My friend has invited me to a candle light vigil at Kolkata’s Hazra crossing to mourn for those dead in the AMRI hospital fire, the worst ever since the Guatamela fire at the mental hospital during the World War II (Star Ananda News, Suman De). The gathering will demand affordable health care by the public health system in order to help patients avoid greed ridden health care deliveries by private profit making bodies. The kind of people who will be at the vigil this evening are liberal, plural, tolerant and secular Indians, who will only try to ignore the core issue and skirt around to demand from the State, its greater role, knowing full well that in the aftermath of economic liberalization, the State withdraws systematically from all economic activities leaving the space for private investments. They will try to raise issues of State and public health, monitoring agencies and so on, only to avoid raising the uncomfortable questions about the ownership of the hospital to whom profits accrue. The State can do nothing where greed prevails in such an unpardonable shamefulness.
The single point of convergence and hence of consensus across the world of neoliberalism is privatization, since private capital, pursuing profit motives is supposed to be able to deliver goods and services best to citizens who now are overwhelmingly consumers. What this programme fails to see is that private capital is never happy with a steady state of affairs and seeks ever higher profits exhausting resources with alarming rapidity. The great AMRI fire is the result of private property seeking more and more profits by cutting costs to ridiculous levels.
AMRI is not an exception; it is the rule of business. Polluting industrial units, locked out mills, units operating out of contract labour, leaving behind communities in ill health and poverty is the business of such investors. Should one protest, such investors go into an industrial strike, migrating businesses out of the city and returning back into it only after some amount of prosperity has returned. The story is the same everywhere in the world, and especially so because not only the investors have no loyalty to the people but in almost all cases of unbridled greed, investors have essentially belonged to a different community. The sociology of the actors is as important to outcomes as economics is.
Sumitomo and Mitsubishi are better behaved in Japan than they are in China; Posco is a mild mannered exemplary group in Korea and a rather wile one in Orissa. Enron would never have got off in the US and Union Carbide would never have dared to do what it did to India in the country of its origin. Investment capital is invariably contemptuous of its consumers because the relationship is one of exploitation; just in the way labour and capital are invariable enemies. A possible reason why India could never quite develop capitalism within the caste frame is because community ties places severe limits on free exploitation. Besides, capital also needs to cartelize and it is difficult for a few among them to gang up against the larger community into which they have to interact on an everyday basis. The most opportune route for business is therefore to migrate; it is not surprising that mercantile capital has migrated the most and early globalism has been entirely due to spread of culture through trade routes.
Nationalism that came riding on the back of industrial capital, Protestant ethics and community ties of mutuality helped sublimate greed into a work for a larger community. Much of capital escaped this entrapment into spirituality by continuing on the path of mercantilism through colonialism. The nation proved to be tenuous under the glare of capitalist greed; the neo-liberal consensus dissolved the worth of nations in a sweep of globalization that pulled down barriers for capital but set them up higher than ever for labour. Capitalism finally realized its worth by infesting countries socially and historically unconnected to them for shameless exploitation, violence, murder and mayhem. Latin America and Africa are instances of such attack by unrelated investors. Indeed, an important way to contain and control capital is by making it accountable, which in turn means tracking them across larger spaces and larger stretches of time. Sociological accounting of capital is needed; tracking families such as the Rothschilds across decades and over two centuries from Japan in the east to Alaska in the west, from Iceland to Australia to reveal to their stakeholders that such people financed wars and drugs, mafias and banks, hotels and hospitals, Churches and Synagogues and paid for both sides in the American Civil War; only when faces are known and made known can the Shylocks be contained.
Who are then the faces of greed in the AMRI fire? What other businesses do they have, where else have they obtained assets, who their family members are must be tracked to the minutest if we really want to bring the guilty to the book, genuinely.