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Trying to stop large retailers is not in national interest

August 25, 2007

The Uttar Pradesh government banning Reliance Fresh, on the heels of a previous agitation against the retail chain in Jharkhand, and also in Tamil Nadu, is a bad sign. The protesters are not the truly aggrieved group, who I feel are the thousands of street vendors, whose livelihood will surely be affected. The people who are spearheading the agitation are clearly the better-off middle men, and they are backed by political parties. While I do not want to go into the politics behind Mayawati’s (the UP Chief Minister) decision to ban the retail chain, it is clear that the Opposition’s determination to use this issue to whip up passions has given her cold feet. To my mind, she is a smart politician, and with her action has bought time…

Her claim that the majority of farmers are against the retail chains cannot hold water…in any case she has said that about 60 percent of the farmers are against the organized retailing of farm produce. As far as I know, farmers benefit by the presence of such chains. The chains buy farm produce directly from farmers and give them better rates. Middlemen in India are known to fleece the farmers and the consumer too ends up paying far more for no value addition.

It is known by policy makers that large chains improve the supply chain. Farm produce is picked up in bulk and moves through a cold chain, ensuring greater life for the product. It
says here:

The price paid to farmers for fresh farm produce is currently about 30-35% of retail prices as compared to the international norm of more than 50% of retail price. This differentiation is primarily due to the farm sector being predominantly unorganized in India. Organized retailing in F&G segment can drastically improve supply chain and boost farmers’ incomes and will bring a more structured growth to the whole sector

Even more important, a better supply chain means less wastage and in the long run this is very good for our economy, for our country. And ofcourse for the end-consumer. It is a matter of shame though that inspite of being a country basically agricultural in nature, there is a wastage of almost 40 percent of farm produce “due to lack of cold storage facilities and adequate transportation.” Unless we change this, India’s agricultural sector cannot progress. India cannot progress. Until we change this, there is no question of providing nutritious food for all (malnutrition is endemic in India) and we can also discard the hope that more farmers will rake in profits by farm exports.

And I am not even talking about the thousands of jobs that are being generated by retail chains. Or the fact that the ban on Reliance Fresh is making news all over the world and is being taken as a portent of things to come.

Not that the middle men care about these larger issues. Or about farmers. True, they will suffer business losses because of these retail chains, but if they have good entrepreneurial skills, they can adjust. Their security blanket has gone and they hate it.

I feel more sorry for the uneducated street vendor who will find it harder to adjust and has no buffer to fall back on. But I don’t think that he will starve. I have heard that their business has gone down by about 15-30 percent…but in this scenario the best street vendors and mom and pop stores will survive and thrive as many Indians prefer to shop just round the corner. The nature of grocery is such is that it has to be replenished every 2-3 days, and people will continue to buy from the smaller vendors. Some of these vendors have extraordinary selling skills and often go door to door with their wares…perhaps they will take to selling something else.

Doesn’t every single human being suffer career pangs? Is a job as secure today as it was 10 years ago? Unless you are in government service, liberalization has meant insecurity for all…people today are sacked at short notice (unless they are working class) and they have nothing to fall back on! The stock market crashes, people go bankrupt and farmers are committing suicide. Our government gives us nothing…no social security, no health care, nothing. Today, your first job is certainly not your last one!

What is important that in the long term the large retails chains will benefit people, and bring prosperity to millions. India has to progress, the country cannot keep using the same regressive methods it was using earlier! A better supply chain will also ensure that Indians can look forward to a time when not a single mouth will go wanting for lack of food. This is a dream that we must have.

(Photo is by me and for representational purposes only)

Related Reading: Comparison of few large supermarkets

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2007 4:22 pm

    as you pointed out more the retail chains more the farmers will benefit…it may help people to keep to farming not migrate to cities for jobs(where they just don’t fit in)…..

    and yes,many people like to buy from the nearest shop……especially since Our cooking involves so many ingredients and we have so many meals prepared….

    i always felt that the street vendors will do better than a MBA..lol🙂

  2. Meghna permalink
    August 25, 2007 4:32 pm

    This has improved my understanding of the subject, I was confused about it!

