Privatizing needs

Ripples from a waterdrop.Ripples from a waterdrop.

Privatizing essentials for living is undemocratic, because private corporations are not chosen by the people and they are not accountable to the people. We are a democracy, though these days many thought leaders seem to see it as a handicap. Things defined as necessities and included in the human development index MUST have government provided options, even if private entities offer their own services too. Like phones, healthcare, PDS or buses. Some things – air, water, land and sunlight – must NEVER be turned into the hands of anyone not accountable to citizens. Our ancestors weren’t fools to worship them – they are the foundations of life itself. Better than saving the cows, the Nationalists should save these.

Shifting the burden of responsibility from accountable government to opaque, private entities

This may seem like a small matter, but it is not. This is the government forcing people to make purchases from private entities, and I don’t see how any government has the right to impose them on people in a democracy. If companies want to sell better water, let them create their own networks for whoever wants to buy it – and source it from anywhere except this country – make it from the sea for all I care. It is possible. It requires technology, but the fancy corporates have abundant and better tech, I hear. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Supposed experts argue that the government is inefficient and that is why we need private companies. This is pro-privatization bull shit. Indian Government organizations run some of the most amazing, intricate and huge infrastructures in the world. ISRO has some of the greatest space programmes in the world for a fraction of the budget of the NASA and definitely not proportionately less capacity. Our Army is one of the largest in the world. We are capable of achieving quality. Not to mention we have indigenously developed nuclear capacities. We aren’t stupid. It is strange how we excel in some services and are miraculously incompetent where corporate alternatives exist. Or perhaps, those with possible profits in privatization keep quality low to prepare the stage by saying, oh, the government can’t do better, we are not private.

Are corporations really more efficient?

India’s telephone network is one of the largest in the world. Public transport, water pipelines… We can reach to every citizen of the country for things like vaccination, census, elections. Show me the corporation that has capabilities of this scale. We privatized electricity in Mumbai, but show me the corporation that electrified the many villages that need it instead of taking over already profitable areas. That is still this “incapable” government’s job and tax payer’s expense.

Why are there corporate subsidies, bailouts and bankruptcies if corporates are more efficient? Of course necessities being privatized will not go kaput, because we’ll cover the losses no matter what for our own survival needs. Unless they do fail and then it will be a humanitarian disaster that the tax payer must bail out to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. In other words, corporates are able to sell “better” on the basis of advertised efficiency, and make the tax payer suffer the inefficiencies that later emerge. Which CEO or upper management doesn’t get paid when the company is going bankrupt? With essentials, the consumer is powerless with choice between several corporations with similar methods and prices.

We blame the government for not making profit while operating in areas of all kinds of lack of development and think corporates that only run in profitable environments and still can make losses are better? What crap logic is this?

Does privatization bring solutions?

If privatization is the solution to everything not working, then the previous year is proof that we must privatize the Parliament instead of merely letting puppets of corporations run it. Let’s do away with elections, stop calling us a democracy and simply go with the “better option”. Let’s privatize the police force. It is far more inefficient than water supply. Whoever thinks people need cops more than they need water is insane. We take water for granted, because we still have it. As in, you and I – witness the massive protests by those whose water gets threatened over dams being privatized, built, destroyed or water sources being polluted… but wait, you didn’t hear about them.

It is also funny how the “need” for privatization is visible only in the areas where massive infrastructures built at the tax payer’s expense are peddled away to a company that couldn’t have dreamed of creating them. A company that will then bill the same tax payers more for using their creation. Big profits are made – from the “big market” India is. As economy slows, sales drop, stocks drop. No such risk with essentials. You will sell your gold and your house and yourself before you live without water.

Is no one connecting the dots to this massive collusion between government and private players? Why is this happening? Because India is a “developing country” in spite of massive undevelopedness and has delusions of being a superpower. Unfortunately, GDP cannot be faked. The money hemorrhaging through scams, misgovernance, lousy policies and plain posturing needs to come from somewhere. So we are now doing what a drunkard does – selling belongings to pay for booze.

Is it really development to sell away what the government owns?

Like the broke farmers selling their land and borrowing from moneylenders, we are selling or leasing our assets to corporates to afford running the country. We are walking this path, because we didn’t take the farmer suicides seriously enough to UNDERSTAND what was happening. Like the farmer who can’t afford seeds and sells more and more of his life till nothing is left, we can’t afford our outgoing.

Payments over $100 billion coming up. We have a few reserves, but using them will make us less super power and be the stamp on the government’s lack of credibility with money. Time to sell something. The FDI in Retail flopped because massive outcry was raised. Some other FDIs still happened. India is assuring Wallmart that the FDI too is going to happen. Pranab Mukherjee is candid “I need the money“. Never mind that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce report on FDI in Retail in May 2009 recommended against it. Now water privatization. A bomb proof market of citizen’s needs is sold for vast amounts of money, as guaranteed, stupendous profit.

Corporations are less corrupt is a popular perception – because they 1. legitimize many payments that come out of the customers pocket (compare salaries like CEOs, perks to top management, meeting and conference and such expenses, corporate branding, dress codes, running expenses… for example) and 2. they are not transparent, so you don’t know anyway. You can’t file an RTI to find out even if you suspect. But make no mistake, you pay for the glitter. It isn’t corruption if they tell you upfront. It is only unfortunate and these costs are unavoidable cost of running the operation and you want water from it and now you must pay your bill.

