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William Dalrymple explains how corporations today, with their powers, resemble the East India Company

This piece was published on the platform ‘The Logical Indian’ on May 4 2017. Here is the link. Below is an excerpt:

In his most crucial insight for our times, Dalrymple argues that many of modern India’s rich industrialists have amassed wealth in ways similar to Robert Clive’s, the EIC’s ruthless official who had won the Battle of Plassey for the Company. Clive and other corrupt Company officials used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats. In turn, parliament backed the Company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the Company had to wage war. Such arbitrary state support reminds one of the recent tax benefits offered to Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth, and of the escape of Warren Anderson after the Bhopal Gas Disaster of 1984. Industrialist Mukesh Ambani, Dalrymple says, has “unprecedented political access and power” today. During the 2014 elections, the Bharatiya Janata party is estimated to have spent at least $1bn on print and broadcast advertising alone. Dalrymple worries that of these donations, around 90% came from unlisted corporate sources, given in return for “who knows what undeclared promises of access and favours”.

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