  3. Phantom permalink
    August 26, 2007 5:17 am

    Look…the retail chains are not going to integrate all the way down their vertical value chain…..i.e. they will nto be getting into farming, manufacturing etc. They will be procuring their products from suppliers and utilising their supply chain and logistics to bring it to market in an effecient manner. In this model, the famers and original manufacturers will not be left out, and in fact may well face a better working environment, more stability and perhaps even better pricing. The sector HAS GOT to be get more structured to bring about effeciencies that benefit all.

    All this hoo haa about the evils of organised retail….is more a politivcal game, endorsed by powerful middle men who for decdes have been exploiting the farmers.

  4. August 26, 2007 1:13 pm

    Thanks for writing about this. I’m of course, completely with you.

    You did not mention the UP government’s “policy” to “allow” contract farming, which was also revoked at the same time, just weeks after being introduced.

    I do not understand why government intervention is required to “allow” contract farming? Those farmers who want to sell their produce at better rates to the big retail chains should be free to do so, those who are not interested will not enter into such contracts. Why should the government either allow or disallow this? Let everyone see for themselves which farmers actually benefit and which don’t!

  5. August 26, 2007 5:40 pm

    Vishesh, yeah I agree. We need to make our small farmers more prosperous!
    Meghna, glad to be of help.🙂
    Phantom, yes I agree entirely – this “hoo haa about the evils of organised retail….is more a political game.” Problem is that gullible and/or idealistic people fall for it.
    Mahendra, it’s the vested interests, the lobbies with powerful political backing. At least that is how I see it.

  6. Ramesh Natarajan permalink
    August 26, 2007 6:18 pm

    Rita,

    I see there are lot of benefits being the retail market getting more organized sector! The next step for the corporates in the Retail sector is to do a backward integration by setting up warehouses, cold storages etc, near the farms to buy the products at a cheaper rate, cutting down the middle man.

    This will cut down the waste to a great extent and improve the infrastructure. While our agri output/productivity is itself very lower compared to other developed countries, allowing the product to get spoiled due to lack of infrastructure is a crime.

    Regards,
    Ramesh Natarajan, Dubai
    Global Indian

  7. August 26, 2007 7:49 pm

    Er Ramesh, the name’s Nita, not Rita!
    Cutting down waste should be the main priority, I feel that too. And only modernisation will achieve that. The word you used ‘crime’ is a word I agree with whole heartedly! Its a crime and a shame that so much food is going waste.

  8. Ramesh Natarajan permalink
    August 26, 2007 8:06 pm

    Nita, Oops… apologieis for the err.

    By the way, continuing my comments on this post… The flip side of this Retail Sector getting more organized will be, the so called ‘Brand Ambassadors’ will make the products more expensive. I have celebrities being paid huge money for promoting brands, they don’t know anything about. This is making money out of madness (of the people).

    We can soon expect Sharukh Khan or Tendulkar promoting carrots and cabbages for the Corporate Retailers!!

    Regards,
    Ramesh Natarajan, Dubai
    Global Indian

  9. August 26, 2007 9:50 pm

    Organised sales is lacking here.. I donno why govt. making people fool.. Large retailers presence would defenitely create higher competitive market resulting with cheap goods to end customerm, in the process it also creates employment for hundreds of thousands of people.. Why Govt. didnot think of puting minimum wage in these sectors?? As per my observation avg. income of small shop keepers is max 15-30K.

    I feel more competition is better, and large foreign retailers should also be allowed.

  10. August 27, 2007 4:49 am

    Of course there are disadvantages to having large corporations control a nation’s food supply, or at least its distribution, but when you have 40% wastage, those disadvantages begin to pale, I think. Malnutrition is a much greater evil than corporate control. After all, you can regulate the corporations.

  11. August 28, 2007 6:08 am

    Disclaimer: I am big zero when it comes to economics and so these are just wild questions and thoughts. I am not sure they mean a whole lot.

