the balance plot he can raise towers and sell them. The scheme has very generous FSI. On the same lines, if a builder convinces tenants of a building (the folks who rented the flat in 1910 at the rates of that time, and are protected by rent control law-the law which is nothing but instrument to permit legal loot of private property.), he can raze the exiting building and raise in its place a tower with very generous FSI, and give the flats to those tenants also, and sell the balance in market, the original owner shortchanged.
The guy I was travelling with was in the business of manufacturing consent of slumdwellers and tenants.
He said that no slumdwellers own the huts. Huts are always owned by some slumlord of the area. The slumdwellers are just tenants. But on paper, ghost owners of the huts are created, consents obtained, and lo, a plot worth thousands of crores of rupees is free from all encumbrance….
“Sabko dena padta hai ji…police, activists, SRA officers, district administration…..” He said. But still, profit is huge.
“But I see religious places of all religions also in slums. What about them?” I asked.
“Bhagwano ke rakhwalon ko bhi paisa hi chaahiye…..wo to sab se pahle agree karte hai….hum offer hi itna karte hai…” came the reply. And the folks who were actually living in the huts? “Unke liye hum pahle hi ek aur slum khadi kar dete hai. Each needs hardly one slap to move. ” Now I knew why our Estate officers never seemed to run out of problems.
Same procedure is followed in case of buildings with tenants, except that they are real, and therefore both, money and force, are used to make them give consent. The offer is made which they can’t refuse.
And why so many bodyguards, I ask. “Iss dhandhe me competition bahut jyada hai. Jyada income, jyada competition,” came the reply. If only he could teach economics at JNU, I thought.
In my book “Corruption In India” I have extensively detailed as to how Socialism just doesn’t give rise to crony capitalists. Even deadlier of the fruits of socialism are the mafia capitalists. There is no private mining in India, because supposedly “Natural Resources” are not to be given to blood sucking capitalists. And therefore almost entire mining in India is controlled by mafia. Instead of mining tycoons, we have mining dons. Same goes for labour. In all big clusters of labour like ports, industrial areas, labour is controlled by labour mafia that controls labour supply, and earns from both- those hiring the labour and the labour itself.
So it is with amusement that I am watching the spectacle of Consent Clause in Land Acquisition Bill. The economic illiterates who are driving at it, are just preparing a stage for the Land acquisition consent manufacturing mafia. And farmers? Now they have to share the compensation with the disbursing officer only, if the clause is retained, they will have to share it with the Consent manufacturer also.
And as a bonus, a mafia will take residence in their area. From agriculture to the culture of Crime, via consent clause.
It would be so amusing, had it not been so horribly tragic, and that too for a billion people; to see the stupid economic illiterates holding forth in TV studios, in newspaper columns, on social media, and in legislatures. It is really an alternate universe they inhabit. But they actually control destiny of us all- all the 125 crore people of India.