The Owl sat staring at the world as usual yesterday while Twitter was rankling with die-hard fans of Amitabh & Aishwarya Bachchan rallying behind their heroes (?) screaming #IAmWithAmitabhBachchan. They were tiring their throats over condoning their adored celebrities, after the Panama Papers slipped some names as wrongdoers. Nothing new about this. The script is familiar:
• First, the heroes make immeasurable riches as the worshippers proverbially beg-borrow-steal to buy tickets to their shows.
• Next, the fans pray for long lives to their demi-gods and keep buying all that they endorsed. This makes the stars richer, and the followers poorer.
• Now, the heroes are caught in a dubious act of hiding their riches, the fans literally whirl 24×7, chanting we-are-with-you hymns.
Economists tell us how bad it is to take the incentive away from those capable. The red ideology has failed and is now history. We know well, it is no good robbing the rich to feed the poor and so on. Long live capitalism, but capitalism means a tax system is in place. Panama Papers reveal less of names and more about the fact that these biggy evaders hate tax so much more than the middle class does. Planeloads of extra money but no desire to be upright? Millions in fanbase, but always looking for cheap exits.
The question is not whether it was legal to take money offshore, the question is whether it was moral to dispatch it away to where it did not belong. The fans will always be too busy worshipping to think about this all. There is often a big conflict between what you like and what is proper. Someone righteously challenges wasting water for cricket and the IPL organisers are reprimanded by the courts about misuse of water. The solution lies in making the IPL money foot the bill of trains taking water to Latur. This is realistic because the actual problem is not “not enough water” but “not enough means to distribute water“. Think of the money that Marathwada needs to get water from Pune or Miraj transported over? The Prabhu of Indian Railways has actually taken it up, even if political parties, all invariably made up of the fans of these crooked Zero-brand celebrities, are foolishly opposing this. Think of the farm loans that are leading to a lot of individual, social and political turmoil. If you thought the single farmer owed millions of Rupees, you’re uninformed. The loans are mostly a few thousand Rupees per farmer family. Just a fraction of the money from foreign accounts of these Zeroes would be enough. No, the celebrities need not pay off farmer loans as good Samaritans or saints. But if this money remained in the domestic financial pool here, there exist a few ways of redistribution of wealth and a few new ones also could certainly be conjured up. There are a hundred sectors like transport, energy, education, healthcare that could benefit from such a shot. Many water conservation and drought relief programs could be funded. The Solapur district administration has actually delivered sharp results of their water management efforts. Not that a crore was a lot of money, but IPL actually donated that much in the 2015 season; they can be made to give away more now. This looks to be the perfect way to channelise ordinary people’s fun-spending towards a real and common good, even if after satiating the hunger of the enterprise that enables it. Whether it is Lalit, Vijay or the anthem-singing Amit.
Now who needs these celebrities? It is like asking, who needs movies, or concerts or cricket matches? So in real life, we will keep feeding this side ourselves. Something that gives us a high, often takes a good deal away from us and produces a handful of super rich. Recently, they denied booze to Biharis. Now guess what? They’re reportedly chasing crazy things, like munching on soap in the hope of a high – seriously; one thought it was a joke, but no. But then, why go to Bihar? What we want, we just want, anyhow. We all need our heroes, our cricket, our spirits – let us admit it, everyone needs at least one of these and the best part is, we are ready to pay for it.
The sequence: we need heroes >> heroes become rich >> rich heroes have more money than they need (and after the fireworks and the party) >> heroes’ money has sailed high seas >> we are left with less money than we together need.