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Book Review: ‘The Billionaire Raj: A Journey through India’s New Gilded Age’ by James Crabtree

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The Billionaire Raj A Journey through India’s New Gilded Age

For long, we all have broached the subject of India’s experiment with socialism. The state-controlled the various fields of business, planning was central; also the means of production were not with capitalists but with the state. The state promised to uplift the poor form the poverty, raise their living standard by utilization of these means of production to bring economic and social equality in society.

But years after embracing socialism growth was still sluggish, corruption percolating deep into the system, choices with the people were far and few. Inequality was, as ever, still prevalent in the society. Amenities like telephone and exuded power and exclusivity. The world mocked our “License Raj” and we became notorious for our Hindu Growth rate.

Eventually, the closed economy turned sclerotic and ran into trouble. On the contrary, economies worldwide grew rapidly, at this time. India was left with no other option, but to open its economy to the world. Finally, India yielded and opened its economy in 1991, with an hope of removing the ills of corruption, creating more jobs, removing social inequality and to overcome challenges of economic development. The new era of neo-liberalization was considered augury of prosperity and egalitarian society.

However, who would have imagined that within 27 years of opening up the economy, the majority of the wealth would be held by a handful of people. James Crabtree in his debut book, “The Billionaire Raj: A Journey through India’s New Gilded Age, offers an overview of this fascinating journey of India’s new Gilded Age.”

He writes,

Yet the decades after 1947, it at least grew economically more equal, with an elite that lived modestly by the standard of the industrialized West.

A silver lining to India’s bygone era of socialism.

The Billionaire Raj is the narrative of the breakneck rise of the Indian riches- Bollygarchs, as he calls them- corporate power, their lifestyle and the mansions.

The book is an overview of the concomitant of wealth: inequality, crony capitalism, massive corruption and mega scams. The writer explores the exorbitant funding of political parties by these tycoons, the costly affair of India’s election.

The book talks at length about the deep-rooted problem of mounting debt, IPL, about Modi and his tenure as Prime Minister of India. The pro and cons of various reforms ushered under his regime. Mr. Crabtree is successful in raising the fundamental question that holds imperative to India’s future.

The book is well researched, the exceptional storytelling skill of the writer keeps the readers engrossed; the personal interview with various business tycoons like Vijay Mallya, Naveen Jindal, Gautam Adani etc, offer the readers classic vignettes of their life, their perspective about the event that unfolded in this age.

The writer has successfully flagged various fissures as a warning that can pull India down. The country will have to fix these fissures first, only then it can fulfil the ambition to lead Asia.

Today India stands at the crossroads of what sort of superpower it will become

, he further writes.

Mr. Crabtree offers an optimistic view about India’s future:

India’s new Gilded Age can blossom into a progressive Era of its own, in which the perils of inequality and crony capitalism are left decisively behind,

he writes.

The Billionaire Raj will make us ruminate about the era of Neo-liberalization, as we did aggressively about Indian Socialism in the past. The Billionaire Raj is an eye-opener for all of us and will certainly be helpful in paving the way for our future ahead. The book is Locus classicus on the contemporary history of India- a must read for every Indian.

About James Crabtree

James Crabtree, a former Mumbai bureau chief for The Financial Times. He spent 5 years in India before moving to Singapore. At present, he is an Associate Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.

Book Review by Sunny Grack, Kotgarh, Shimla

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Wah Re Corona: Himachali Folk Artist’s Lyrical Satire is Factual Rendition of India’s Agonizing Catastrophe

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wah re corona

Shimla-Otherwise blatantly vocal and distinctively mass-mobilizing government of India is suddenly in the most subdued self after its proclaimed victory over the deathly virus; participation in uncontrolled election rallies; and permitting maha melas. The stalwarts are in the hiding, while helpless citizens – who voted them into power not once but in landslide victories twice – are dying due to lack of oxygen, poor – unavailable – medical facilities, and the denial stance of the ignorant in the helm.

Drawing a comparison between the fatal coronavirus and the mismanagement of the entire situation by the appalling government; a Himachali folk artist has released a factually appropriate lyrical satire that will tickle your mind and leave you to imagine what has brought this catastrophe onto us. The song is written by Rameshwar Sharma and music by Lalit Sauta. 

