A Feast Of Vultures: The Hidden Business Of Democracy In India by Josy Joseph

Is there a page you would like to skip? – No. Well, there will be many books where the same holds true. But this is no ordinary book. It is not a fantastic work of fiction either. The book is naked, raw and has some startling revelations on India, its democracy, bureaucracy, corporate business and their marriage to corruption since Independence. The fact that the author has put up a brave fight in the face of defamation cases (after the publication of this book) bears testimony to the struggle and the tedious documentation that would have gone into his years of investigative journalism.

The Battle for Skies’ is one chapter, I wish each one of us should have read because the business and the corporates it focuses on is something that most urban, social media Indians would be familiar with.  This chapter gives a bird’s eye view on the entire context of cronyism, lobby and to the length, an individual is willing to go, only to reign their supremacy.  One just cannot take it lightly the disclosures made in here in view of Jet Airways owner Naresh Goyal and the documented proof of his alleged associations with the underworld to win this “battle for skies”. Subsequent governments have just remained silent sitting on it while Naresh Goyal has moved to London in style.

There are many more jaw dropping moments in this book. It makes a very humble attempt in answering the questions raised in the introduction section: “….For a vast majority if Indians, their country is not much of a republic and even less of a democracy. How could a generation of entrepreneurs blatantly abuse power and still thrive? How could so many buy their way into the legislatures and parliament to manipulate public processes for their private gains? How can leaders whose immoral politics is legend continue to control the levers of power? How can ‘bench hunting’ be acknowledged lexicon in the Indian legal fraternity? And paid news such a thriving industry? How could a billionaire blithely build a home on a razed orphanage?

Well, they could because “… A significant part of India’s GDP and much of its black economy is made up of the fees generated by these facilitators for getting people what is, mostly, rightfully theirs – or for getting businessmen deals that may not have gone to them otherwise. Political parties too are dependent on them….”

The book is replete with testimonies and examples shutting all possibilities of being only an observational or rhetorical guide.

“… the pension money being pocketed by officials of the department and their political masters must be around Rs 600 million a month. And this is just one social welfare scheme in one of India’s 29 states and 7 Union territories. The Indian government has around forty schemes to provide welfare to its poor…. It spends about 1.7 percent of its GDP in the social sector ….”

These are moments where one would be filled with anger and feel frustrated on noting how much of our resources are just being wasted and going down the drain; without which a prosperous country could easily have been in the making at least. A mockery of our environmental laws, our overburdened legal system and the differing definition of justice for people in two ends of the economic spectrum

Factor this from the chapter – ‘A house for Mr. Ambani

23rd May 2010 – Ambani brothers announced that they were scrapping the non-competing agreement.
24th May 2010 – DoT announces an auction for 4G spectrum. Among others, Infotel Broadband Services Pvt Ltd, with an annual turnover of 18L and ONE subscriber was also bidding. Its promoter had in the past defaulted on government license fee … When the bidding ended, Infotel had agreed to pay a whopping Rs. 12, 847.77 cr for a national license – 71000 times its annual turnover.
11 June 2010 – Within hours of closing the bid, Infotel was taken over by RIL. A central audit found anomalies in the entire tender process.

But it is business as usual for team India!

I would highly suggest each one of you to read this book and make their own assessment of our sociopolitical situation and think if we really need to play any role in shaping our future just like the author admits “This book is in part my little effort to help make India a better place for Supriya (his daughter) her numerous cousins and friends…. This book is an expression of the angst and frustration of my fellow countrymen, who give up often because India failed them

The closing lines say – “….In the long term, we might just be working to build a nation that works for its people. The long term is, however, too far way. In the long term, we would all be dead..”

How often we do hear about “Is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta”? And we will keep hearing this until and unless we all become more aware and better informed.

Bravo dear Josy Joseph for this brave book!


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