Atanu Dey On India's Development

As in Life, So also in Death

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The Christian bible’s book of Matthew is the source of the saying, “live by the sword, die by the sword.” YSR Reddy, the late CM of Andhra Pradesh died a violent death. Not uncommon in the annals of powerful Indian politicians.

In a July 2004 article, “Democracy as mafia warfare“, Swaminathan Aiyar wrote:

The hair-raising history of YSR’s rise to power through terror is documented by K Balagopal in a recent issue of Economic and Political Weekly. Cuddapah district, YSR’s bailiwick, has mineral deposits, including barytes. YSR’s father, the local warlord, was a partner with one Venkatasubbiah in a mining lease. The price of barytes shot up when it was found useful in petroleum refining. YSR’s father offered to buy out Venkatasubbiah. He refused. So, Venkatasubbiah was murdered. The lease passed into the hands of YSR.

. . .

Mineral wealth permitted YSR to become the supreme economic and political warlord in Cuddapah district. Elections would be concluded in his favour, and his musclemen would ensure he monopolised all the civil/excise contracts he coveted. This sounds bland when stated in this fashion, but the process involved a tremendous amount of violence and inaugurated a veritable regime of terror in the area.

Until recently, the EC postponed any election if any candidate died during the campaign. In 1989, simultaneous polls were held to the State Assembly and Parliament. In Raychoti constituency, where YSR sensed that his party was weak, his men are alleged to have killed an independent candidate to gain time. In the parliamentary poll that took place, five persons were killed including a polling officer. The Congress was declared the winner.

Yet it is telling that Balagopal’s article has not raised any storm of protest in Hyderabad. There, YSR’s culture of violence is treated as commonplace politics.

There’s more there but you get the idea.

Violence accompanies what students of development economics know as the curse of plenty or “the resource curse.”

Natural resources can, and often do, provoke conflicts within societies (Collier 2007), as different groups and factions fight for their share. Sometimes these emerge openly as separatist conflicts in regions where the resources are produced. . .There are several main types of relationships between natural resources and armed conflicts. First, resource curse effects can undermine the quality of governance and economic performances, thereby increasing the vulnerability of countries to conflicts (the ‘resource curse’ argument). Second, conflicts can occur over the control and exploitation of resources and the allocation of their revenues (the ‘resource war’ argument). Third, access to resource revenues by belligerents can prolong conflicts (the ‘conflict resource’ argument).

In any case, given India’s democracy, it is not likely that one can get to the top without climbing over a heap of dead bodies. YSR cannot be an exception. Lots died when he was alive; and now it appears that lots have died upon his death.

As many as 122 people across Andhra Pradesh reportedly died of shock or committed suicide after the death of their Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, prompting his MP son YS Jaganmohan Reddy to appeal to the people to be stoic and brave. [The Pioneer, Sept 4th.]

Of course one cannot fault YSR for those who have a tenuous grasp on either their physical health (the 99 who died) or their mental health (23 suicides.) But one wonders about the state of the state in which these people vote and thus influence public policy.

  • http://ananthsreflections.blogspot.com thisisananth

    Will this ever change Atanu? I was very hopeful that people will elect good people to office in 2009 elections. But after that I lost all hope…

  • Oldtimer

    Those death/suicide reports are bollocks. Accurate collection of data is needed in order to attribute suicides to the causes that led to them. It is even more difficult to attribute causes to deaths that allegedly occurred “due to shock”. So let’s say that this old chap watching the evening news had a fatal heart attack — just how do we know that it was triggered by the departure of his beloved CM? Maybe his time was up? Unless suicides and deaths “due to shock” are happening above the normal daily average for Andhra (population: 85 million), there’s no reason to suspect that people are in a hurry to join YSR up there either in Hindu heaven or Christian hell.

    Methinks the (Congress) media is laying it on thick. They want you to know that this YSR is so loved by the people that they’d gladly die for him. Having said that, if any suicides happened at all, the blame for them needs to be laid at media’s door. A frenzy bordering on mass hysteria was created, and emotions were manipulated.

  • ynsaripa

    The mafia wars link doesn’t work. I guess after death, dead are extolled…all else is forgotten…

  • Changa.reddy

    I am from Andhra Pradesh and Swaminathan’s article is no surprise. More than the death of Chief Minister, the suicides is very shocking. It is true to certain extent, people loved him for what he has done to them (pensions for old people, housing and arogya sri). Many in rual parts of AP think that loan waiver program implemented by UPA in its first term is implemented by state. So, when we have ignorant rural population, media manipulation adds to the non-sensical hysteria and kill innocent, ignorant people. That is what happened in this case. Telugu channels keep saying that some random child was saved because of his policies and an old man who cannot walk and couldn’t afford to eat now eats 3 meals a day and they are all crying hard for the loss of their beloved leader. The media could have avoided all this but this happens with every death of a politician in India, only thing that changes is the count. It is unfortunate but it is what it is.

  • Theja

    If an economist’s opinion on a political leader is worth mentioning, I guess, a rural reporter’s Op-ed article on the slain leader is also worth quoting.
    http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article14812.ece