    Is big retail the only way to have an efficient supply chain? In other words, if the idea is to have least wastage, better efficiency etc., then is big retail (which could squash local competition – e.g. WalMart in the US) the only way? I would have thought those two would not be tied to each other in a ideal/well-structured economy.

    I also thought that one possible reason why farmers may feel threatened is big retail will soon dictate prices – and farmers would have little choice than to follow. Not saying that this fear is a valid one (as big retail can sort of do that because they are the big ticket to big volume), but nevertheless it is a fear, and it is a possibility depending on the manner in which the big retail companies behave.

    Also I thought your thoughts on people who get the raw deal here are not very sympathetic and perhaps a bit dismissive – “but I dont think he will starve”, “if they have good enterprenuerial skills, they will adjust” . Not that I am saying these don’t make sense – but its like saying “well tough luck. Its survival of the fittest. The rules have changed and you now have to prove that you are fit – or you go down. Thats the way it is buddy! It is for the good of everyone you know?”. It may be valid, but then we shouldnt be surprised if they fight it tooth and nail. Nobody likes their security blankets to be snatched away. No one likes careers threatened for the sake of others. Just not human nature. But progress sometimes does involve setbacks and like you say – not necessarily permanent although it may look that way to those people at that time.

    Sorry if that made no sense – but I did warn that I am zero in economics.

  12. August 28, 2007 7:24 am

    Arunk, your points are certainly worth thinking about. Whether there is any other way, I myself cannot say. I am not an expert on this either. To my limited knowledge this is the only practical solution. After all, one does always see what is happening across the world, the countries that are well off and prosperous and the model they have followed.
    As for your point about me believing in survival of the fittest…well, thats true. I cannot deny that I think that. I am a true capitalist at heart. At the same time I do believe in welfare.
    Also I firmly believe that capitalism (which I assume you mean profit making retail chains) brings prosperity to all…which right now means that no one in India will starve. Today, if millions in India are starving its because after Independence our politicians followed the socialist model. Naturally, they failed. Communism has failed all over the world! Surely we should take some lessons from experiments across the world?
    Socialism is based on the principle that man must be altruistic, which he isn’t. Today the west bengal govt is paying only lip service to communism, they are welcoming investment. China is less hypocritical. Russia has collapsed. Eastern Europe is wallowing in poverty as compared to western Europe.
    I absolute detest communism and socialism my friend, because they are anti-poor but they pretend to care about the poor. At least I say survival of the fittest and I know that from the experiments all over the world, that this leads to increased prosperity and is the only way to stop malnutrition and poverty in our country. I cannot stand to see slums and I hate to see people suffering…but I am not a hypocrite and will not say bring in socialist policies and stop the retail chains because that will take our country back to 1970. I wonder if you were around then Arunk, I was. I was a kid but I have seen how bad India was. far greater poverty, terrible roads, India had nothing! Middleclass people could not afford to buy a vehicle! Thanks to Manmohan Singh, our country is progressing economically and when I hear anything about get rid of the retail chains I see only hypocrisy or ignorance. I know you are not saying that, you are asking a question and I hope I have answered it. I can only say, look around the world. Look at their models. Are people starving out there?

  13. August 28, 2007 7:59 am

    nita – i was not advocating socialism/communism there🙂 . I simply was asking whether big retail is the only ticket – because it seems that it can also in the end stifle competition. When you go by “The survival of the fittest”, isnt it possible that you end up with one or two big, bad animals and you end up having to play by their rules.

    I also was saying that one could sympathesize with some of the complaints – but in the end, open competition works, and that seems that one cannot be sympathetic to everyone. As they say in business, there is no room for the “extra nice guy”.

    Oh btw, I was a kid in 1970s too but cant say I remember much. Poverty in India – know that quite well. I was there till 1987.

  14. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 28, 2007 10:41 am

    ArunK,

    Far from being a zero in economics, I would rank you somewhere between A and A+. The points you raise are very valid and must be urgently addressed. Much of what passes for serious economics is about statistics. Human beings figure in it only incidentally, as the pegs to hang those statistics on.

