A Feast of Vultures
The Hidden Business of Democracy in India
Josy Joseph, Harper Collins, Non-fiction, Rs 599.00
Josy Joseph draws upon two decades as an investigative journalist to expose a problem so pervasive that we do not have the words to speak of it. The story is big: that of treacherous business rivalries, of how some industrial houses practically own the country, of the shadowy men who run the nation’s politics. The story is small: a village needs a road and a hospital, a graveyard needs a wall, people need toilets.
Josy, an award-winning investigative journalist based in New Delhi, is the National Security Editor of The Hindu newspaper. He has been Editor-Special Projects for the Times of India, an Associate Editor with the DNA newspaper, and has also been with Rediff.com, the Asian Age, Delhi Mid Day, and the Blitz.
The Prem Bhatia Trust elected him India’s best political reporter of 2010 ‘for his scoops and revelations, which include a list of scams that have become familiar names in the political lexicon’. In July 2013, the Ramnath Goenka Foundation run by the Indian Express group awarded him the Journalist of the Year in print media.
A Feast of Vultures opens in an ordinary village and winds up outside the palatial residence of one of the richest Indians. In the pages in between, Josy draws up on the stories of anonymous poor and famous Indians to weave together the challenges facing the world’s largest democracy.
From across the country, the author does breakthrough reportage on the flourishing phenomenon of middlemen in modern India. He brings to life the men and women who facilitate access to decision makers, and manipulate government decisions. A whole caste of middlemen sustains the staggering level of corruption in everyday life in India. From the lowest police post to the offices of the Prime Minister and President on New Delhi’s Raisina Hill, middlemen are as ubiquitous as they are varied.
The book zooms in on a particular segment of Indian economy to show how pliable the institutions of Indian democracy are at the hands of ambitious and well-funded business leaders seeking preferential treatment directly from government officials or through intermediaries, including those from the criminal underworld. Through a detailed investigation, the author reveals how evidence exists that some of the most successful of India’s new generation entrepreneurs have thrived through bribes, manipulation, and possibly even murder.
In the final segment of the book, Josy writes about the real beneficiaries of this corrupt and crumbling system. Many of India’s elite are lawmakers and lawbreakers – who use their financial and political clout to steer policymaking and legislation to benefit their business empires – and keep competitors at bay. They have become the puppet masters in today’s bankrupt system of governance, straddling the heights of political and economic power, unencumbered by either democratic accountability or regulatory oversight.
A tour de force through the heart of modern India, weaving together the daily struggles of its poorest with the shenanigans of its rich, A Feast of Vultures clinically examines and irrefutably documents the crisis gripping the world’s largest democracy. For anyone interested in understanding modern India, this is a must read.
The book was released on July 28 in New Delhi.
A Feast of Vultures offers a lot more in terms of Josy Josph’s literary prowess compared to an extension of his articles and focuses on how the business world in modern and practical India operates.
The book has been quoted as “an unprecedented multiple-level inquiry into modern India and the picture it reveals is both explosive and frightening.”
It contains damning evidence against some of the largest businesses in India’s and highly established politicians. The reopening of major scandals are the political tone in the book
A Feast of Vultures demonstrates the investigative detail applied by Joseph in the book to bring to the surface a narrative that calls for the cry of change in India.