Yoga Guru Arrives In Private Jet. Finance Minister Rushes To Meet Him.

Jun 13, 2011

From the FT:

When a saffron-robed yoga guru landed in Delhi clutching a list of demands to clean up corruption ... Four cabinet ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee, the 75-year-old finance minister, sped to Indira Gandhi International Airport to meet his corporate jet. ...

Yet only a few days later, Swami "Baba" Ramdev was forced to flee the Indian capital disguised in a woman's white salwar kameez to his ashram in the holy city of Haridwar. His 100,000 strong followers were dispersed by police brandishing sticks and firing teargas into their vast tented "yoga camp". ...

Usually feted for tolerance, India has invited comparisons with China and its hardline responses to protests. The speedy resort to force has highlighted the vulnerability of a listless state to social protest, particularly when tied to the spiritual register of the country's Hindu majority. The swami's demands range from the declaration of income, to the death penalty for corrupt bureaucrats and the banning of large denomination rupee notes. His cause, nonetheless, finds sympathy among the growing middle class, impatient with corruption and mistrustful of the elite.

The story makes a nice complement to last week's NYT piece on Gurgaon, a thriving Indian city that lacks basic public services.

In this city that barely existed two decades ago, there are 26 shopping malls, seven golf courses and luxury shops selling Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs shimmer in automobile showrooms. Apartment towers are sprouting like concrete weeds, and a futuristic commercial hub called Cyber City houses many of the world's most respected corporations.

Gurgaon, located about 15 miles south of the national capital, New Delhi, would seem to have everything, except consider what it does not have: a functioning citywide sewer or drainage system; reliable electricity or water; and public sidewalks, adequate parking, decent roads or any citywide system of public transportation. Garbage is still regularly tossed in empty lots by the side of the road.

For more on India: Check out last year's series from Planet Money's David Kestenbaum.

* India's Economy Is Booming, But Not For Everybody

* In Search Of The Red Tape Factory

* The Economics Of Bribing A Cop

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