In 1990, India started to move away from the self reliant economic policy it had maintained since its independence in 1947, to avoid "neo colonialist exploitation" by foreign interests. Major sectors of the economy were reserved for state monopolies and Indian companies strongly protected.
The 1990 Elecrama trade fair held in Mumbai was an invitation for foreign investors to enter the energy sector in association with Indian companies such as Tata Electric, Ahmedabad Electricity and Calcutta Electric.
Canada responded by sending a commercial mission that I joined on behalf of Montreal interests attracted by the huge size of the market that appeared to be opening.
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The trade fair provided was an occasion for businessmen from all over the world to explore opportunities for trade and investments with their Indian counterparts. Here, part of the Canadian delegation is making specific presentations to interested parties.
Work involved many group and individual meetings and of course, a number of cocktail parties.
All work and no play is not reasonable so we all did some sightseeing. Here are some of us emerging from the Prince of Wales Museum in Colaba.
There are many temples such as this one photographed from a taxi somewhere in Mumbai.
Mumbai has more than 10 million inhabitants and all its streets are normally crowded.
The Hindu religion dictates that cows are sacred as the living expression of the god Nandi, the traditional mount of the god Shiva the destroyer. They roam all over, eat garbage and their dried dung is widely used as cooking fuel.
The delegation stayed in luxury hotels and met wealthy, powerful people but we could not fail to see that our counterparts represented an infinitesimally small proportion of the population.
In spite of all official denials, the caste system still dominates the socio-economic reality in India. It was invented by the priests (Brahmins) to establish their dominance over the warriors (Kshatrias), the artisans and merchants (Vaisias) and the farmers and peasants (Sudras). There are more than 700 such castes, each occupying their own immutable niche in the social hierarchy.
People born to a caste cannot change to another and they must marry within their own caste (often under penalty of death in the villages). The laundry wallahs that use the facilities shown here (and their children), are condemned to wash the clothes of higher castes until they die.
Hinduism is the religion of injustice, stagnation and despair.
It teaches the poor that they were born in a lower caste because of their "bad" behaviours during previous lives and makes them believe them that any attempt to better their situation would go against the will of the gods.
Conversely it teaches the Brahmins that they fully deserve their incredible privileges for their past "good" lives. Of course, "good" is obeying every whim and fancy of the Brahmins and the slightest hesitation to do so is "bad".
The result is a rigid pecking order from the highest to the lowest social laminations where religion teaches everyone to be subservient to his "superiors" and invited to abuse all the "less worthy" than himself. Concepts such as "equal opportunities", "level playing field" or "fair play" are completely alien to this religion let alone the ideal of "love thy neighbour like yourself" that appears absurd in that context.
Also alien are social ethics based on the precept "do onto others as you would they did onto you" and on the concept of "the common good". Consequently corruption levels are high. In my experience, expecting to do business in India without paying bribes is definitely naive. In 2004, India earned a score of 2.8 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking it 90th out of 145 countries.
After a week in Mumbai our group moved on to promote its businesses in Pakistan.