Gone are the days when the Mafia or Cosa Nostra remained limited to those tracing descent from the small island of Sicily. The footprint of those pledging allegiance to the code of omerta or the mob has dwindled in the US, the Godfather sequels notwithstanding. The same holds good for the Yakuza in Japan and Korea, Triads in China though mafia. However, one cannot ignore the reality called Russian Mafia, with rich infusion from Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Latvia and Georgia. Even in Russia, the Mob comprises the dirty underbelly of society with the administration under pressure to smash its vice-like grip over the common people.
Therefore, it should give a glimmer of hope to this dying group of men who live and die by the code of silence that there is one place on earth where the society openly admits to their presence more with a tolerant shrug than anything tangible in terms of a crackdown by law enforcers. Today, Kerala is perhaps the only place on earth where the label, Mafia, has gained acceptance in mainstream, with the elected leaders, government functionaries, judiciary and even media not batting eyelid while admitting to the presence of its many varieties. The worst kind of harassment to members of this deeply feared sect in any other country is the frequent reference to their growing influence—in public speeches by politicians, social activists and media.
Thus, you have the sand mafia, a growing breed of enterprising men who have organised themselves to tap into a business opportunity when it became clear that sand for construction activities was getting scarce. Up the value chain, there is the black sand mafia, where the mob promises traces of illmenite and even thorium—in the product they deliver. Country cousins Triad and Yakuza have learnt to flourish with limited natural resources, turning even the most mundane activity of breaking rocks and boulders into quarry mafia. Staying with this theme there is also the water mafia, thriving in cities with rich water bodies around it as local administrations make sure there’s always a shortage of drinking water.
While the land mafia in Kerala has not much to claim by way of being different from their brethren elsewhere, perhaps the USP here is the cloak of respectability that remains in tact, allowing many of them to turn bonafide builders and realtors. Surely, the blade mafia is something unique to God’s Own Country, which transcends mere loan-sharking and keeps returning like the phoenix to confound both the government and people. For some years now, the state has been witnessing a standoff between tourism mafia and green mafia arraigned on either side of some of the most beautiful locations in the world.
Then there are the quaint ones. The award mafia, where a set of organised criminals as in the Mob, goes to work ensuring the recipient of any kind of award they yearn. Surely no one can deny the existence of sex mafia where the age-old trade of ‘pimping’ gets refined to suit the specialised activity called preying on minor girls. The list goes on and on, with the enterprising people of the state coming up with new business opportunities for a mafia to spread its tentacles. In which other place will you get those bored with the scope of plain vanilla hospital mafia to venture into rarified fields called kidney mafia. Clearly, if Francis Ford Coppola in his old age decides it is time to make a spoof of the Godfather series, he won’t have to look beyond Kerala.