    Among the key problems of the integration of agriculture with corporate capitalist forces is that production, of which a fair proportion was traditionally outside the market economy, begins to be dictated by market forces. The farmer (that includes horticulturists and pastoralists, and perhaps to a lesser extent fishermen) is compelled to cater to these forces (for example, by changing over from food crops to cash crops) at the cost of affordable balanced nutrition of his own family and (a point which is not adequately understood by many urban as well as beginning-to-be-urbanised rural people) of the genetic diversity of species that is crucial to the well-being of the environment and, in turn, of all humanity.

    A sine qua non of healthy capitalism is competition on a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. By this measure, most corporate capitalism today is certainly not healthy, as it does not allow free competition (the availability of 40x brands of soap as against 4 brands a decade ago, or of 15 makes of car where you had only 3, is NOT genuine competition). An agriculturist or artisan contractually or morally obligated to produce for and sell to a unique buyer on the latter’s unilateral terms (no matter what kind of “benevolent” sops are thrown into the deal) cannot possibly get such a level field.

    What the emerging system in India (for which you have rightly suggested a parallel with Wlamartisation) does is to drive the small and marginal farmer and the artisan from the clutches of the moneylender (who, despite all his villainy, at least had a face) into the arms of a faceless entity that can be even more ruthless, and has the means to manipulate the system, to its advantage, all the way from the grassroots to the centre of policy making.

    We need a lot of social, economic and legal reforms before the poorest and the most marginalised can benefit from the emerging capitalistic model in India. In particular, there has to be education which helps people to acquiring the skills to think contextually and make informed decisions about their lives and livelihoods. We need land reforms which will make the primary sector more viable as a means of making a sustainable living. We need the kind of consumer behaviour that is determined by people’s own needs and choices, not by marketing and advertising strategists earning hefty incomes for themselves and their bosses.

    The only way India as a whole can prosper is by evolving a system in which the gap between the haves and the have-nots is reduced. The present spurt of capitalistic growth is doing exactly the opposite. Sure, the middle class is more prosperous and more prosperous than it was at the beginning of the 1980s. But that does not mean that there is a corresponding reduction in the size of the deprived or marginalised population.

    What applies to the primary sector is equally true for the secondary (manufacturing) sector. You just have to travel around the so-called prosperous parts of the country (not so much the backward parts), in both rural and urban areas to know the harsh, glaring contrasts. In the not very long term, the overall scenario militates against the very spirit of democracy which we all cherish.

    Please understand that all this has nothing to do with one’s political ideology or leanings. It is just a simple commonsense plea for equity and social justice.

  15. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    August 28, 2007 11:01 am

    Nita,

    I can’t right now do as lengthy a rejoinder to your post as I have done to ArunK’s. Just one small point: the failure (or shall I say the seeming failure?) of Communism cannot be a justification of the kind of ruthless, amoral Capitalism that we see emerging in India or even in the more developed countries. This is something that even some diehard capitalist intellectuals admit. The State progressively withdrawing, in favour of business, from areas which must in fact remin its concern, must lead to seriously questioning the validity of the State.

    As for the survival of the fittest, it is incumbent upon us to ask questions about which classes of society constitute “the fittest”, and how they got there.

  16. August 28, 2007 11:10 am

    Hi Vivek, I knew you were going to come to this post…🙂 Welcome!
    Well, you speak a lot of sensible things, but there is one fact that is clear – poverty has declined in India, at least as per government data. It has fallen to 21.8% from 26.1%, just from the turn of the millenium! Certainly I was not talking only of the middle classes!
    Sure, our methods for calculating the poverty line are pretty sad, but the fact is they have always been so! I have written about that aspect here.
    The main thing to note is improvement. We are moving up, less people in India are starving which means the govt is doing it right.
    Also, if today we have a middle class that is somewhere between 200 to 300 million, where have these people come from? From the economically lower classes ofcourse!

