December 17, 2001


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Varsha Bhosle

It's not the economy, stupid!

We are a people who've been trained to believe that simply by earning our daily bread honestly and keeping the peace between communities, our country will make progress. We have plenty of advisers, especially foreign countries and native leftists, who urge us towards pacifism. We're told that it's criminal to pour money into the country's security needs when too many of us do not yet have roti, kapda aur makaan. We're told that people won't turn to crime if they're assured of decent employment. We're told that until the basic needs of all the people are met, the country must slash its defence expenditure. We're told that religion cannot shape a country, but the market does. All of which is neatly packaged into: "It's the economy, stupid!"

Let us very fleetingly scan the upshot of terrorism on the country whose panhandlers, too, are obese - America. And this is specially for readers in India who've been brainwashed into thinking that the economy of a country thrives independent of national security. Note the ripple effect:

  • XL Capital Ltd announced today that its estimate of gross claims related to the September 11 attack on the US is approximately $1.8 billion. [The CEO] stated: "Although we are confident about our prospects, the third quarter of 2001 has been the worst in the history of the property and casualty insurance industry." (PR Newswire)
  • National Restaurant Association President Steve Anderson said... that the attacks "dramatically changed" the group's focus... War, or the possibility of it, will change the group's work in government affairs and public policy and could affect the economic viability of the industry... "The consumer perception of security is important." (The Sun News)
  • The attack has had an enormous ripple effect on everything from software, web design and other parts of the new economy, to the city's old economy stalwarts like apparel manufacturing, printing and air cargo... More than 100 arts groups around the city experienced substantial revenue shortfalls... Business in the printing industry is down by more than 25% since the attack and some large printing companies say that business is even worse than it was during the recession of the 1980s... Designers and contractors have lost a significant amount of business because department stores and other major retailers, facing a sharp slowdown in consumer sales, have significantly scaled back on new orders and, in some cases, even cancelled orders already placed... The significant decline in air travel has resulted in a tremendous loss of business for hundreds of airlines, freight forwarders, truckers, food preparation companies, limousine services, parking lot operators, hotels and other airport related businesses. (NYCFuture)
  • The terrorist attack on the WTC could cost NYC from $90 billion to as much as $105 billion over the next two years, making it the costliest disaster in the nation's history, state officials said. (The Daily Insurance Journal)
  • Citing a slow economy and weak demand, Bell South Corp today said it plans to eliminate 1,200 non-management jobs in early 2002, bringing to 4,200 the number of layoffs it has announced in less than two months... Bell South on Oct 18 announced the elimination of 3,000 jobs... Qwest Communications said Thursday it was pink-slipping 7,000 employees by mid 2002, on top of 4,000 job cuts announced in September. (The Washington Post, December 14)

That's the effect on the lives of people who live in that magnificent pond - but a pond, nonetheless. It is a pond whose presidential frontrunner had answered on television, "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected - not elected, this guy took over office... General. I can't name the general. General. The new Prime Minister of India is - (pause) No." When quizzed further, George W Bush Jr responded with the argument that not knowing the names of foreign leaders had no bearing on his ability to manage foreign policy. And so was it with Average Joe: Americans often asked me about snakes and elephants sauntering on Bombay's thoroughfares. Thing is, Americans didn't *need* to know about others, they lived in such splendid isolation.

The US had never known foreign invasion either, and was oblivious to the depth of the dangers stemming from outside and taking root within. But, like Bush Jr's "general" knowledge, all that has changed. Today, the American media reflects the debate that's occupying its common people, and which has been raging in India ever since I can remember. Take this tiny sampling of the readers' letters to the New York Post after Schools Chancellor Harold Levy allowed children belonging to a certain community to pray in public schools during a certain "holy month":

  • This is the same ACLU that has fought to ban the slogan "God Bless America" from schools, saying it offends people. Imagine if those were Christian or Jewish children wanting to pray.
  • I would like to know how [deleted by writer] students got permission to pray during [deleted by writer] when the US Supreme Court prohibits officially sponsored prayer in public schools.
  • Why can't Christians recite during Christmas or Easter? Why can't Jews recite during Chanukah or Passover? This is more evidence of the typical double standard displayed by the politically correct left-wing loonies of the public-school system.
  • Why do [deleted by writer] children get special treatment because of [deleted by writer]? If my child can't even observe a moment of silence, how can we allow any religion to enter into our public schools?

I guess, all these moms and pops are communal-divisive-fundamentalist forces. That the chancellor's ruling reeks of appeasement of a demanding minority - which minority follows the exact modus operandi, no matter in which country it lives - is not a topic open to discussion.

