ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Case for Opium Dens

Indian industry got its first tranche of capital accumulation in the 19th century when the Tatas joined hands with the Sassoons and the British to force opium onto the Chinese. The addicts in China in that period took to opium to drown their unpleasant reality in momentary dreams, while knowing in moments of cold assessment that pipe dreams could never be realised in real life. It was only when Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 that the Chinese government banned opium dens, and people accepted their closure in the expectation that they might have a chance of achieving some of their hopes.

Many of us are in the same psychological situation as the addicts of the Celestial Empire 200 years ago. We are puffed up with pride about our past while living precariously in the present, though every economist assures us that at any moment the Indian elephant will stand up and run. As with the Chinese emperor, the west has imposed on us an “open door” policy, and most of us accept this since we are all disenchanted with the corruption and impotence of our mandarinate. Our several peoples are clever and industrious, as the Chinese were and are, but we are shackled by benighted leadership. We like the Chinese of two centuries ago have made enemies all around and retained few friends. We are beset with rebellions – nowadays fashionably called extremism or terrorism – but these rebels themselves are wedded to ideologies as futile as those of the Boxer Rebellion. But we do not have opium dens; instead we have IPL matches, TV soaps and Bollywood and Tollywood, bt technology and cryogenic rocket motors and a plethora of welfare schemes that no one in power really believes in. Since these days warfare is essentially economic, we can also boast of warlords.

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