avatar
Return to the People What is the People’s: Verdict Long Overdue.


I

 

Now if you haven’t heard of the brothers Ambani you clearly cannot be a citizen of the world.

 

Ask Forbes; they are right up there among the hundred or so who rule our global destiny.

 

Being super-rich, they are powerful; being powerful they get richer. As the grapevine has it, close to a hundred members of the Indian parliament are their trusted collaborators in nation-building. Else, how do you think we got where we are?

 

Petroleum, gas, steel, telecom, and a zillion other embroilments keep their riches going. Name any pie and they have a finger or two in it. Thus, considering how much the nation depends on their exertions, not for nothing are they captioned the Reliance group of entrepreneurs.

 

Somewhere on the precincts of parliament house, (I forget where) you might find the lofty Upanishadic averments: tamasuma jyotir gamaye (lead me from the darkness to the light), asatyoma satyam gamaye (from untruth to the truth), mrityoma amritam gamaye (from mortality to deathlessness).

 

However self-evidently these injunctions guide India’s democratic life, there might be a hidden fourth which in point of fact is the primary engine of its onward march; thus it may be formulated: daridritama vaibhav gamaye (lead me from rags to riches).

 

Truth to tell, it is this fourth hidden one which famously informed the asteroidical rise of the Ambani patriarch, alas now no more. But the brothers Ambani, Mukesh and Anil, carry forth the torch that he lit and fuelled. And, since your curiosity is by now more than whetted, may I recommend a book that sets out the Ambani story in full detail and devotion: do read (if you can find a copy, since it is believed that all its prints were promptly bought by the reliable Reliance brothers at the very moment of its release) Reliance: the Real Natwar by Arun K. Agrawal, Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2008.

 

II

 

Wretchedly, as is known to happen among the rich and famous clans, some years ago the brothers Ambani fell out with one another, as a consequence of which their businesses and sundry assets came to be bifurcated through the enlightened intervention of their beloved matriarch.

 

Thus the Petroleum Gas business fell to the lot of the elder Mukesh, and the Energy interests to that of the junior, but smarter and handsomer, Anil.

 

As a new source of Gas was dug up off the coast of Andhra (the K basin), the brothers quickly closed ranks to come to an understanding, entirely privately, as to how the elder would supply the Gas to the younger, and at what rates, for his power producing units.

 

Alas, yet again, as also happens frequently, the supposedly agreed-upon price of Gas became a bone of contention while the nation and the state watched in awe.

 

The matter went to court.

 

Until, just the other day, the honorable Supreme Court of India opined upon the matter in a most curious and unsmart (because non-neo-liberal) pronouncement.

 

III

 

Here is what the honorable Court said:

 

  Natural resources must always be used in the interests of the country and not private interests. The broader constitutional principle, the statutory scheme as well as the proper interpretation of the PSC mandates the government to determine the price of the gas before it is supplied by the contractor.”

 

Further:

 

  Due to shortage of funds and technical know-how the government has privatized such activities. . .It would have been ideal for the PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings) to handle such projects exclusively.”

 

And, on the question of the sanctity of the MOU signed between the two brothers, here is what the Court said:

 

  “The MOU was signed as a private family arrangement or understanding between the two brothers, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, and their mother. Contents of the MOU were not made public. . .it was neither approved by the shareholders nor was it attached to the scheme. Therefore, technically, the MOU is not legally binding.”

 

  “It is the duty of the Union (meaning the state) to make sure that these resources are used for the benefit of the citizens of this country.”

(The Hindu, May 8, 2010, p.12).

 

III

 

To encapsulate: that natural resources belong to the people of India; that only the government of the day has absolute jurisdiction over such resources as trustees of the people in whom sovereignty resides; that all arrangements must be such that these resources are used for the benefit of citizens; and that the only way this can be ensured is that these must be placed in the keeping of Public Sector Undertakings rather than handed over to private profiteers.

 

So we say Halelujah! Because every single word spoken by the highest adjucator of the land endorses what ordinary Indians and bands of dedicated non-governmental organizations have been saying with respect not just to Gas but, as the Court avers, to all natural resources, citing, for example the (b) and (c) provisions of Article 39 of the Constitution of India, which read:

 

  “(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;

 

  (c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.”

 

Is it not, therefore, time that the government of the day, fully embracing the imperative directions both of the Constitution and of the Court’s judgment thereof in the matter of India’s natural resources extend the implications of both to the troubled spots of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa where, after all, the whole contention revolves round the marauding private expropriations of natural resources (bauxite, coal, gypsum, iron ore etc.,) by national and international corporate hand-in-glove with state agencies towards astronomical profit-making, activities which, in brutal violation of the Constitution and of the Judgment now passed, fleece and usurp the sovereignty of the people over natural resources?

 

Is it not now incumbent upon the state to rescind all the Ambani-like MOUs that have been signed dime a dozen in these areas between corporates and the state, and to take back possession of these resources into public hands as the Court directs?

 

That such should be the case is now no longer a matter merely of demands made, peacefully or violently, by citizens who inhabit these areas of the Union, but a legal and constitutional obligation flowing from the averment of the Supreme Court of India in the matter of the brothers Ambani.

 

So we say, do not listen to the Maoists, listen to the Supreme Court. They seem to be saying one and the same thing.

 

[email protected]

Leave a comment