Krishval Musings

Monday, 15 February 2016


It is distressing that this great Maratha hero well recognised for his valour and accomplishments is being exposed to the rest of India by a typical Bollywood movie.   

The 18th century was a period when the European military science became very popular and European trainers were in big demand for hiring by the Maharajas of the divided India.  However there was one great warrior who became the point of attention to the European military commanders was Bajirao Ballal Bhat of the Maratha Empire. The legendary British Field Marshal of the World War II Bernard Law Montgomery wrote in his book “The concise history of warfare”, “The Palkhed Campaign of 1727–28 in which Baji Rao I out-generalled Nizam-ul-Mulk, is a masterpiece of strategic mobility”. He also likened Baji Rao's approach to that subsequently made famous by U.S. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman during his 1864 "March to the Sea" campaign.

Bajirao, son of Balaji Viswanath, became the Peshwa(Prime Minister) at the age of 20 and proved his worthiness as a great strategist in the history of India.  Bajirao was said to be a very fine specimen of manly beauty and of exemplary courage and was hugely popular with his soldiers. He was praised as an inspiring General who lived like a soldier and led the battles from the front.   His victories paved the way for the Marathas to become a super power in the heart of India with almost 2.8 million sqkm of land under their control.  Sir Richard Temple wrote, “He lived to see the Marathas spread over the Indian continent from the Arabian sea to the Bay of Bengal.  He died as he lived, in camp, under canvas among his men and he is remembered among the Marathas as the fighting Peshwa, as the incarnation of Hindu energy."

World history has produced several military geniuses like Julius Caesar, Napoleon and George Washington but none of them had achieved the fame of undefeated like Bajirao. He fought 41 battles and won all of them, in his short span of 40 years of life, against the Nizams of Deccan, Moguls of Delhi, the Portuguese of Bombay and Siddhis of Gujarat coast.  He (1700-1740) was a Warrior-General- Prime Minister (Peshva) served for the Chatrapathi Shahu Raje Bhosle, the fifth Maratha Emperor after Shivaji.  The Maratha Empire during his period was almost 2/3rd of India stretching from Thanjavur in Tamilnadu in the south to Attock (now in POK, Pakistan) in Kashmir in the north and from Kolkata in the east to Mangalore in the west. The Scindias (Ranoji Shinde) of Gwalior, Holkars (Malharrao) of Indore, Gaekwads (Pilaji) of Baroda, and Pawars (Udaiji) of Dhar were Bhajirao’s creation of a Maratha confederacy. He fulfilled the dream of Chatrapathi Shivaji after 60 years. He completely rewrote the map of India in a span of 20 years.

                Maratha Empire
It was a great misfortune that when Nadir Shaw of Persia (Iran) invaded Delhi in 1739, massacred 50,000 innocent civilians of Delhi and looted 600 crores worth of armaments including the Peacock throne and Kohinoor diamond, Bajirao the one warrior who could have effectively countered Nadir Shaw was away in an expedition against the Portuguese in the South. He died due to a heat stroke in April 1740 on the banks of Narmada near Indore while marching with a mighty army towards Delhi probably to neutralize Nadir Shaw. Historians feel that had Bajirao made his march to Delhi 3 months before April 1740 the history would have been different.
The strategy of Bajirao:
1.     Only horse mounted fighting troops went into combat. 
2.     His main focus was always on cutting the enemy supply-lines with the help of rapid troop movement and knowledge of the local terrain. Encircling the enemy quickly, appearing from the rear of the enemy, attacking from an unexpected direction, distracting the enemy’s attention, keeping the enemy in surprise.
3.     ‘Bhajirao said, “Night  has nothing to do with sleep. It was created by God, to raid the territory held by your enemy. The night is your shield, your screen against the cannons and swords of a vastly superior enemy force."
4.      His intelligence agency was so strong that every moment he used to get all the information of his enemy’s whereabouts.
5.     He always moved into battle with the cry ‘Har har Mahadev,’ inspiring his troops to fight without fear.
History books talk about the third battle of Panipet in 1761 where Ahmedsha Durrani, the Afghan king  defeated the Maratha army but they hardly acknowledge that the Rohilla Afghans  were defeated by Madhavrao  Peshva in 1770 and brought Delhi under Maratha power. All restrictions imposed by Aurangazip on Hindus for their worship in the sacred shrines of Kasi and Mathura were all removed.  The Maratha power lasted from 1650 to 1820, finally, the English East India Company, encouraged by the growing disunity and infighting among Marathas, could subdue them and annexed their head quarters to the Bombay Presidency in 1848. History books inexactly project that India was  seized by the British from the Moguls, factually it was from the Marathas.

