India’s Tommy Hilfiger utopia is a bluff that will soon be called across the globe

Pankaj Mishra in The Guardian:

Krauze-007 Last week, as India's TV anchors and columnists worked themselves up into a moralistic frenzy about a measure of poverty proposed by the planning commission (40p a day per person), I visited the new outlet for Tommy Hilfiger in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Press coverage about the opening, and accounts of the new Hermès store in Mumbai, which will sell saris for £6,000, seemed to make debates about India's poverty line look irrelevant. Himachal, too, seemed to be taking a giant step towards becoming a consumer of western brand names.

The shop was empty, the salesmen sunk into torpor. There were no likely customers in sight when I passed it a few days later. Obviously, there are few takers for the reassuringly expensive preppy look in one of India's predominantly rural states. But the wisdom of financial elites and their mouthpieces in the media rarely brushes against actuality. In any case, appearances are everything in the age of globalisation.

Along with Tommy Hilfiger, several new private “universities” have also opened up recently in Himachal. According to a local daily, the Tribune, one of these institutions enrolled students and started offering courses even before it came into legal existence. You might put down this haste to the high demand for quality education among India's overwhelmingly youthful population. But as the Tribune described in a series of reports, the universities not only lack faculties, laboratories and libraries; a few do not meet the criteria for acquiring property in the state.

In other words, private universities have become a pretext for real estate speculators to acquire expensive land from the government: another example of the collusion between state and private business manifested recently in some of India's biggest corruption scandals.

More here.