Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Will the legitimately rich be left alone?

For the past few weeks, there has been a lot of news being made about Mukesh Ambani's new abode, Antilia. And as are many things associated with the Reliance Group, Antilia too has been amongst controversies, right from the beginning. First, was the controversy about the land itself. Accusations flew past the entire city, about how it was illegally transferred to Mukesh Ambani by the Waqf board. Once that died, newspapers have been writing realms of articles about how this mansion/building is a a shameless show-off by the country's super rich and how it utterly disregards the poverty that surrounds them, etc. Then, we find comparison between Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. We are told how Tata still prefers to live in his small flat in an apartment in Colaba, while Ambani is splurging more than a billion dollars for his residence. But, no one tells us that Tata owns more than 10 cars, ranging from the humble Indigo to the super luxurious Jaguar.

A similar protest was once organised when diamond mughal Bharat Shah had organised his daughter's wedding at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. The protestors accused the diamond industry of being insensitive to the financial condition of those around them and spend lavishly while people were dying of hunger. The diamond industry shot back, saying that they employ a lot many people and generate a lot more wealth than those who were protesting outside the Wankhede. Similar things can be said about Ambani and Reliance Industries too. Various arms of the Reliance Industries have been generating thousands of direct and lakhs of indirect jobs in the country. And Mukesh Ambani's income and Reliance Industries' profits are there with SEBI to be inspected by anybody to be seen. So, why this hue and cry when Ambani decides to spend the money for his abode?

He and his family have legitimately earned that money, it is their right to spend it in a manner deemed fit by them. Atleast, they are not like the politicians, whose assets double or quadruple within one five-year term of the Parliament or legislative assembly. We never see newspapers raise such comments about them. How much legitimate employment do these politicians generate?

Perhaps our aversion to such opulence comes from our socialist conditioning for the past sixty odd years. When, the rich were regarded with disdain. Those who amass fortunes only by cheating and exploiting the poor. Recall the movies of the sixties and seventies, when the rich landlord or money-lender used to exploit the poor hero or heroine. The rich could never do anything good, they were always exploiters. And they always disregarded anything that had to do with the poor. Such movies were a hit amongst the people, who could see the poor hero rise to the occasion and either finish of the rich villain or cause a change in his heart and prod him into donating his wealth for the cause of the poor.

The CEOs or owners of listed companies have a major portion of their income legitimately recorded as per the rules of the government. Many of them are legitimately rich. They have the right to spend their money as per their wishes, till the point it is in accordance with the laws of the country. Why should they be forced to take a moral stand? When Antilia was being constructed it provided employment to thousands of labourers, architects construction engineers and ofcourse, all those reporters who were busy writing against it. And even after it is occupied, it will continue providing employment in terms of various goods and services that it will be consuming. If there is poverty around us, it is the society's failure and the failure of the government, whom we have elected to rule us. It is the government's role to look after the welfare of it populace. The rich in the society too should play their role, but then they cannot be the primary drivers of poverty eradication. Let us leave them alone and ask the government, what can be done to minimise the deep wealth rift between the two sections of the society.
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  1. We have to accept and come to terms with the fact that socialism is dead and there is no use beating the dead! This post was a refreshing twist from the usual reports which are bent on bringing issues of poverty and the have-nots. Well, he has the money and he can do whatever he wants with it. Now Wikipedia allotting a page for his house is something that bugs me a wee bit. But after all Wiki is a community page and anyone can add anything. So on second thoughts, I leave that issue.

    But the house sure looks smashing!

    Hope you have been well, Vinay.

    Joy always,

  2. @Susan,
    Wikipedia has pages allotted to porn actor too!! So, some time Mukesh's home too was going to feature on Wiki, especially after so much news that it has generated.

    Yes, the rich have the right to spend their money, as they wish to do. We should not be lecturing them about how they should spend it. Would these reporters financially help Mukesh Ambani, if any of his venture fails and he is in dire straits because of that? If the answer is no, then they can't fault him for spending the money he has earned after taking so many risks.