  17. August 28, 2007 11:21 am

    Vivek, if you append the term ‘ruthless’ to anything it will become bad. Ruthless anything becomes bad, doesn’t it? So its a subjective thing. Frankly I don’t see it as being ruthless at all, but instead being sensible and balanced. We are going about it very slowly, unlike communist China. Ruthless would be to get rid of our labour laws which right now are throttling industry but which the govt realised they can’t get rid of, not unless we have some sort of social secutry. So to me ruthless is a biased word which cannot be used in the Indian scenario. We are being too soft in my opinion.
    The state should not interfere in business. Our history has made that clear. We have failed Vivek. Our great leaders have failed to alleviate poverty. Indira Gandhi’s garibi hatao was the stupidest thing that ever happened in our country. It never worked!
    Manmohan’s policies are working. He is a messiah.
    If the govt. hadn’t ignored IT we know where we would have been today. Wallowing in more poverty. At least now we can hold our head high about something!
    And the state has failed miserably is providing good education at the primary level. If we wait for the state to provide good education, we will have to wait forever. I have written several posts on this. Our govt. has ruined the education sector! We need foreign investment here too! Right now our corrupt politicians are stealing land and money and putting up institutes without following the law, taking under the table money!
    Out education system I am afraid sucks – I am now using a word that many of my commentators use.🙂
    Also I believe those who make it from poverty to prosperty are extraordinary people. Hats off to them. I would not say all of them have come up the wrong way. I say they have come up the hard way…not talking about politicians ofcourse.

  18. August 28, 2007 11:34 am

    Arunk

    // I also thought that one possible reason why farmers may feel threatened is big retail will soon dictate prices – and farmers would have little choice than to follow.//

    This is misconception.. It is not possible for anyone to dictate prices in competitive market of both demand and supply.. Market has to be competitive.. for which there should No Monopoly business.. I think more n more retailers should be allowed irrespective of their origin country… I love to see 3 digit numbers of Big retailers (not single digit numbers as we have at present!!)

    … and Also always Govt. can have control over prices.

  19. August 28, 2007 11:58 am

    Like to add My personal experience:

    I was a farmer.. then I turned as commission agent b/w buyers n farmers.. then I became buyer n supplier.. and I tell you truth.. presently not all farmers are getting what they supposed to get.. very few making good earning for their living.. it’s pathetic situation in villages.. that’s what demotivated me to go out of that Business and get into other professional field.. and to be honest I call it as HELL business.. Farmers are not getting their actual worth.. Money is just floating b/w agents..

  20. August 28, 2007 12:23 pm

    Thanks for you very valuable input Bharat. Your point that
    //It is not possible for anyone to dictate prices in competitive market of both demand and supply.. Market has to be competitive..//
    is indeed a basic truth. Some retailers will fail..already some are going into losses. The best (not in the moral sense, but in the sense of the most efficient and hardworking) will survive, and that is good for the economy. In an open market economy the farmers will choose the best deal. They will benefit. In a govt controlled system, there will be corruption and monopoly.
    I too have an uncle who is a farmer and he too tells me of the exploitation that goes on.

  21. August 28, 2007 12:41 pm

    Nita,

    Thanks for your good understanding on this issue..

    I think all farmers can’t read your post.. If they read then I am damn sure they will support.. I am really very happy to see “Reliance Fresh” outlets here.. there I can choose best while I buy and I get things at best price too.. and Infact practically they can pay good worth to farmers too.

  22. August 28, 2007 12:51 pm

    Bharath, there is one man I admire greatly and that is Dr. Manmohan Singh. He may not be a brilliant PM, but he is a brilliant economist. If only he was allowed to do all that he can!!

  23. August 28, 2007 1:05 pm

    I too admire Dr. Manmohan Singh and I like few things in Mr. Chidambaram too.. both got very good combination.. This combination can be catalyst to our growing economy..

    Lots of things going wrong in politics Unfortunately..

    1 – Sonia didnot support Wallmart’s direct entry into India… and asking them to choose backdoor

    2 – Mr. Singh didnot win election from the place where his own community dominates.. why?? he is such a brilliant man.. well educated.. Infact first PM whom I liked the most.

