India's Crony Capitalism: Modi's Pal Adani's Wealth Grows at the Expense of Ordinary Bangladeshis and Indians
Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina has agreed to buy expensive electricity from India in spite of a power glut in Bangladesh, according to a report in the Washington Post. The newspaper quotes B.D. Rahmatullah, a former director general of Bangladesh’s power regulator, as saying, "Hasina cannot afford to anger India, even if the deal appears unfavorable." “She knows what is bad and what is good,” he said. “But she knows, ‘If I satisfy (Gautam) Adani, Modi will be happy.’ Bangladesh now is not even a state of India. It is below that.” The Washington Post report says: "Facing a looming power glut, Bangladesh in 2021 canceled 10 out of 18 planned coal power projects. Mohammad Hossain, a senior power official, told reporters that there was “concern globally” about coal and that renewables were cheaper".
|Gautam Adani (L) and Narendra Modi|
|India Ranks High on Crony Capitalism Index. Source: Economist|
Hasina recently visited New Delhi to seek political and economic assistance from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This summit was preceded by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen's trip to India where he said, "I've requested Modi government to do whatever is necessary to sustain Sheikh Hasina's government". Upon her return from India, Sheikh Hasina told the news media in Dhaka, "They (India) have shown much sincerity and I have not returned empty handed". It has long been an open secret that Indian intelligence agency RAW helped install Shaikh Hasina as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and her Awami League party rely on New Delhi's support to stay in power. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen has described India-Bangladesh as one between husband and wife. In an interview with Indian newspaper 'Ajkal,' he said, "Relation between the both countries is very cordial. It's much like the relationship between husband and wife. Though some differences often arise, these are resolved quickly." Both Bangladeshi and Indian officials have reportedly said that Sheikh Hasina "has built a house of cards".
|Shaikh Hasina (L) with Narendra Modi|
The Washington Post reports that the Modi government has changed laws to help Adani’s coal-related businesses and save him at least $1 billion. After a senior Indian official opposed supplying coal at a discount to Adani and other business tycoons, he was removed from his job by the Modi administration, according to the paper. Modi has continued to support Adani's business with discounted coal even after telling the United Nations he would tax coal and ramp up renewable energy. India is the world's third largest carbon emitter.
|World's Top 5 Carbon Emitters. Source: Our World in Data|
While the coal prices have declined to the level before the start of the Ukraine War, Adani’s power would still cost Bangladesh 33% more per kilowatt-hour than the publicly disclosed cost of running Bangladesh’s domestic coal-fired plant, according to Tim Buckley, a Sydney-based energy finance analyst.
|India's Crony Capitalism: Adani Enterprises Stock Up 56,000% on Modi's Watch|
Gautam Adani has become India's richest and the world's second richest person (after Elon Musk) since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. Financial Times calls Adani "Modi's Rockefeller". Adani's rise owes itself to India's crony capitalism, according to France's Le Monde. Here's an excerpt of a Le Monde story on Adani:
"Adani has not invented some revolutionary technology or disruptive business model. His meteoric success cannot be attributed to innovation. In each sphere of activity among his conglomerates – airports, ports, mining, aerospace, defense industry – the Indian state plays a significant role, whether in allocating licenses or signing contracts. He is known as a close friend of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also hails from Gujarat, a state in western India".
Adani has lent his personal airplanes to Modi for BJP's election campaigns. Adani has also recently taken over NDTV, the only Indian major TV channel known for its independence from the BJP government. This takeover has forced Prannoy and Radhika Roythe, the channel's founding couple, to step down. It has also forced out Ravish Kumar, a harsh critic of the Modi regime who hosted a number of popular shows like Hum Log, Ravish ki Report, Des Ki Baat, and Prime Time.
|Income Inequality Map. Source: World Inequality Report 2022|
India is one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the World Inequality Report 2022. There is rising poverty and hunger. Nearly 230 million middle class Indians have slipped below the poverty line, constituting a 15 to 20% increase in poverty. India ranks 94th among 107 nations ranked by World Hunger Index in 2020. Other South Asians have fared better: Pakistan (88), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (75), Sri Lanka (64) and Myanmar (78) – and only Afghanistan has fared worse at 99th place. Meanwhile, the wealth of Indian billionaires jumped by 35% during the pandemic.
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