May 16, 2007

On Nandigram

Disclaimer: Supporters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project and all those who believe that beauty pageants are actually hunting grounds for goodwill ambassadors, kindly read no further.
For the past couple of years, my ears have been regularly assaulted with phrases like ‘outsourcing hub’, India shining’, ‘fastest growing economy’ & other similar hopeful prophecies that almost convince me that 50 years from now, unmetalled roads will be a thing of the past and TB and malnutrition will not be the biggest cause of infant mortality in India. Hubby being a part of the dollar-churning IT industry, I am forever privy to discussions about how rapid economic development is only a few steps away & that times are indeed a changing. Setting up of SEZs, attracting foreign investment from Singapore and UK and a growing base of skilled knowledge workers will be the weapons that will finally realise our dreams of achieving 10 per cent GDP.

And then …March 14th happened, the Red letter day that marked a tipping point in the history of West Bengal.

This blog is by no means a defence against the killing of the protesting Nandigram farmers by a militant police force who followed the dictate of the state’s political machinery. This is merely an attempt to rationally analyse that such incidents & the media reports that follow in their aftermath, are usually the machinations of opposition parties (read Trinamool Congress) & an increasingly irresponsible media who will go to any lengths to milk any story to emerge as winners in the weekly TRP war.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen recently voiced his tacit support for the measures CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has taken in driving the state forward in its path of economic revival. Speaking to the The Hindu in an exclusive interview he advised journalists against reading too much into the Singur & Nandigram protests, dismissing them as “politically motivated”.

What was alarming for me was to witness the baseless slander and blame game that was levelled at Buddhadeb Babu. He was made out to be one of the greedy, land-grabbing thakurs that abound in most Prakash Jha films, who didn’t stop to think twice before resorting to any level of murder & mayhem to get what he wanted. For all those like me who grew up watching the CP(I)M sweep election after election with resounding victory & yet offer little by way of employment opportunities or economic development, Buddhadeb babu offered the much needed oxygen to the people of the state, most impotantly, its youth, who had begun to realize that there had to be something beyond the Centre’s discriminatory & fractious polices that had brought WB to its present level of economic destitution and industrial doom.

Most of us who are sitting away from the place where the Nandigram saga unfolded are quick to condemn the ‘shedding of innocent blood’ and the ‘depravity of a state who wishes to undo decades of irresponsibility in a few hasty steps’. Blog sites are replete with conscientious citizens quoting Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that upholds the power of individual citizens in a democracy. Scores have expressed outrage and some myopic, ill informed & truly demented souls have even given the example of our friendly neighbor China & said that if Communist China could develop its SEZs without resorting to such violence, (laugh riot) why can’t we? I have a few things to say to these guardians of our democracy and pundits who laud china but would nary take a single leaf out of that nation’s march towards rapid industrialization.

First, all those who are after the CMs ass should keep in mind that the villagers were armed & not as innocent as the media & the opposition (led by the histrionic and eternal saviour of the underdog, Mamata Banerjee) would like us to believe. The villagers attacked the police and those of you who believe that the police should have turned the other cheek or met this violence by Gandhian principles of ahimsa, better head for the Himalayas, or closer still, Ranchi.

I want to ask all those who expressed their anguish at the March 14 incident, how outraged are you when you learn that the number of registered unemployed in WB is over 10 million? How are we going to address the fact that the state is crippled by a fierce Naxalite movement & large scale infiltration from Bangladesh that further debilitates its already toppling economy? How many of us even know that when China shot innocent students in 1989 for staging their peaceful protest at Tiananmen Square, they charged the cost of the bullets from the victims’ families? With savage will and force, China has uprooted, starved and killed its own people to build its SEZs and further its commercial interests. Not only that, its media is largely state controlled and quick to crush any dissent or criticism. Even the Internet is a victim of its obsessive watch dog policy.

We are grateful that we live in a nation where such informed debate is possible, & therefore, I think we should be that much more responsible & aware of facts before passing judgement on such stray incidents.

Given the size of our bourgeoning population, to speak in numbers is often misleading. There are a billion people in our country. Even the most efficiently & harmoniously executed projects inconvenience at least 0.001 per cent of the total population. This entails putting 10,000 people at a disadvantage. Readily human rights activists and NGOs will denounce such projects (ahem! Ms Patkar) & try & put an end to them despite the fact that lakhs of people actually benefit from them. Bottom line is, in a democracy you cannot please everybody & only the most vote currying government will stop from taking unpleasant measures that ultimately promise a better future.

It's time to wake up & smell the coffee. Its one thing for the illiterate farmers to fall for Mamata di’s rabble rousing techniques and quite another when we, who have glimpsed a better world and believe in equal opportunities for everyone, who know that this is what true democracy is really all about, demand the CMs resignation and condemn the setting up of the small-car factory at Singur.


Shaji.k said...

The organisation of our police force is such that when deployed, things end in violence and deaths, whether it is Nandigram on March 14th or Dausa in Rajasthan two days ago. The administration does not know how to respond to social protests. They seem to take Gen.Dyer of Jallian Wala Bagh as their role-model.

The Land Acquisition Act of India is one of the most draconian laws and the poor are its worst victims. The manner of acquisition and the compensation awarded are never commensurate with the compulsory nature of the action. Moroeover 'public purpose' as stated in the Act has been given a very wide meaning and govt's acquire land for many sundry reasons, most of which are far from the scope of public purose. Govt has now revised its policy and stated that land for SEZ will not be acquired by the state but must be purchased by the developers from willing sellers.
I do agree with the tone and tenor of what you have said, especially on Buddhadev's approach and the media's coverage of the events and Mamata's hurry to make political capital of it. Only stating some additional facts.

drift wood said...

SK, thanks for ur views. As I've claimed, there's no pleasing everyone in a democracy. Also, blaming the administration has become fashionable. Somehow we've lost focus of all that our police force DOES accomplish, despite overwhelming odds & continuous interference from the media, arm-chair liberals, bureaucracy, etc.