I have just finished reading a book on the Mumbai mafia's. It is an interesting book which traces the rise of mafia's, especially after independence. What is striking is the indirect and unintentional boost provided by moralistic policies followed at the start of 1950's by the then Chief Minister of the then Bombay state Mr Morarji Desai who later on became the Prime Minister of India.
A few years after Independence a future mafia leader by the name Varadarajan Mudaliar was struggling to make two ends meet by working as a coolie at the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai. He was soon provided with a golden oppurtunity to diversify into a lucrative business with excellent rate of return on small investments.
Morarji Desai imposed the prohibition of liqour and other contraband goods in the state in 1952.
This came as a windfall to Varadrajan and the other future mafia leader Haji Mastan. Both the Tamilians were provided with a vast market oppurtunity by a staunch Gujarati in future Maharashtra.
Soon Varadrajan popularly known as Vardabhai found that the liqour business having gone underground now needed more of muscle power rather than brain power. He entered the illicit liqour supply business and raked in huge profits. Soon he controlled the production of illicit liqour in areas of Dharavi, Sion, Koliwada and Antop Hill. He expanded his business network to Chembur and Matunga areas. There was a influx of Tamils from Tamil Nadu into these areas and Varadbhai became their messiah and bread provider. Soon his men were able to get anyone essentials like ration card, electricity connection, water supply and people started flowing in from the Southern states turning Dharavi into the world's largest slum.
Another person to flourish due to Morarji Desai's dictate was Haji Mastan. Morarji had banned the import ogf gold into the country. This oppurtunity to supply gold illegaly was ruthlessly exploited by Mastan. He arranged for getting gold from Arab countries in dhows and got them landed at the many coastal locations in Maharashtra. He also found that there was huge demand for silver abroad. So he organised the illegal despatchs of silver from India. The Indian craze for gold is well known throughout the centuries so Mastan did not have to worry about getting customers.
Soon Mastan joined hands with Varadbhai and the third mafia leader Karim Lala and together they carried out their illegal activities of smuggling and supply of illicit liqour with impunity in Mumbai and other parts of the country. It was also one reason for rampant corruption in the law enforcing agencies.
So it is a irony that a moralistic Morarji ended up by giving tremendous boost to illegal activities by banning gold imports and sale of liqour. He went against human nature. Indians love to invest in gold for security reasons and a significant number like to enjoy their drink. Morarji banned both.
Whenever anything is banned its supply only goes underground. The rise of mafia power in Mumbai can thus be attributed to certain policies of Morarji Desai, who no doubt took them in good faith and in his dreams also would not have dreamt that the real beneficiaries would be the Mastans and Varadrajans who have now become the legendary, once upon a time dons of Mumbai.