Bajirao’s premature death was a big blow to the empire. Marathas, however, failed to consolidate their victories and develop a sustainable empire with sound administration and control like the Guptas and Europeans.  It is due to the total absence of strategic culture which is prevailing even now in India.
Bajirao listed in the top ranking military commanders of the world by Western historians was not well known to the Indian public and government history book writers also downplayed his achievements. The government of India, however, issued a stamp in his name in April 2004 and his statue is erected in the Shaniwar Wade, a fort in the middle of Pune city. It is unfortunate that complete record of only 10 of the 41 battles are  available.

Bajirao , the Warrior  General who rode 5000 km vertically and 4000km horizontally  on horseback and fought 41 battles in different corners of India against the invaders and conquerors, is a rich material for producing big movies like “The Patriot, Braveheart, and Lawrence of Arabia”, probably Hollywood would have produced a better and more real Bhajirao.

Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam

Ref: www. India,

                         Samadhi- Bajirao in Raverkhedi   
(Published in Mylapore Club Magazine Feb/2016)

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Benami Dollars – a New Financial Product from India.

The original US dollar, the legal tender of the United States of America, is now the de facto currency of the world. Its convertible nature and the free market economy of the USA have assisted creation of both legal and illegal financial assets and transactions with peculiar dollar names.  The new find, Benami dollar, is developed by Indians exclusively for their own use by parking their illicit wealth abroad. 

EURO dollar is a notional currency without any central bank governance and is  
managed collectively by international banks. It started as stashed funds from the East European Communist bloc but has become a recognized source of legal fund in the last 35 years. Central banks have accepted this product and corporate/commercial/retail dealings are perfectly legal and transparent.  The estimated size of this market is over 5 trillion dollars.

PETRO dollars is a given name by political economists to the wealth of the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) members.  The yearly collection is close to a trillion dollar.  This is a legal wealth and is being used for various development projects in the OPEC countries and is also invested all over the world.

The lesser known, NARCO dollar is the illegal wealth of the drug lords hidden in off shore tax havens mostly in the Caribbean. Owners are totally unknown; movements are secret and have high velocity of circulation. The estimated size of this market is $ 500 billion. Its existence was corroborated by the strong rumour when Pablo Escobar, the fugitive Colombian drug lord, offered to settle the billions of dollars of foreign debts of the Colombian government in return for his freedom.    

What is Benami transaction?
Benami transaction means any transaction in which property is transferred to one person for a consideration paid or provided by another person. - The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988

Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “Made, held, done, or transacted in the name of (another person) —used in Hindu law to designate a transaction, contract, or property that is made or held under a name that is fictitious or is that of a third party who holds as ostensible owner for the principal or beneficial owner” 

In the Western world, it is known as fronting or proxy deals.    

BENAMI Dollars could be the appropriate name for the stashed funds parked in the offshore tax havens by Indians. Until the year 2000 the boundaries of stashed funds were limited to a few big corporations and high level politicians in the centre due to restricted exchange regulations.   The stashing is done by age old techniques like under invoicing exports, over pricing imports and kick backs from government and defence contracts.  Havala (Informal and illegal transfer of money outside the banking channel) transfers were mostly in the individual retail segment.

Globalization with Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and opening of the Indian market for Multi National Corporations (MNCs) have paved the way for new players even at state level politicians and bureaucrats. The accumulation started multiplying after the year 2000 from kickbacks from MNCs who were given free passage to compete in various economic development programmes. The Indian government is turning a deaf ear to the clamour against the stashing as any investigation might backfire on them.  Millions have grown into billions.

Leniently regulated Gulf States particularly Dubai in UAE, and Hong Kong are comfortable locations for parking funds and many Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and People of Indian origin (PIO) are ready to provide the Benami services. Authorities in these countries do not care even if an Indian taxi driver or a construction worker maintains a million dollar account in local banks. Neither the Indian government nor the Indian embassy has any control on the activities of the NRIs and PIOs. The vital interests, close kin and spouse of the Benamies in India will be held as security for the risk.

Companies owned by PIOs in Malaysia, Singapore and UAE are   providing  Benami service for high stakes.  There are reciprocal arrangements for their ventures in India.  The principals of the Benamis do not mind paying tax on the parked amount in foreign countries as long as their stashed money is kept intact with transfer facilities and their identity remaining undisclosed.  It will be an interesting research to find out how the funds are being used. It depends upon the size of the fund and the power of the politicians. Huge sums are transferred as donations to many  NGOs and charity organizations run by them.  Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) assist the Benamies as well as the real owners through Participatory Notes, a tax free and convertible offshore financial tool, to reinvest the stashed funds in India and take advantage of the lucrative Indian stock market without being identified.   

Benami business, practised within India so far, has now crossed the shores with a new name in the international market.  MNC banks in tax havens provide all kinds of services for managing the illicit wealth.   The Government’s reluctance will encourage creation of  more Benami dollars and at this rate India can produce a few    Pablo Escobars in  future, after all the foreign debt of India  amounts to around US$ 300 billion as against the estimated stashed holdings of US$ 700 billion.

Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam.
 Ref: Authors blog krishrajiblogspot Nov/2013