  24. August 28, 2007 1:24 pm

    Some of the comments here have reflected a feeling that the market cannot be allowed to run riot. I am not going into the basic philosophical issues of why State intervention to curb activities of individual self interest is essentially indefensible and immoral, but look at the basic issue. A voluntary activity between two entities or groups (here it is the retailer and the producer) is by mutual consent, and done in economic self interest. Why should the State be a better determiner of prices than the buyer-seller combine, which is what the market essentially is? And by what right??

  25. vish permalink
    August 28, 2007 2:33 pm

    Hi Nita,

    When it comes to Survival of the Fittest, i would like to bring a point here. When there was a family fued in one of the biggest business houses, all the news papers reported that as a(would be)big blow to the economy and if I am right, even the Finance Minister got involved in sorting out the family issue…the question is, why we cannot allow a business house to collapse when we have no problem in allowing the toiling masses to die? I agree fully with Vivek that governments cannot be run like a busines and they are elected to protect the ‘have nots’. Maybe that was the reason why Chandra Babu Naidu lost the elections even though he did a great job as a Chief Minister.

  26. August 28, 2007 2:46 pm

    Vish, when you ask:
    //question is, why we cannot allow a business house to collapse when we have no problem in allowing the toiling masses to die?//
    I am not sure what you mean. I don’t know abt the incident you are referring to so cannot comment on that, but I don’t agree that this govt. is letting the toiling masses die. Its done more for the poor than all previous govts. It is in fact protecting the have-nots with its policies. Just look at our labour laws, our reservation laws, the restrictions on FDI, the gradual way many regulations were eased, there are many such instances.
    Unfortunately, people who are not educated are easy targets for false rhetroric. In my view that is why Chandrababu Naidu lost the election. It is easy to whip up rhetoric about the rich, specially in this consumerist climate and the poor are the first to fall for it. They do not understand for example that the minute you allow organisations to sack workers, more companies will start giving permenant jobs to people, more cos will start hiring, more cos will come up, it will encourage growth. Today it is a sad to see so many contract workers exploited, without benefits, but employers do not want to take chances. They can sack managers but they cannot sack workers. As far as I see it, our country is pro-poor and that is evident from the many policies to benefit the agriculture sector, the cottage industries and also the other points I have mentioned above.

  27. Phantom permalink
    August 28, 2007 5:02 pm

    At the heart of ALL the problems faced by India is lack of education among the masses. An educated person is empowered intellectually and emotionallly to incorporate rationale and logic into his decisions and thoughts. He will NOT be blindly manipulated by politicians seeking pre self-progression.

    The massive irony is that much of the educted middle class does not vote or take a serious stance against these grass roots politicians who are stirring up emotions among the poor, with only their own financial gain in mind. The future of the country rests in the considerations, aspirations, requirements of the middle class, not the poor and not the rich. The poor will benefit hugely from the requirements of the middle class, as will the ricj, although in different ways.

  28. vish permalink
    August 28, 2007 5:32 pm

    Hi Nita,

    I generally mentioned about the police firing that happens regularly in India whenever the toiling masses come to the street to protest against something that affects their livelihood. In this case, can we say we will not allow them to survive?

    The point is, our regulatory bodies are still maturing and at this stage, as Vivek rightly mentioned, they cannot provide a ‘level playing field’.

    Regarding Chandrababu Naidu, when you say “Unfortunately, people who are not educated are easy targets for false rhetroric. In my view that is why Chandrababu Naidu lost the election. It is easy to whip up rhetoric about the rich, specially in this consumerist climate and the poor are the first to fall for it.”

    the entire media was supporting him and even the opposition was careful enough not to critisize him yet he lost the elections. Who do you think were whipping up rhetoric then? I still feel that he distanced himself from the masses due to his obsession with technology and the ‘gap’ was the reason!

