An Open Letter from an Indian Crony Capitalist


(This is a spoof)

Dear Indian Citizen,

Kem cho?

Kaamon Achish? Maja ma?

Hope all is well with you.

I am very happy these days. You know with that Rajan guy deciding to go back to Chicago. Good he is going back there.

I to wanted to open a champagne bottle to celebrate. But these children of mine always want this red wine shine.

And I to am still wondering, why would anyone in their right mind, comeback to India from the United States? Okay, maybe Chicago is very cold. My deekro tells me, they call it the windy city. It’s very cold up there it seems.

But then why stay on the East Coast? He could easily move to the West Coast. California. This Rajan guy. Very sunny, I am told. Just like Mumbai it is.

You know, when he was appointed as the RBI Governor, I got my kudi to buy all his books from this Amazon. Or was it Flipkart? I don’t remember. Been a long time since I went to the Strand Book Stall, you see.

So, this Rajan guy has written just two books, it seems. What men, been in the United States for nearly three decades and written just two books? Look at our very own Chetan. He has written so many more books than Rajan while holding a proper banking job at the same time, for a very long time.

And Rajan could write only two, with a teaching job?

So, one book of his is called, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists. I started the book with great interest, after all I am also capitalist. But all the economic theory-weory got to me finally. And he just kept talking about Mexico. Our Chetan is so much better. North-South love story he wrote. What fun it was.

Didn’t Rajan also marry a North Indian? Why didn’t he write about that then and call it I too Had a Love Story? There is enough trouble in life anyway. Why write about such heavy stuff? And that is why I like watching this Tarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashma.

Oh talking of Mexico. Have you seen this latest Hindi film called Udta Punjab? In that, they compare Mexico to Punjab. Guess the director must have got the idea after reading Rajan’s book.

Anyway. I am meandering and meandering. Let me get to the point. In this Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists book Rajan writes: “Throughout its history, the free market system has been held back, not so much by its own economic deficiencies as Marxists would have it, but because of its reliance on political goodwill for its infrastructure. The threat primarily comes from…incumbents, those who already have an established position in the marketplace…The identity of the most dangerous incumbents depends on the country and the time period, but the part has been played at various times by the landed aristocracy, the owners and managers of large corporations, their financiers, and organised labour.”

First time I read this, I didn’t understand only what Rajan was saying. I read this paragraph over and over again and got worried. Then my son-in-law told me, Rajan is only economist. Economists talk only theory. They don’t do it in practical.

But I had this feeling that this guy meant business. He will practice his theory and try and clean up India’s banking system, I had a feeling. Why? I don’t know. I think Kejriwal came in my dream and told me this. And I was right about it.

You see, I had taken this huge loan from a public sector bank in 2008. Those were good days. Everything was looking good.

Indian economy was growing at a fast pace. And like any good capitalist I assumed that the economy will continue to do well and interest rates will continue to remain low.

But all that changed. Over the last four years I have been having difficulty in repaying the loan. No money only.

You see my problem. I have so much loan to repay. Rs 50,000 crore. On that I am paying interest of 12% i.e. Rs 6,000 crore a year. I am having difficulty in repaying interest. How will I ever repay the principal?

And interest is so high. If it was 8%, I would be paying only Rs 4,000 crore a year. Now I am paying Rs 6,000 crore. Rs 2,000 crore more. “Profit main ghato ho gayo!”

Shouldn’t the government help me also? Shouldn’t the interest rates come down? But this Rajan guy did not want to help me only. Kept interest rates high. On top of that he encouraged banks to come after our assets. And that too public sector banks? Imagine!

You know, this is not the first time I have over-borrowed. I did that in the late 1990s also. But somehow I managed to come out unscathed…he he…The taxpayers had to pick up the tab.

And that is only fair no. There are so many taxpayers and so few capitalists who have over-borrowed. No individual taxpayer will feel the pain of having bailed out the capitalists.

But this Rajan guy said no. He insisted on capitalists like me repaying. Selling our assets and repaying.

Imagine? In India? What is the world coming to?

So good only he is not taking a second-term. Going back to the United States.

And it’s time to celebrate. “Kuch murga shurga khaate hain. Peg-sheg lagate hain!

Oh and you Dear Citizen. Thank you in advance. If you do pick the tab. Ghabrao nahi, there will be no pain. It will be like a painless injection on your bum.

And imagine I have borrowed Rs 50,000 crore. If you don’t rescue me, the bank I have borrowed from will go bust. And you will lose your money!

Remember what did that John Maynard Keynes say? “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe your bank a million pounds, it has.”

Do you know the modern version of that? As The Economist magazine put it: “If you owe your bank a billion pounds everybody has a problem.”

Dear Citizen, I am your problem!

Yours truly,
An Indian Crony Capitalist

Postscript: Rajan has written Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists with Luigi Zingales. His other book is Fault Lines.

The column originally appeared in Vivek Kaul’s Diary on June 22, 2016