Thursday, February 28, 2008

Schemes that sprout in political heads

G. Sudhakaran has certified that Elamaram Kareem is the best Industries Minister Kerala has seen in 60 years. He has discovered something no one else who handled the Industries department could discover: industries cannot be established on the top of the coconut palm!

It takes a genius to recognize another genius. We needed Sudhakaran to recognize Kareem’s greatness. He is like the publishers of the Guinness Book of Records. If someone sets a record, they recognize it and issue a certificate. When someone’s greatness is noticed, Sudhakaran recognizes it and issues a certificate. Pinarayi Vijayan (No.1 in the party, the greatest organizer Kerala has seen), T. M. Thomas Isaac (the greatest economist), V.S. Achuthanandan (No. 1 in government), C.K. Gupthan (the greatest Devaswom Board chairman) are the lucky ones who have already received certificates from him. The greatest Home Minister, the greatest Local Self-government Minister, the greatest Education Minister, the greatest Health Minister and the greatest Electricity Minister are all awaiting their turn to get certificates. It takes time to issue certificates because ‘available’ geniuses are too many.

There are people here who have been familiar with the top of coconuts for centuries. They know what are all there and what are they good for. But they did not know that industries cannot be established there, that you need land for that. We had to wait till Kareem incarnated to know that.

Talk of the top of the coconut brings to mind an incident of my school days. The Malayalam class was in progress. There was more than the usual noise from the back, and the teacher found that the students in the last row were eating something. He asked what they were eating. Pat came the answer: “top of the coconut.” An explanation also followed. A coconut palm had been felled in the neighbourhood. A student, who got its top, brought it to class and shared it with friends. “Good,” said the teacher. “You need it. Doctors recommend soup made with lamb’s legs to give strength to the limbs. The top of the coconut will help to strengthen your top.”

Our ministers don’t have to eat the top of the coconut. Schemes are sprouting in their heads even without it. But if you look closely you will find reasons to believe that many of the schemes did not sprout there but were transplanted there. In Travancore’s history there is a Maharaja known as ‘garbhasreeman’ (the term may be conveniently rendered into English as ‘pregnant genius’). He got the title as he had earned the status of Maharaja even before he was born. By the same token, some of our ministers may also be referred to as ‘pregnancy genius’. They had qualified for ministership before they were appointed ministers. What is more, it was also decided in advance what each one should do.

The first item on the agenda of one pregnant genius was to get whatever loan he can from the Asian Development Bank. He invited the Chief Minister to play hide and seek. While the Chief Minister was looking for him, he sent an official to Delhi with the file and signed the loan agreement.

The leaders of some caste organizations recently said their policy was to help those who had helped them. This is a policy which the CPI (M) had adopted even earlier. The main task of one pregnant genius is to help those who had helped the party. Santiago Martin and Pharis Aboobaker, who had helped the party, have not complained of any lapse in the implementation of the policy.

From birth, the pregnant geniuses have been moving ahead well with diverse programmes like private self-financing, Cooperative self-financing, Pariyaram cooperation, aravana, Athirappalli. Who will not be inspired by the resoluteness of the pregnant genius who declares that neither Sugathakumari nor Sonia Gandhi can stop the Athirappalli project?

Elamaram Kareem learnt the tactics of industry from Saboo, the representative of Birla. But it is doubtful if he learnt all that could be learnt. Even as people were dying breathing air and drinking water polluted by the Mavoor factory and demanding that the plant be closed down, he had striven hard to keep it going. But Birla, who knows not only to start and run factories but also to close them down, abandoned it. Gradually the quality of the air and the water improved.

The Cyber City project helps us to understand a characteristic of schemes that grow in political heads. When 70 acres of HMT land reached the hands of a real estate company in the name of IT industry, 30 acres reached the hands of political intermediaries in the name of workers. Even before officials and legal authorities examined the records and pronounced on the validity of the transaction, the party conference, through a resolution, declared that everything was in order.

Kerala’s problem is not that the people are not investor-friendly, but that leaders who were not investor-friendly earlier are now too investor-friendly. The investors they find also have a weakness. They are too politician-friendly.
Based on “Nerkkazhcha” column appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated February 28, 2008

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