Bailout for Kingfisher ?!!!

Cartoon by Satish Acharya

No Bailouts! It must be ‘Jail -In’ to these corporate robbers

The recent bailout plea by the liquor baron and promoter of Kingfisher airlines – Vijay Mallya seeking government intervention could not have looked more humiliating for the ‘the king of good times’. Only the king has fallen on bad times and all of his own making. If we strictly stick to the free market philosophy of no government intervention or oversight over the industry and a free rein over the market, then Kingfisher airlines should be allowed to fail.

This sort of ‘corporate beggary’ is not new to India. The Indian government has bailed out the corporates from bankruptsy several times before. For instance, in 2002 -03 they bailed out the industries to the tune of more than Rs. 100,000 crore and continues to subsidize them every year by up to Rs. 500,000 crore. In fact the nationalization of banks and insurance companies in 1969 under Indira Gandhi was in fact a bailout of those private companies who were on the verge of bankruptcy. But all this sort of pampering has only made the corporates more arrogant, who never miss an opportunity on lecturing the government on the virtues of the free market economy and taking swipes at what they see as government overly generous (read ‘pathetic’) intervention in the social sector through its ‘populist’ schemes.

Vijay Mallya could probably be described as the ‘ultimate hedonist’ among the lot, openly showcasing his wealth and flamboyant lifestyle. And now finally the day of reckoning has arrived. His biggest venture till date ‘Kingfisher Airlines’ has accumulated losses of over Rs. 8200 crore and there are no takers in the corporate sector ready to buy him out. So ultimately, he has turned to the ultimate benefactor of them all: the Government of India. However, the negative reactions that have already started to pore in against any such bailout measures might dissuade the government from taking any such unpopular decisions for now.

Kingfisher airlines is bankrupt today not because of running on non profitable routes, as claimed by Mallya, but becuase of the reckless way in which he has entered into all sorts of business ventures (or adventures?) mostly in the service sector from fashion, newspaper, IPL, Formula racing, real estate and so on. This was partly to do with building his image that always craved for media spotlight to the kind of womanizer that he is and also for a quick way to making money. For all his promotions and sexist appeal through fashion ‘model’ type air hostesses, the airlines ultimately failed because there simply wasn’t a large enough market for air travel in India. In a country, were capitalism has failed to develop a domestic market, when most ordinary Indians can hardly afford existing public transport such as trains and buses, domestic air travel (which is both unviable and unsustainable) was never an option.

Kingfisher does not deserve an iota of public money which they have already squandered through generous government subsidies and so on. In fact he deserves to be behind bars for the kind of unaccounted public subsidies that has been thrown down the drain. If he cares so much about his precious airlines, then he has enough wealth in the form of ‘UB city’, his liquor business and others which can all be sold out and not to forget his own personnel wealth, which is the only sort of money that should be allowed for bailing out his beleaguered airlines.

It is not as if any of the others are doing well either. While all the private airlines are facing one form of crisis or the other but the biggest loss making airline at the moment, of course, is the government owned national carrier – Air India (which the private carriers have manged to destroy). This crisis facing the airline industry is nothing new and is due to the flawed model of ‘open skies policy’ that has allowed private players in the airline industry in the last two decades with each airline trying to out compete one another. The impact of the global economic crisis has only made their situation even more precarious with low passenger intake and high fuel cost despite all their ‘no frills model’.

Ultimately, it is this unsustainable model of transportation (based out of unsound economics), that has only added to more pollution than solving the transport needs of the vast majority, that is to blame. Only by nationalization of the airline industry and complete restructuring based on mass public transportation that is affordable, environmentally friendly and under the democratic control of the masses, is the way forward and not cosmetic changes here and there.

If there is someone more deserving for bailout now it is not this ‘1%’ super rich parasites like Vijay Mallya or the Ambani’s but the rest 99% or more precisely the 836 and odd million Indians living on less than Rs. 20 a day. If this super rich minority is able to lead their vulgar lifestyles it is because of the sweat, blood and tears of the working people and peasants of India. It is the lust for more and more profit that is responsible for India’s worsening socio economic index with the HDI falling to 134 or for that matter the suicide (or murder?) of more than 250,000 peasants in the past 15 years.

The sort of bailout we need at present is definitely not a ‘corporate bailout’ but bailout of the ‘99%’ deserving majority by increasing wages to balance price rise, with health, education and food security for all and use the wealth in the interests of the majority. Only by nationalizing the key industries and financial institutions as well as radical land reforms and redistribution under the democratic control of the masses, can any meaningful step be taken towards achieving this goal.

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