Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Futile Struggle for Fertile Lives


What else should I say about Indian polity or Indian society as a whole?! Our society unmasked its ugly face once more when a veteran actor died a most normal death last week. The Bangalore city is regarded as the best in India and the best face of India projected to the outside world. But what did happen there? The people who call themselves the fans of the revered actor erupted out in to the streets and burned and damaged whatever they can. They attacked every passing vehicle and life was disrupted in the state for more than 48 hours. It effectively isolated the city from the other India and thereby ensured that Rajkumar got the worsest funeral he could have hoped for. Instead of joining in the mourning, people might have actually cursed him and his fans. I am still unable to find an answer to the perturbing question: against what or whom were the so-called fans protesting?! Dr. Rajkumar lived 77 long years full of life and died the most peaceful death that one can hope for. Were they protesting the almighty who called him back?!

All through this was going on the high drama called 'Narmada Bachao or Doob Maro' in the Indian capital. The central characters were a large dam in central India and a frail, old lady called Medha. Guarding the villagers and tribals threatened by the dam, She tried vainly for several long years to stand up against the huge concrete monster. But she was against a stronger and crueller enemy than she had hoped for: the collective polity of four states who were to benefit from the scheme (the 'who' here is, as you correctly infer, not the states, but the politicians and bureaucrats). Finding it a hard to win battle, she backed off asking for just just compensation and rehabilitation for the oustees of the dam. It was not to be. She went to the supreme court which several consider as the champion of Individual freedom in India. What did the court say?! Increase the dam height how much you want and compensate the victims at your own pace. A famous writer actvist, Ms. Arundhati Roy had to bear the wrath of the court and had to suffer a symbolic one-day imprisonment in the infamous Tihar jail for her sarcastic comments against that verdict.

And after all these years of struggle, what did the oustees get? They rightfully deserved compensation running in to lakhs and atleast two hectares each of cultivable land for their cropfields swallowed by the rising waters of the Narmada. When they were denied all this and they saw no light at the end of the tunnel, what did they do? Did they burn down houses of the elite, or vehicles or damage public property. They turned to the most peaceful form of protest, that of Satyagraha or non-violent struggle propagated by that angel of peace known to the world as Mohandas Gandhi. Ms. Medha Patkar started fasting demanding the stoppage of construction at the Sardar Sarovar dam site until adequate compensation and rehabilitation was carried out by the authorities as required by the Supreme court verdict. She is in to the 19th day today taking in only liquids, that too forcefed by the hospital staff with instructions from the top. (You may contrast all this with the first mentioned incidents).

The Group of Ministers who visited the affected areas found the worst form of neglect of human dignity and widespread misappropriation of funds. Nobody was provided cultivable land, people were forced to accept cash as compensation and the check will be delivered only after you pay the bribe in full. And for each ten lakh you get as compensation, you should pay one lakh as tax. That's a nice idea, a new term for your vocabulary Mr. Chidambaram - "Compensation Tax or Rehabilitation Tax". You can also ask for an advance payment of this if one wants to be rehabilitated or compensated.

Then started a hue and cry over anti-development activism and emotional blackmail. Politicians from the four states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP and Rajasthan;the most vocal being those from Gujarat as always) claimed that Medha and party were anti-development and were using emotional blackmail to gain their selfish ends. And meantime they were denying the people of these states water which is their undeniable birth right and thereby upsetting development. Let's analyse: how did the people of Gujarat and Rajasthan live when there was no Narmada water available? Why are not they talking about the birth rights of the tribals and villagers ousted by the dam and who have now become refugees in their own country? Why are they trying to increase the dam height before resettling the oustees? Why do they want to add 35000 more to the list of neglected and doomed lives by increasing the dam height from 110 metres to 121 metres? Where is the fertile soil promised to the oustees? Where is the money? Who are we? Not people, but mere cow dung?

The chief minister of Gujarat is sitting on a counter fast of 51 hours for raising the dam height. Why not fast unto death? Then, may be, you will be forgiven for the darkest days the country ever saw! You have bathed Gujarat in blood, now for what you want the water? For washing the stains away?! Okay, we are not going to deny people water, but not by denying other people their lives. The congress in Gujarat wanted to protest by declaring bandh: they should actually be proud that the weapon their great neta used so successfully against the British is being used after so many years for a noble cause. They should strive that the weapon do not misfire and go waste. But meantime, they were up in arms against the only courageous soul among the page-three celebrities in Delhi who proclaimed so calmly and solidly that Gujarat should get water but oustees should get adequate compensation. Why cant the Gujarat CM build enough canals and waterways to effectively & efficiently use the last drop of water which is available from the Sardar Sarovar Dam at its present height?

And the court had ruled: "When there is doubt and un-equanimity, the prime minister should intervene. His should be the last word". Why is the last word not coming? Is it waiting for the ultimate moment when the struggle remains and the struggler is no more? Shame on you, Mr. Manmohan! Show your backbone now or never! People need life not Uranium, Dr. Prime Minister!

And how true when Ghandhi said that satyagraha is only successful when you are fighting an enemy who has something called CONSCIENCE.............!!!!!


  1. Truly disgusting state of affairs. Satyagraha in my point of view is a hopeless tool in present India. Its a power game Riyas. Power only can answer power back.

  2. Now I am undersatnding how naxalism is arising in the heart of India. In a short time we can hear a slogan that you "the hon. Indian Govt" changed calm peace loving me to a Naxal.

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  4. The only way something can work for you in today's India is by striking work or by becoming a vote bank which politicians cannot ignore. You look at the State bank employees who got what they wanted even at the expense of the general public. But here, for the refugees there is no work the stoppage of which can get the Indian Govt. on its knees. But if, one day, the Election Commission decides to distribute voter ID cards to all the project affected wherever they are, then you see what follows. Every political party will jump over the other to represent the Narmada oustees and would even say that they wouldl better bomb the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

  5. Great Piece of writing.. Keep it up.. Hoping to see more n more good pieces from you.

  6. Thanx Clash, though some what flattering! I was under some emotional strain, otherwise could have refined it a lot. Anyway, message conveyed, hopefully!


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