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When the East India Company asked for trading rights in the 17th century, that innocuous request transformed itself into a writ to rule the nation. So when controversy erupted about the Dabhol power project in Maharashtra being set up by Enron, an American multinational giant which is setting up the country's first wholly foreign-owned thermal power project, many did hark back to the past. And this is what Ms Rebecca Mark, the chief executive officer of Enron Power, had to say when questioned about the various complaints made against the project.
Rebecca Mark: "Those were reports that came out in 1995 to help the politicians to create ... Actually some of them have been raised recently yet again. But most of the people in the districts around the project, are satisfied or quite pleased about the project."
And so the debate continues. Everybody agrees Indian needs foreign investment. But on what terms and conditions? How heavy does the memory of the East India Company hang over the psyche of post-modern Indians? How well have we learnt to live with multinational corporations?