The sensational murder case concerning Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, corporate figures, needs to be seen in the wider context of a society created by neoliberalism.
By Vidyadhar Date
A culture of free market greed and neoliberalism has created a world in which psychopathic personality traits are rewarded, says Paul Verhaeghe, a widely respected psychologist and professor of psychology at the university of Ghent.
We live in what he calls is an Enron society with the Enron model of pleasure on credit. Enron is particularly relevant for India because it played havoc in India some years ago with its power project and accounted for one of the biggest financial scandals of all time.
The new psychopaths in the corporate world are charming, intelligent, skilled in lying and manipulative,says psychotherapist Ronald Schouten, in the Harvard Business Review in an article titled Psychopaths on Wall Streets. Indrani has all these personality traits.
Since the financial crisis of 2008 the veneer of the polished financier has cracked and despite the massive fraud there have been few convictions.So the fraudsters think they can get away with their crimes.So much of the world of money and corporate organization is heavily tainted by greed and moral decay.
There is massive outrage against corporate and media frauds in theWest. An Indian banker, I meet in Joggers Park in Bandra in Mumbai, told me about his recent visit to London. He was immediately asked by common people there half jokingly, `so how many people you have ruined ?’. That is the image of bankers and generally of the rich and corporate criminals in the West. But in India we still have a very large, utterly naïve class which refuses to see through numerous frauds and scandals and think the rich deserve all their wealth and they should spend the money as they like. That much of this wealth is a result of rampant exploitation is never taken into account.
That is why a lot of influential people are very unhappy with the exposure of upper class crimes in the extensive media coverage in the Indrani Mukherjea and Sheena Bora murder case. It is true that the media has often gone overboard but it has also exposed a lot in this complicated case. Also severely exposed is the failure of the police to act on a complaint of murder lodged three years ago by Rahul, son of Peter Mukherjea.
The alleged murder by corporate executive Indrani needs to be seen in the light of the prevailing market philosophy that one must make money at any cost. If you don’t earn profits for the company, you are no good, that is the corporate philosophy these days. So people make all sorts of moral compromises. Failure to make money is punished severely. One third of Enron’s employees were sacked each year after being publicly humiliated with their names and picture posed on the company website for their failure to meet financial targets. The result was several employees lied about their work and this was one reason that caused the huge bankruptcy.
And what does it speak of the moral fibre of the huge number of upper class people who socially knew the Mukherjeas very well. Sheena, the murdered daughter of Indrani, was `missing’ for three years and they must have sensed there was something seriously wrong. But there was clearly a conspiracy of silence on the part of the page 3 types. Also, a crime of such magnitude could not have remained unnoticed without some very powerful people looking the other way.
Normally, when when someone goes missing, the entire family’s world is shaken. Recently, I saw a film about a daily wage earner’s desperate search for his missing son. The acclaimed film Siddhartha directed by Ritchie Mehta is based on a true story. It is about Mahendra, a repairer of bags who has sent his 13 year old son, to Ludhiana for earning his livelihood in a workshop.. And then he never hears from him. He has no money and not even a photograph of the boy. That is the harsh reality of India with all the talk of progress. He goes to Ludhiana and finally in the Dongri remand home in Mumbai which was ironically a jail in the last century. He comes back dejected.
The film was shown at Alliance Francaise by Nitesh Mohanty of Root Reel who screens documentaries each month end at the venue.
And then it occurred to me what a contrast the Sheena case makes and the two economically polarized world we live in. Here the girl goes `missing’ and no effort is made by the filthy rich family to trace her. The worker Mahendra emerges as a very dear, noble man in contrast to the decadent Indrani family.
And the worker has to pay a dada to find a place to do his work. That is the tragedy of daily workers everywhere. Rich parasites have all the space and there is none for the toilers. One can see this scene outside Khar railway station (west) in Mumbai every day. Hundreds converge there daily seeking work as masons, painters and carpenters and are then picked up by contractors. I have never heard of any planner asking for some space allocation for these useful members of the society. In fact, rich citizens in the area want to get rid of these toilers from here.
The media seems to have missed an important point while giving extensive coverage to the Sheena Bora case. The village Gagode, where the body parts were found, is the village Vinoba Bhave, the eminent Gandhian was born in . And there may be something more fishy in the case than has come to light so far. I had received an email from some Gandhians some time ago saying someone was trying to buy the whole village and we must do something about it. Am sure the mail must have gone to several others. I could not imagine then that much more sinister than property grabbing was involved. Surely, this angle needs to be probed. Unfortunately the rich and powerful buy everyone from politicians to bureaucrats and the police, at least a few of them, so so much truth literally lies buried.
And it is now crystal clear that something is really rotten in the neoliberal era. The police have confirmed that several bodies lie buried in some farm houses in the area. And here there is need to take serious cognizance of the massive property grabbing in the hinterland of Mumbai by the rich who are throwing out the poor with their money power. It is ironical that the vulgar rich are building second homes, grabbing scarce resources, depriving the poor of the basics. And then the rich are dumping the bodies of their murder victims in this land.
Bhave the Gandhian mentioned above, was also an eminent scholar and writer. Bhave was born in the village on September 11, that is the 120th anniversary will fall just a few days from now.
It is big money that is the corrupting influence. I was reminded of the play Romeo and Juliet which makes this point as also the point that the poor have a much higher sense of right and wrong. The apothecary, the medicine seller, whom Romeo approaches for buying poison, strenuously refuses to sell it saying this is illegal. He refuses even though he is desperately poor and there is a graphic description of his poverty. `Famine is in thy cheeks,’ Romeo tells him while begging for the poison. And then Romeo says he himself is selling poison to the apothecary meaning that money is the real poison. Money causes more murders than poison, Romeo tells him.
The need to trace the money trail in the Sheena Bora murder case is obvious. But another question which needs to be asked is where are all these proliferating television channels getting their money from ? Many of them are in the red and their source of money is thought to be dubious.
Mr M.J. Pandey, senior journalist, had asked some searching questions on the issue in a presentation I heard at an international conference on historical materialism in Delhi two years ago. He is one of the best read men in Mumbai and has an enviable collection of books.
Unfortuntely, few of our journalists and intellectuals are asking inconvenient questions. There is little exposure of corporate frauds in the financial newspapers. A section of the media is a mouthpiece of corporates, not a watchdog.
(Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of Climate Change. Walking, Cycling, Public Transport Need Priority).