Mumbai: Mukesh Ambani has overtaken Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma to become Asia's richest person, reports comes and the Indian media is going berserk.
Ambani was estimated to be worth $44.3 billion on Friday with Reliance Industries Ltd. rising 1.6 percent to a record 1,099.8 rupees, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Ambani has added $4 billion to his fortune this year as Reliance doubled its petrochemicals capacity and investors cheered the success of his disruptive telecom upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.
At this month's annual shareholders' meeting, Ambani said Reliance saw its "biggest growth opportunity in creating a hybrid, online-to-offline new commerce platform," involving the group's Reliance Retail Ltd. and Reliance Jio businesses. The "size of Reliance will more than double" by 2025, Ambani said at the meeting. Jio will introduce a fiber-based broadband service across 1,100 Indian cities in August in what Ambani said would be the biggest greenfield fixed-line rollout anywhere in the world.
What’s a big deal?
With the kind of support Mukesh Ambani is reported to have been receiving from the present and earlier dispensations, any Indian, howsoever small or big he or she may be, can overnight become Asia’s richest, or even world’s richest.
And what kind of support Mukesh Ambani could have been enjoying was witnessed only last week when his, yet to be born, Jio Institute was listed among India’s top 06 institutions. Granted the status of “Institute of Eminence”, Mukesh Ambani is now eligible for grants worth millions of rupees. This in a country where hundreds of schools and colleges after working for decades struggle for receiving fraction of what Mukesh Ambani will get even before starting his institute.
I am teaching at a senior college since last ten years on an honorarium. The college campus established in 1962 has more than 12,000 girl students (yes twelve thousand girls in a single campus). The college management struggles every month to pay salaries to its staff working in its unaided units as most of the students come from very poor background and are not able to pay the fees in time.
The institute has made hundreds of doctors and teachers, and also a large number of engineers and researchers. One of its alumni has a distinction of being a scientist of repute and has worked in countries like South Korea, Germany and Japan before joining Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Few others of its alumni are working as researchers in BARC and other top institutions of the country.
Yet, the management is struggling to complete the new building it started constructing six years ago. Why? Because, despite being popular as an “Institute of Eminence” in and around Malegaon where it is located, the college has no friends like Mukesh Ambani who can win its management a fund worth crores of rupees in aid.
Few years ago we had formed a group comprising of entrepreneurs with years of experience to establish a textile park in Malegaon. It took more than four years to get government sanction. We spent all over earnings and savings to complete factory sheds and get Building Completion Certificate (BCC) from Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC). But, the state electricity department is still completing the infrastructure needed to provide sufficient power to run installed machines. In the absence of adequate power, some entrepreneurs are incurring heavy losses as they are paying interest to the banks without running their machines. But, our plea to speed up the construction work is falling on deaf ears as we do not have godfathers to help us out.
India is a country where you cannot easily get a clerk’s job even though you are skilled and have the needed experience. But, if you have friends and godfathers, you can even win international defense deals and contracts without any prior experience.
Aren’t you rubbing salt on the wounds of hundreds of thousands of Indians who are jobless and are devoid of a day's meal? Aren’t you poking fun at hundreds of Indians, who are doctors, engineers and have Ph. Ds, but are ready to work as chaprasis in government offices?
Furthermore, the contribution, if any, of these so called “Asia’s Richest” and “world’s richest” in nation building has always been in doubt. There are hardly any record to show how much they have donated for the poor and the needy of the country. In contrast, there is accusation that the person boasting of being Asia’s richest has grabbed by fraudulent means a Waqf premises and has constructed his plush residence in Mumbai on the land which actually belonged to orphans.
There are also accusations that the Reliance Jio installed telecom towers on the government lands occupied in return of rent much lower than the actual market rate.
Sorry, there is nothing to be proud of having such rich people in the country who are interested only in building their own empire and adding to their own wealth using funds and resources meant for the poor and downtrodden.
[The writer, Aleem Faizee, is Founder Editor of ummid.com. He can be contacted at aleem.faizee.gmail.com.]
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