  29. August 28, 2007 5:52 pm

    Vish, I am not that well up on the politics of AP to give a proper rejoinder to your statement about Naidu. There is no doubt that he distanced himself from the masses, how and why it happened would make very interesting reading!
    When you said that “masses come to the street to protest” if you mean mob violence, well, I am against any sort of mob violence. Actually I do not think violence is justified and I have written about it here. If you are talking about police brutality, I find that equally abhorrant and the recent example of Singur was shocking.
    when you talk about regulatory bodies still maturing… I am fully confident that our regulatory bodies will mature in conjunction with liberalization. To hold liberalization back for this reason does nto make sense to me. We need to move forward.
    Frankly I am not an idealist. I consider myself a pragmatist.
    if you ask me, if there is ONE thing that upsets me the most about this country is people starving. I hate it! What our govt is doing is going tto stop that.

  30. August 28, 2007 8:16 pm

    nita – yesterday night (my time), I had posted some comments, but then connection to internet got broken. I am not sure if that comment got lost or are stuck in the spam queue. Any case, assuming this one gets through, please ignore and delete it. In any case, apologies for Ghazni-Mohammedisque attempt at trying to getting my opinions through🙂

    I was not making a case for socialism/communism – I cannot with my frame of mind. If any, I was only asking whether big retail is capitalism and is a must for a good economy. I think it is not in the idealistic sense, but in a practical sense it is an inevitable, unavoidable outcome – because the human is rarely satisfied with what he has. He is will use any system to his maximum benefit. But in the practical sense, capitalism definitely has worked out better for more people and I do think it is a better deal in the real world. But however, I think we should not be giddy to say that capitalism is “prosperity for all”. If any, it is “prosperity for more, a lot more. And alo a lot of prosperity for very few”. (It can be justified by the rules of the system itself, but that would be sort of circular argument.)

    On a related but side topic: With capitalism , socialism, communism etc. I wonder if the question we must ask when evaluating is not the pure concepts themselves, but which ones can be easily taken advantage off or manipulated or twisted to the benefit of a few. Even if we take it that in terms pure intentions and conceptualization, those systems are meant to be fair in some sense, can really so in an imperfect world where those systems must be implemented by corruptible men? Given the evidence, capitalism indeed fares better. People take advantage of it, but not to as devastating an effect as other systems (at least that is my guess).

  31. August 29, 2007 10:06 am

    arunk, today I found one of your comments in my spam mail! Well, I de-spammed it because it is not indentical to your recent one.
    Yes I agree, we cannot trust our govt babus to run businesses. There is far too much corruption. Only an open market can straighten things out.

    Paul...I found two of your comments in my spam mail. Don’t know why this is happening of late! Anyway, I have now de-spammed them and replied. Sorry about that. btw, I liked your way of putting it this way:
    //Malnutrition is a much greater evil than corporate control//
    Yep, exactly my thoughts!!

  32. August 29, 2007 7:57 pm

    thanks nita – btw, “taken advantage off by a few” does not necessarily mean only by the government – although in some of those systems it does mean only government.

    It can happen in an open market environment too – but certainly not often, and not at the same scale. Certain markets in US like oil, telephone, cable (and some would argue even software ;)) have this “problem”. But again, the pure rules of capitalism says – if you are reallly that good, you should be able to dominate a market and maximize profits.

    Every company in an open market economy wants to do one thing: destroy, annihilate its competition. Includes playing dirty as long as it is legally defensible. Those are strong words that may seem out of context, but people in corporate world do use those words regularly in pep-talks. In short, they want to put their competitors out of business.

    But in general, the “fall out” of this aggressive competitive attitude (thankfully) don’t result in monopolies all over. When everyone thinks that way, it usually is a cat and mouse game, and usually only leads to better quality in that market segment. However, there is no question that what every company really would like is “no competition”🙂. So even while thriving in the ecosystem of an “open marker”, every player reallly would like it be closed. Intriguingly ronic – isnt it🙂 ?

  33. vish permalink
    May 3, 2008 10:43 am

    timesofindia article

    An eye opener!

    Thanks for this link Vish. I have been researching this topic and planning to write on it. Lets see how it works out. – Nita.

  34. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    May 3, 2008 11:57 am

    Nita,

    WRT the link provided by Vish, did you also see the “Related Stories” and “Comments to the Editor” at the end of that story?

