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A Feast of Vultures-The Hidden Business Of Democracy in India: Review of Josy Joseph's (F07) Book in The Hindu Times

The launch of Josy Joseph’s A Feast of Vultures-The Hidden Business Of Democracy in India, at Atta Galatta, was no ordinary event. It had the audience at the edge of their seats. An award-winning investigative journalist and at present, National Security Editor of The Hindu, Josy, whose investigative stories include the Adarsh Apartment scam, Naval War Room Leak case, the 2G spectrum allocation scam, among others, took us through his dedicated work of unearthing stories from the underbelly of corruption. He was in conversation with civic analyst and urban expert, V. Ravichandar, who said: “The book has all the makings of a thriller. It is like a Google map for the labyrinth Indian system.”

The book is divided into three parts: The Middlemen, The Very Private Sector, and The Big League. While elaborating on the first section, Josy says: “All of us are middle-men because is the system is corrupt and convoluted.’’ As city dwellers, there are few things we know about our villages. “The distance between the citizens and the ‘sarkar’ is huge,” he observed. In these circumstances, the ‘naya netas’ are the face of the Government for villagers, as reflected in the book. “As an urban elite, we do not understand the plight of villagers. In cities, we are used to a bottom-up system,” Josy said, adding: “The term ‘naya netas’ was coined by Anirudh Krishna. These naya netas wear white kurta pyjama, travel on bikes, get welfare for the people, and feed the money to political system. They also have political ambitions. They enjoy immunity as well,” said the author, who holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; and Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Kerala University.

The conversation then veered towards ‘The Mighty Typist’, which includes legendary stories on R.K. Dhawan, the personal assistant to Indira Gandhi. One of the sensational stories in the book is of the murder of an airline tycoon in the 1990s. But the case was hushed up, to encourage the rise of a leading rival airline. Josy added that defence is a flourishing sector. As Ravichandar pointed out: “Defence deals have been important feeders for the Government.” With Josy adding: “For example, Bofors, which if compared to deals today is peanuts.” They then discussed notorious arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie. “He even has a chair in the University of Columbia named after him.” The conversation turned to mining barons, who are corruption personified. “Where they do business, they are unbridled in making profits,” said Josy.

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