However, isn't it strange that in the country that invented political correctness, issues like patriotism, nationalism, Christianity, illegal immigrants and madarsas should hog the print after the attacks on the World Trade Center - which was a symbol only of America's economic might...? One would have thought that all that column space would be devoted to the nuts and bolts of repairing the damage to the economy! But all I see, whether in the NYT or Washington Post or whatever, is anger at the country's leftists, a rallying of public opinion towards the war against terrorism, and debates on the conciliation of minorities. American opinion-makers have already sussed that the economy can't soar if the morale of the majority plummets; for no nation can have prosperity without the latter.

In every way - whether it's the aspiration of its governments or the character of its people - the US is far, far superior to India. Even if its left-wing dweebs rave and rant as hysterically as ours ("The US is an indicted terrorist State," says Noam Chomsky), tough laws beneficial to the nation's security do get passed despite the opposition from its reds, greens and "multiculturalists." When America's defense is breached, the government strikes at the aggressor - with the support of the majority of its people and the larger part of its media. And when a state of emergency is perceived, politicians, of all hues, close ranks against the enemy.

And what do we have in India after ceaseless terrorism has claimed the lives of over 30,000 people? For months, the squabble over POTO has been giving me a headache. India has been facing a proxy war since the 1980s, yet from the barks of politicians and pundits, the biggest menace India faces today has nothing to do with terrorists. Our greatest threat, they say, isn't an indiscriminate firing into a crowd or a grenade lobbed in a busy department store or a well-placed car bomb. No. The bogey dominating leftist and "secularist" conversation is: "the BJP needed an instrument to manipulate the upcoming UP election to its advantage. In the name, of course, of curbing terrorism - that mother of all rationales for every retrograde step. Since this ordinance would help to further degrade the minorities, it would please the RSS and others in the Sangh Parivar, whose approval the beleaguered BJP leadership needs" (Patwant Singh, in The Asian Age).

Three days ago, Parliament was attacked by Islamic terrorists. Six policemen and one gardener were killed, and four of the 20 injured are in critical condition. This atrocity follows the December 22, 2000, terrorist strike at the Red Fort in which three soldiers died, and the October 1 blast outside the J&K assembly, which claimed 38 lives. But, forget the Patwants, what is the government doing that's different from what it did then? Apart from heightened rhetoric, zero. Hajpayee says that India's war against terrorism has entered "the final phase" and will include "decisive measures" to combat the menace. I think he probably means that he's ready to give in, convert to Islam and make India an Islamic state. Perhaps, our only salvation lies in becoming Pakistani citizens.

Then, as reported by, the entity that is heir to the traditions of "Raja" Man Singh squashed Advani's demand for hot pursuit of terrorists and destruction of Paki terror camps by arguing that America had to be consulted before taking such steps. I tell you, there must be many yellow chaddis squishing around North and South Blocks, now that the US State Department has signaled India to take "appropriate action on that." The government no longer has an excuse to "exercise restraint." Methinks, the Americans gave the green light, knowing fully well that we will do nothing but "exercise restraint" and, to quote ToI's headline, "Government readies for more attacks." Wunderbar! They belt out, and we get ready to receive. As for the terrorist State of Pakistan, it will be tackled by "diplomatic offensives" (whatever that means). In the meantime, let the folks continue to die.

The loss to the country - that of the heroic policemen - was felt by one and all. And there was immense relief that the Parliament building wasn't harmed. However, the good fortune of its inmates drew no such thoughts. As one reader from Lucknow wrote: "Mind you, what gets my goat is the security men who died. Had the buggers gotten inside, I would have gladly given them matches if asked." Such is the disgust that India's politicians evoke in its citizens. Everyone who has watched or read about the daily disruption of proceedings - which then led to the "code of conduct" for the honourable MPs - jokes that the jihadis should have reached inside. What a nadir we've touched!

And how couldn't we? Within 24 hours of the attack, the CPI-M's Somnath Chatterjee sought the home minister's resignation; the Italian's chamchas mounted an attack against the "monumental security lapse"; and the RJD's Raghunath Singh declared that the Opposition would demand the entire government's resignation! Forget about the dire need to unite and devise a system that can respond to terrorism on a sustained basis, the attack on Parliament became a battle between the "secular forces" and the "communal fascists"! A means to topple the government and to usurp power! Another slogan for another election! Can you bloody believe it?! Hey, take my matches, too!

Varsha Bhosle

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