Kleptocracy is defined as a term where those in power exploit national resources and steal or it is a rule of thieves. The recent frauds and scams in which PNB suffered a loss of Rs 11,300-crore, followed by Rotomac owner Vikram Kothari being arrested for another fraud involving Rs 3,700-crore and a Rs. 6,000-crore scam in Himachal Pradesh, goes on to prove that scams are basically a neat version of gruesome crimes, in which the perpertrator stabs, kills, maims a person to death for personal benefit. The only difference is the weapon one uses – holding a knife in front of an innocent man is a position of power similar to the one a millionaire has when he uses his clout and friendship with those at the helm. A write-up by Adess Singh
Opinion@The Hush Post: Democracy alas is a fragile system that is sustainable only under a narrow band of conditions, surprising that it has existed for as long. The perils of democracy are outlined in Plato’s Republic but a more sinister threat, emerges as democracy is practiced in severely economically polarized populations.
The term ‘kleptocracy’ (the rule of the thugs and the thieves) is not yet a recognized English word but given the state of the Indian polity, the British will soon have to add it to their dictionary.
The regression of democracy is a process of decay, goaded along its ruinous path by following the policy of unfettered inheritance. This one singular capricious act committed by the lawmakers sets the system to auto destruct mode. The reason for choosing this pathway towards destruction can vary from society to society but the result is always the same.
Strange, that the manner in which wealth is distributed, after ones death, has such a disproportionate effect on the wellbeing of the living. Across the world there is a very strong correlation between good governance and a rationalized inheritance policy as also the correlation between wide spread corruption, extreme economic disparity and unfettered Inheritance. To this correlation, there are just two notable exceptions, that of Canada and Australia, these two countries do follow unfettered inheritance yet are not struck by its ills. Perhaps their large natural resource and small population provides a buffer.
Whereas at the macro level these correlations are easy to visualize as the data is straight forward and is generally available on the internet, the intricate relationship in our day to day living requires a bit of insight and a lucky flash. A modest attempt in a few words is as follows:
We are all mortals yet we do not come to terms with our mortality. It is difficult to understand that at a time we will simply not be around. The inability to accept and imbibe our mortality, makes us do so many strange things. (I assure not all of which are bad. Like the powerful Chinese emperors who of course wanted to live forever, were the first venture capitalists for medicine and chemistry.)
In such a situation any permanence appears to be a bypass to our natural mortality, therefore the amassing of wealth enough for seven generations has an exalted status, and if the government allows such an amassing, it become the be all and the end all of our existence. Everything else is put aside, all dharma all Karma are sacrificed at the altar of the family wealth and one becomes truly a ‘dynastic slave’. Sardar Khushwant Singh in one of the op-eds in Hindustan Times some years ago, put this across very clearly (https://goo.gl/imdeJi – Sardar Khushwant Singh’s comment) . The op-ed appears to have had an impact on the government of that time, (https://goo.gl/3Fe4B8 – Time for debate on inheritance) but sadly, they did not have the political will or sagacity to bring in the desired changes. I will use the talent of one of America’s best-followed television satirists to drive home a connection that is too ethereal to be expressed in written words alone. Do excuse the common language he uses.
It’s no strange coincidence, countries that earlier followed a rationalized inheritance policy, started to decay, almost as soon as they switched to unfettered inheritance. The United States in 1999, Egypt in 1996 are examples. India typically, is a saga of missed opportunity of gigantic proportions. Burdened by the poorly worded and badly worked Estate Duty Act of 1953 which deeply snared many families while it was in operation was repealed in 1985, half by the Congress under VP Singh and half by the BJP. Here was a lost opportunity of which many books shall be written at a future time. The law makers discussed the Estate duty Act for exactly 26 minutes 23rd August 1985 (as per RTI reply 1(485)/IC/11 of 08/07/2011) and then repealed the Act-lock stock and barrel.
In this, the lawmakers lost a great opportunity to set right the polity of this great and very youthful nation. The lawmakers by their short sight actually set India on to a path of pathological inequality that would wreck each and every institution in the country.
Today unfettered inheritance is the driving force of all scams, all politics and it is actually the root of gloom that engulfs our youth.
Adam Smith et al would not have opposed it had it been only a social and psychological problem. There is another very real and three-dimensional aspect of unfettered inheritance that we are experiencing now. The polarization of wealth and opportunity that this quickly brings in, leads to instability in business and economy and
A dangerously unstable economy and a very volatile business environment, is but a natural fall out of the policy of unfettered inheritance. As opportunity and wealth are controlled in very few families, the business environment becomes a vortex of collapsing endeavors. Financial and business institutions like Banking and other professional institutions come under very severe stress. The pressure to perform and outperform leads quickly to bypassing critical checks and balances resulting in stretched and cracked structures that exhibit a very high degree of fragility. The occurrence of mega scams are no longer rare ‘Black Swan’ events but a recurring symptom of a deep seated malaise that afflicts our society.
The simple take-home message about this is that: Unfettered Inheritance affects us all in a degenerative way. The rich, in fact are worse affected by the accelerated accumulation of wealth and power than the poor. Yet paradoxically the rich oppose the rationalization of inherited wealth caught up as they are in the ‘maya jaal ‘of perpetuating the family wealth, a desire hat derives sustenance from the impermanence of mortality.