A secret Business in India.
Crowd is to democracy what ink is to news papers. The news papers may not be main churning force in debates but but they have not seized to exist even if relegated to quite irrelevance. Something similar is about crowds. Democracies much less it’s elections can not be imagined without crowd gatherings and elections rallies and all the usual high decibel celebrations.
It is even more unimaginable in a democracy of 1.3 billions. Apart from elections, crowds are also required for protests, supports or dissent on the issues. It is the time tested old method which has worked for over century. Right?
So, from where does this crowd comes? Well in India, things have taken a turn for more than a decade. People who matter watch on television and decide and those who visit, they do not matter.
India, is always on election. First General (Federal) Elections. Than State Elections, Municipal Elections, Village Elections. It never ends. But what is seen in last few years that the crowd pulled in elections rallies had no proportion with Elections results. Those who lost elections, had equally packed grounds or perhaps only slightly less than the winner. So what makes this crowd?
Business of Crowd supplies.
The business of arrangement of crowd is an open secret which no political party in India will admit. Partly, even I do not know, how it works but the fact that it is an independent commercial operation, is too obvious to deny. But let’s identify who are the people in the crowd?
First few rows in every election rally is party workers. Hundred or perhaps thousands of them. And they are visible, with Stoll or sun shade or something identifying them as party workers. Who are the rest? That is the interesting part.
India is still dependant on agriculture for about 1/3rd of it’s economy but this agriculture employs about half of it’s labour. This employment is not full-time. Actually this employment is an underemployment and a cause of worry for economist and governance, but it exists. Now this work force is very busy during sowing, (or re-sowing like present) and in harvesting time. Rest of time most of this agriculture labour is free. Here is corroborative evidence.
Have you seen any major agitation, frequent rallies or meetings after the rain started? Or during harvesting season? In the ongoing election campaign in M.P., what was the maximum number of crowd in any rally ?
The answer to first is no. and Second is also no and the third is “in thousands but always less than 20 thousand”.
Price of crowd.
Price of crowd is per person with and/or without food packets. The bare minimum is Rs. 500/- which is accepted for a popular leader where the crowd is also interested in going but it may go upto Rs. 2000/- per person for smaller cheater parties. Yes. It is expensive. Thus for a single rally of say 30,000 strong crowd the price of crowd may well be about 3 crores.
Unbelievable? Well that is your choice but that is how huge sums of ill-gotten cash dis appears and economy lurches a few digits more after the general elections, in the first year. All this money is spent into economy.
See this tweet:
Now see closely the fist of old man in picture below:
Price of Agitation.
Most agitations, be it Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra or at Sterlite in Tamil Nadu, are stage-managed. Barring few people in the front, rest of the crowd is procured. The agitation is meaningless but an effective weapon against the Government which can’t call spade a spade because it also uses the same method for gathering crowd in it’s election rallies.
In law such a situation is called Pari Delicto. The two parties equally at fault remain silent for a mutual advantage. But in case of agitations rather false manipulative agitations, it is the democracy which suffers, it is the people who suffer.
Need for Regulation.
Would it not be high time that, all political parties come together and accept the reality of crowd for hire? But no. Each would say our crowd is genuine and they do not hire. That is the problem. Above all this money has to be arranged to be paid in cash has to come from corrupt means.
In elections, local people suffer due to disruptions caused by unduly long gatherings. Local people do not even get near the venues and huge crowd is brought in by Buses and every transport available. Traffic in cities come to a grinding halt. It is a crowd imposed curfew, till election rally is over.
I would strongly urge all concerned including Election Commission to think of a regulation network if not a solution. We can not continue to ignore this menace.
Listen to ignorance of crowd.
When real people gather.
Having said that about crowd, the Governments, the police, the politicians and every other person knows when the real people are out on streets. It has not happened in last 4-5 years but it did happen on a few occasion before that and the scary look on the then Prime Minister and his remote controller was reflective of the power of democracy. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s remove these hired crowds as far as possible. If these are needed for election rallies, so be it but certainly remove it from the political agitations.