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International Mandi Shivratri Fair Begins in Presence of 150 Local Dieties

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mandi maha shivratri 2021 pics

Mandi-International Shivratri Fair of Mandi district on the occasion of Mahashivratri began on March 12, 2020, at the historic Paddal ground. While Mahashivratri is celebrated for one day in most parts, the fair in Mandi goes on for seven days.

After Pagri and worship ceremony at Raj Madhav Rai Temple – abode of principal deity Madho Rai- begun the taditional Jaleb, Shobha Yatra. This yatra is held on every every year on the occasion of Mahashivratri. It starts from Raj Madhav Rai temple to conclude at the Paddal ground. This year, over 150 deities participated in the ‘Jaleb’, the traditional Shobha Yatra from almost all parts of the district. A total of over 200 deities have been invited this year.  

Mandi shivratri pictures 2021

Picture Courtesy: JairamThakur/Twitter

Thousands of people dressed in their traditional attire participated in the procession carrying their local deities dancing all the way upto Paddal ground.

Deputy Commissioner Mandi and Chairman International Shivratri Fair Organizing Committee Rugved Thakur informed this year as many as 216 deities were invited to participate in this fair.
He said that awareness Rath has also been included in the procession to drive in the theme of Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao. It was followed by the performances by pahari artists on the first night of the fair.

An increase of five percent in honorarium of Bajantries accompanying the deities was also announced.

Chief minister Jairam Thakur also participated in the Yatra and Puja (worship). The state government is celebrating the festival as Swarnim International Shivratri Fair to mark fifty years of Statehood.

Though the Chief Minister cautioned the people that the world hasn’t come out of corona pandemic and there is a need to be cautious, he himself participated in the fair without wearing a mask or taking any visible measures for social distancing. From the crowd, some people were also heard asking the Chief Minister where his mask was . 

CM Jairam Thakur not wearing mask

He said that fortunately, the number of covid-19 cases were declining constantly, which was a big sigh of relief. 

Chief Minister couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to speak about his government’s achievements on the this occasion. “Three years tenure of the State Government has been full of achievements and accomplishments,” he said.

“This year the Mandi Shivrati has gained more importance as it was being celebrated this year when the Nagar Parishad has been upgraded to Municipal Corporation,” Jai Ram Thakur said.

Further, various Departments, Boards and Corporation have set up exhibition at Paddal Ground.

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Amid Steep Rise in COVID-19 Cases, HP Govt to Open Temples/Religious Places from Sept 10

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Chaurasi-Temple-photo

Shimla- The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Himachal Pradesh had reached 6830 by September 4, 2020. Yesterday the State reported 215 new positive cases with two deaths. The COVID-19 death tally rose to 48 with these new casualties reported from Sirmaur and Kangra districts.

According to the yesterday’s COVID-19 bulletin released by the State Health Department, highest 37 cases were reported in Kangra district followed by Solan (35) Sirmaur (33), Chamba (33), Mandi (32), Una (20), Bilaspur (7), Hamirpur (7), Shimla (8), and Kullu (3). Till Friday evening, the number of active cases in the state was 1815 as 4920 persons had recovered.

HP Health Department’s COVID-19 Bulletin for August 4, 2020 ( 9 PM)

temples-opening-in-himachal-pradesh

Amid this steep rise in cases in Himachal, the State Government on Friday held a Cabinet meeting in which it decided to open temples and religious places from September 10.

 The Language, Art and Culture Department will prepare SOP in this regard.  Registration would be required for people entering the State till September 15. The quarantine requirement would be reduced from 14 days to 10 days. The District Administration would strictly enforce the use of masks and social distancing in the field, the government said.

The Cabinet decided to provide wheat flour and rice to the income tax payee APL Consumers under Public Distribution System as was being provided to them earlier on APL rates and provide them pulses, edible oil, salt and sugar on zero-subsidy on actual rates.

The State Cabinet decided to request the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India to sign Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) related to Affordable Rental Housing Complexes Scheme with the state government.

It decided to fill up 10 posts of class IV employees in Panchayati Raj Department.

It gave its approval to transfer Gram Panchayat Kot from Police Station Shimla East (Chhota Shimla) to Police Station West (Boileauganj)  in district Shimla to facilitate the people.

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