Who is responsible if the poor cannot afford life essential services from private operators?

I have no wish to dictate what corporates do with their operations with non-essentials, but I think in a country with massive poverty, necessities must be as lean and subsidized as possible without trying to “recover investments” at the cost of human rights. There are arguments about “welfare state” and such. I don’t know when the word welfare itself became a bad word, but I cannot understand why it is wrong to ensure a basic human need like water for all regardless of their ability to pay for it.

Is our country really saying that staying in the country is different from having water for living in it? What next? Air? Sunlight? Earth? With India being the most polluted country in the world and radiation increasingly recognized as unsafe, they are possible. Imagine piped breathing air for enclosed spaces from villages or other areas with trees and low pollution, portable air decontaminators with bluetooth pairing with your phone and computer. Radiation and other contamination free properties available for a price. Huge roofs over cities for solar power and you can pay to enter and spend some time in the sun… But only privatized after the tax payer first pays for creating the infrastructures. And then the rest of the people should live with the lousy contaminated state of their “services” or pay up. Our experts would talk about India’s prowess in taming the four elements of our ancient texts.

Why have development indexes by country at all? Privatize all needs, and ask UN to speak with service providers over people dying of hunger and thirst, who will simply say that they are not customers, and they are not answerable for those they don’t provide service to. We can always say that we cannot help epidemics, since we don’t have a service to monitor them, and we don’t have the service because no one wants to pay for a service that monitors epidemics where mostly poor die. So we at least don’t appear so bad.

Life essential needs are not merely products and services, they are what make life possible

The big, fatal mistake is in buying the government and corporate bullshit that basic needs are services. They are the backbone of a country. They are the resources of the nation entrusted to elected representatives to govern to the advantage and well-being of all. That is why you don’t have corporations who built millions of kilometers of water pipelines. They developed with the taxes paid by the average person to develop the country – over decades, a little at a time. In ANY country. Like building your own home, but as a country. For your whole family. You speak of national unity and staying together and such? This is it that we are kicking away and wondering why people are breaking free.

It isn’t about corporates offering better quality or not, it is about representatives of the people being directly in control of their basic needs. Quality can be improved. You can’t ask a corporate why it provides a certain service to a certain area more than others. You can’t ask a corporate why you don’t get water, but the theme water park in your locality does or make it pay or suffer. Elected representatives have to listen or they get voted out. They have to answer. You can’t ask a corporate just how much profit it is making out of selling water to the “domestic and agricultural sector” and how much of the water is throttled and diverted to other large corporations for their purposes. It is happening already, but now you can file an RTI at least.

In theory, you could regulate what a corporate offers, manage prices, force service to needy areas, even force RTI – which should be done anyway for publicly offered services… but then you would end up taking responsibility for consequences too – witness Kingfisher and its bankruptcy over being forced to service less popular destinations. Now imagine Kingfisher selling your water. Either the poor go thirsty, or bail us out. The corporate becomes beyond the reach of any result, because it has the people by their needs.

If corporations are more efficient, why do they take over what is already working well instead of developing new assets?

Why not ask corporations interested in working in the “water sector” to pick areas with water problems and no infrastructure and develop them and bill the people for a set period before handing control over to the country?

Why not hand over our poor, damaged, polluted, destroyed water bodies to corporates, let them clean up, sue industries that are wrecking them, and make them usable again in return for using them to sell water for some years? They have the resources to make it possible, unlike citizens who cannot and governments who will not. Why not ask for development in return for controlling development? Why can’t corporates be expected to participate in building the country like citizens?

Wouldn’t that be a more logical use of a “more efficient entity”? We have huge areas with drought and such. They could do with a “solution” that is more effective than the government. Water and sewerage of Mumbai is separate from BMC to be eventually privatized. What is the problem with Mumbai’s already excellent water that privatization will fix and the BMC cannot?

Apparently, it is only the government’s inefficiencies that corporates fix. Apparently these corporates that are better than the government cannot create from scratch. And stupid citizens believe this bullshit, because we have people dedicated to telling them over and over that the Emperor is wearing this miraculous robe that is visible to the intelligent. So they ignore draining wallets and pretend to be smart rather than be publicly known as fools or worse “low society people who can’t even afford so much”.

Because we don’t expect capitalism to have a soul. We only expect it to churn out cash. Cash it earns from the masses and delivers to those in power as the price of keeping even more for itself. It is a one way flow. Few citizens other than employees have any way of earning back from these entities. Then we have the amazing numbers of inequality that activists will quote and get criticized for. We admire progress. Increasing numbers. They manage to sink once in a while in spite of such odds when their customers are no longer able to pay more to sustain them.

But asking such questions will not work. I will get a bunch of trolls calling me socialist as if it were a curse – even though I have little knowledge of socialism and am simply questioning what I am seeing being promoted as a good idea – like everything else questioned on this blog, because the maths seems fake.

Make no mistake, the strategic “experts” hit bulls eye when they say the next wars will be fought over water – apparently they don’t coordinate their bullshit with the development experts, and this is not on their bullshit agenda. Both between countries, and inside countries – as water resources become scarce, people will kill and die for water. Our government here is giving corporations the tools for future genocides, or “anti-national elements” tools for the next French Revolution. Because NO ONE can live without water.

But the mainstream media will continue to tell us that they are anti-national people wanting “our” water as long as we pay the bills.

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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