The Game Changers 2000 | 2009

Photo: Vibhor Pradeep Chandra

The Killing Fields

As India sought to embrace the market economy, it left its farmers to die

AS THE ‘FINGER lickin-good’ Mcfuture came home to guide us into the millennial dawn, the Indian economic mindset saw a dramatic change – from a 70 percent agrarian economy to an info knowledge powerhouse. This had dire consequences. From 2002 to 2006 an average of 17,513 farmers committed suicide every year – that’s about one farmer suicide marking every 30 minutes of our millennial dawn. The economic world order brought the cash crop but not the cash. A sustained decrease in state support combined with international seed monopolies dramatically increased the cost of cultivation. The agrarian crisis entered the political lexicon but only attracted the political tomfoolery of subsidies. As the swanky first decade of the 21st century goes into the pinacolada night of an electronica drumbeat, the Indian farmer wants only that he be allowed to remain in the 20th.

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Money Spinner

Carrying wads of cash around is no longer a necessity for the Indian with a bank account

THOUGH FIRST INSTALLED in 1986, the mass expansion of ATM networks in India has taken place only in the last 10 years. The ATM is now everywhere, from your neighbourhood market to the dizzy heights of Nathu La in Sikkim. Consumers and businessmen can now use their debit cards at over 30,000 ATMs around the country, making it not just anytime money, but also anywhere money. The ATM marks the radical shift from old thrift to new spending.


Truth Be Told

The RTI became India’s chosen weapon of the weak as people Prised open the government’s opaque doors

ARUNA ROY’S 15-year battle gave India the Right To Information (RTI) Act in October 2005. Since then, government records are available to anyone armed with a simple application. It transformed feudal power equations entirely: the poor could now ask questions and get answers. Within a year of enactment, 45,000 applications were filed. By monetarily penalising officers who refused or gave wrong information, the RTI Act enforced accountability like no other law ever had.

Photo:Shailendra Pandey

Bronze Behenji

Statuesque megalomania apart, Mayawati’s political acumen has kept caste politics well and truly alive

THE YOUNG Kanshi Ram acolyte who fought her first byelection in 1985 came of age this decade. Having managed to bolster her strong Dalit base with upper-caste support under the Sarvajan Samaj banner, she rode the BSP elephant to victory in the 2007 elections, giving India’s most populous state its first non-coalition government in 14 years.

Photo: Reuters

Years Of Tears

Ekta Kapoor started a culture of sop, which became the mantra for India’s nascent television industry

BALAJI. AND WITH that one word, an industry was reborn. “Making millionaires is better than making millions,” said Ekta Kapoor, first big spinner of sop, sap and soap. And she’s made both, by making two of Asia’s most watched shows, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. A housewife’s habit, conversation starter and ready reckoner.

Do Your Thing

The lives and loves of SID, Akash and Sameer defined coolth for a post- liberalisation generation

FARHAN AKHTAR’S Dil Chahta Hai helped Hindi cinema shed the flab of the saccharine-sweet late-90s romance for a leaner, cleaner, hipper avatar, balancing send-ups of traditional Hindi cinema tropes with an updated upper-middle-class version of that other Bollywood staple: male friendship. Aamir Khan’s spiked hair and goatee – and Preity Zinta’s curls – became the rage across metropolitan India.

Quick Cricket

The Indian premier league has redefined our Favourite sport and how we view it

THE T20 FORMAT of the Indian Premier League has fast-forwarded a gentleman’s game. And Lalit Modi, proud father of his brainchild, has added glamour to the quick fix. So Bollywood celebrities buying city teams, blonde cheerleaders gyrating to Hindi film numbers and international cricketers being auctioned under paparazzi glare are now every man’s sport. Some gentlemen applaud the new avatar. Some say simply: “That’s not cricket.”


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