The world’s best speechwriters cannot spin this one. The irony is cruel.

KCR in China between private jets and farmer suicides
Voices Wednesday, September 09, 2015 - 19:33


Limbaiah was probably travelling to Telengana’s capital Hyderabad at about the same time that the Chief Minister of the state K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) was boarding a private jet for a 10-day visit to China.

On Wednesday morning Limbaiah, a farmer from Nizamabad who had travelled to Hyderabad was found hanging from an electric pole near a temple. The police suspect that Limbaiah joins the growing list of farmer-suicides in drought-stricken areas like Karimnagar, Khammam, Adilabad, Warangal, to name a few. One report says there were 19 suicides in 72 hours. Read our report here.

There was a controversy as the KCR was preparing to leave, but it was not about his people dying of poor crops and debts. The brouhaha was about the 50-seater Bombardier that was pressed into service to ferry the CM at a cost of Rs. 2 crore. The executive jet is known for its luxurious innards and an entertainment centre with state of the art screens.

As we write, the Chief Minister will be attending a regional meeting of the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum (WEF) where he will be meeting his counterparts from other countries as well as business leaders. He has been invited to speak at a meeting of “new champions” and will address the meeting on “emerging markets at crossroads.” The world’s best speechwriters cannot spin this one. The irony is cruel.

K Chandrashekar Rao with the Founder & Chairman of World Economic Forum Mr. Klaus Schwab.

Indian politicians attending such meetings make one critical mistake and they do it repeatedly. They think their interlocutors are as clueless as they sometimes are. It is highly possible that people KCR will be meeting and asking to invest in India will be better informed than even all his team put together. The potential investors may not know about Limbaiah, but they will know about the drought that is ravaging the state and which Telengana refuses to acknowledge. They may try to sell bottled water.

I have sat in on many confidential meetings between CEOs and heads of state and governments in Davos. I have sat on the other side watching my own country people hide the elephant in the room. In another life, that was my job – assessing risks including political and market risk.

Rare is the Indian politician or businessperson who can walk into a room-full of strangers (without an entourage and factotums in tow) and make a pitch for the country or their business.

Telengana officials admitted last week that some 409 farmers had killed themselves since the state was born in June 2014. Members of the civil society say it could be as many as 1200. The increase in farmer suicides is attributed to the Chief Minister’s recent declaration that the government had no plans to declare drought in the state till the kharif season ended on September 30 and the jet with the fancy toilets and custom-made seats has landed after the China trip.

The Rs. 2 crore spent on the jet or the ten crore that the trip may cost is irrelevant. Limbaiahs across domains and sectors of economic activity in India are a reality. Till that penny drops, we will remain poor and under-developed.