  35. May 3, 2008 2:57 pm

    Vish,Nita,Vivek,

    Thanks to the callousness of our governments,GM food is shockingly making inroads into our everyday lives.

    The unfortunate Vidarbha farmers have had a terrible experience with GM cotton seeds dumped upon them by the people from one particular corporation.I can only hope that the we learn from the Vidarbha experience and do not allow it to be replicated across India with respect to food crops.If such a thing happens,India is doomed.

    It is about time we adopt the EU’s stringent standards on GM food.I would say we even need to exceed those standards and encourage only organic food!

  36. May 3, 2008 9:03 pm

    Nita, many of the Western European governments/societies are also socialistic in nature – at least they have a different model (than US) where governments still do their job. Also, what we have in the US is a government-enabled corporate oligarchy – which is not capitalism, and certainly there’s no such thing as a level playing field – other than in theory/textbooks.

  37. May 3, 2008 9:14 pm

    Amit, the European societies are very concerned about people’s issues which is a great thing. I think they have found the right balance. Mostly I am whole heartedly with them because they are extremely concerned about health issues and they couldn’t care less about which companies they hurt in the process. I am of the same thinking. In fact that the old terms of Socialism and Capitalism are falling away. I agree with you about the US. I think they are going to the extreme…and if there is one thing that makes me shudder is extremes!
    And Amit, that link you sent me about the bottles is just what I wanted. I will be writing about that too…haven’t scheduled it yet but want to post it in the coming week.

    Vivek, yes I read the comments. Basically strong opinions.

    Raj, the cotton issue is very complex but I agree with you entirely about the organic food. For the last few days I have been thinking of writing about genetically modified food and by a strange concidence Vish read my mind and gave the link. In fact the news item just came out today which means I should go ahead and do the post…pronto!

  38. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    May 3, 2008 10:32 pm

    Hi All!

    This is not necessarily the best thread to post this in, but of all those currently active, it seems the most appropriate. Do read this:

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Now_Bush_blames_India_for_high_food_prices/articleshow/3006775.cms

    The limit!

  39. May 3, 2008 11:09 pm

    Vivek,

    I was actually expecting such a thing from that particular person.I think the only “rice” that he knows is the person called “Rice” who advises him on many issues!🙂

    Anyway,that differentially (dis)abled duck and his coterie are going to be replaced soon.I can only hope that his successor,whoever he (I think she is a real possibility) is,does not get a person called “Wheat” to advise him (or her)!

  40. May 3, 2008 11:35 pm

    If anyone thinks that democracy is the best system ever, Bush is an excellent example to counter that, though the first time, the supreme court installed him.

    Seriously, I have never encountered a “leader” with such poor grasp of the complexities of life, a simplistic thinking and such a lack of intellectual acumen. Tells a lot about the people who elected him a second time though. Yeah, go ahead – have your beer with him while you talk about his mess!!

  41. vish permalink
    May 4, 2008 9:24 am

    Amit, just watching the news about the poor response for the country-wide protest from BJP, I felt that democracy is also failing in India. BJP started the India Shining perfected by Congress and in ten years we have empty shelves. Communists are no different. In the name of communism, they have the license to kill poor people! Do we have any other choice?

  42. May 4, 2008 5:15 pm

    Vish,

    I agree that the Right,the Centre and the Left have all let down the people miserably.But I don’t think that democracy is failing in India.Infact,I think that democracy is the best system for India.India is such a complex country and the only hope for us is democracy.Our democracy is flawed,no doubt,but we must remember what happened when even a flawed democracy such as ours was suspended for a brief period.Also,it has managed to give us a few men of calibre,like the current Prime Minister,even if he does not have a political base of his own.I would any day choose “the weakest PM that India has ever had” to someone like “the world leader” who has to be reminded that there is a difference between the OPEC and the APEC and between Austria and Australia🙂

  43. May 4, 2008 8:04 pm

    vish, yes we do – more participation by people in democratic process, and holding the feet of elected officials to fire (i.e. accountability). Democracy is not easy, and its success depends on participation by the people.🙂

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