Mallya’s escape will brew an unwanted storm in our own backyards

(Published in Times of India: )

It’s just another grenade waiting to explode. The repercussions will be felt the most among our debt-stricken sections who are already raising the vociferous war-cry of hypocrisy.

The kingpin of a large liquor empire in debt of nearly a billion dollars owed to the banks flees the country despite instructions to airports to prevent him from doing so, while a farmer in a remote district of Tamil Nadu is mercilessly beaten by the police for failing to repay a loan of 1.3 lakhs to the bank to purchase a tractor.

It’s the great income divide in all its glory. But more than that, it’s yet another addition to the tall pile of wealthy or powerful defaulters in our country who play the ‘jugaad’ card because they can while the poor and helpless in similar situations bear the brunt of punishment. The figures might be lesser in comparison but to these hard-working farmers whose only source of livelihood are the lands they till and crop they grow, these figures are no less than Mallya’s billions.

The farmer in question, G Balan has already paid back a large percentage of the owed amount whereas Vijay Mallya who is being chased by virtually every institution one can think of – banks, regulators, airports, airline staff to name a few continues to irk his creditors by flaunting his wealth even in this precarious state and managing a hall pass out of the country.

If this isn’t rubbing handfuls of salt on  the wounds of an entire component of society that already faces an ignominous fate at the hands of the weather gods and ‘dandas’ of our esteemed police force then I don’t know what is.

The King of ‘Good Times’ has only stirred up a string of ‘bad times’ for himself and subsequently his shareholders and lenders even as he was hard-pressed to approach lenders a second time and they voted to risk it again and give him the time of day. A decision they must be hopping mad about now. The implications of his mistakes owing to his own bad decisions for an airline empire that never gained profits in eight years have far-reaching tremors whereas G Balan’s ‘crime’ was a consequence of natural factors out of his control – the weather that damaged his crop. Instead of hearing his pleas and promises that he would in fact be paying up the rest of the owed money, the cops turned a deaf ear and savagely caned him. This injustice when thousands of others like Mallya have far bigger debts owed and far lesser to lose.

It’s just another example of the blatant gundagardi that has plagued our country as the new law of the land. Don’t like it? Beat it up. Kill it or drive it to suicide. G Balan was beaten up in front of the entire village. He was given no notice or no contact prior to this charade and on voicing this, he was beaten up more. But Mallya probably sipped his champagne on his flight to ‘get away’ from it all.

Mallya needs to be brought back and brought to book immediately, not just because he is a man who deserves nothing less than facing up to the consequences of his own doing, but because allowing him to gain some wriggle-room to strategise his next steps by defying legal decrees and fleeing, (even momentarily) further tarnishes the already stained image of our country and its endemically biased legal and governmental systems.