In the series of illusions
The nation needs bold and dedicated developments instead of pleasing promises
Abracadabra! The Union Home Minister has waved the magic wand! In the next two to three years, Naxalism in the country will be a thing of the past, he now claims, following his earlier assertions that it has been contained under his watch. However, the ground realities indicate that his pronouncement is only in sync with the illusions created by BJP to rise to power in 2014. Abracadabra! Mesmerised by the media blitz into believing the host of promises to be genuine, people voted for them – there will be no poverty, there will be only Ramarajya. But, nothing has changed. And now, a responsible Union Minister has candidly admitted the falsities of their promises. If at all there is change, it is mob-lynching by the cow-vigilantes, increasing unemployment, and economic distress. Poor have become even poorer; inequality has widened; all contrary to the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, there is some positive action – only in throttling dissenting voices and opposition, like in a totalitarian State.
Naxalism, the entire country is aware, is a result of inequalities and destruction of the habitats of tribal people, and also because of the environmental degradation and pollution being caused that damages the crops of these people. Beginning with land issues in Bengal, it spread to difficult hilly terrains, primarily in Dandakaranya of central India. The killing of their leaders by police only contained it temporarily, but new leaders emerged and their violence intensified. It has happened again and again, at different places.
The recent incident of the killing of an MLA and an ex-MLA in Araku agency area of Visakhapatnam district speaks of the grim reality. During the week-long celebrations of Maoists' Formation Day, over 60 Maoists, including women, confronted the politicians about their illegal activities before shooting them dead. Reports indicate that they were even forewarned to stop their large-scale mining of black stones, some of the quarries owned by them and many in benami names of tribals, which was causing pollution and damaging crops. While the State government did nothing to help the agitating people, the henchmen of the politicians destroyed their striking camp itself. Furthermore, the tribals and activists were angered by the fact that the politicians were supporting bauxite mining, which they had been opposing steadfastly because of the potential environmental disaster and damage to their livelihood. Unfortunately, the state government has been only playing hide and seek. Reports also speak of strong rumours about ganja smuggling by the MLA by involving young tribal boys. Are they not fertile grounds for the Maoists to rule the jungles?
The macabre killing of the political leaders is certainly condemnable. But, why did the state government not institute an impartial enquiry immediately after the allegations of illegal activities of the greedy politicians were brought to their notice? Why did the Central Government not act on intelligence reports to fix the corrupt politicians, like how they are using the central agencies such as the Income Tax against political opponents? The ground realities are the same in every place. The tracts of Arunachal Pradesh reveal the level of stark poverty and backwardness. People are still living on nature even for basic amenities, while a few politicians, bureaucrats, contractors, and engineers, who have become super-rich with state funds, stash their wealth in the cities of the country. As long as the root causes are not tackled with effective strategies and reforms, wiping out Naxalism will remain an illusion. The statement of the Union Home Minister only appears to be in tune with what BJP has been following in the past four years – causing illusions, like the one to enrich the poor.
Abracadabra! There will be monetisation from black money stashed abroad to the tune of Rs 15 lakh per Indian! Hopes of poor people ran high. Instead, what the country got was demonetisation. Small businesses and small industries have lost out, the popular cliché being that BJP has made 'vyaparis as sanyasis and sanyasis as vyaparis.' Poor have become even poorer. Oxfam International's 'Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index' ranks India at a pathetic 147th among 157 countries. The index, based on government action on social spending, tax, and labour rights, found to be critical to reducing the gap, describes the country's commitment to reducing inequality as 'a very worrying situation', given that it is home to 1.3 billion people, many of whom live in extreme poverty.
People were disillusioned when Nitin Gadkari candidly admitted in a reality show that BJP had made false and tall promises to the country in 2014 only to come to power, but that they have not done anything to fulfil them. 'We are in power. People remind us of our promises. We laugh it away and leave.' Many promises were made, like Dr. Harshvardhan promising, 'Vote for BJP and Modi. I will ensure that Delhi becomes a full-state within a week after we come to power.' Nothing has been done, but the popularly elected AAP government and the people of Delhi are made to suffer. Often, there are raids on opposition leaders in the country, and cow-vigilantes are running amok in several BJP ruled states. While small businesses and industries are bleeding, and joblessness has increased manifold, there is no word about reducing inequalities in the country. Who is bothered about the problems faced by the tribal people, and damage to the environment when even the sacred Ganga is still crying for attention and help?
Abracadabra! The face of the Ganga will be changed, Narendra Modi created the illusion before coming to power. But, sadly, after 112 days of fasting, 'I lost Ganga,' were the plaintive last words of GD Agarwal before he died. Unfortunately, for the people in power, only projects and the entrepreneurs are relevant. The Araku valley incident is only a reminder about the damage to the environment, and the role of corrupt politicians and authorities who are all out to destroy the habitats and livelihood of tribal people; all in the name of economic progress and development, the prime beneficiaries being the big business houses. How will Naxalism vanish?
We often speak about big projects. Abracadabra! There will be a bullet train connecting Ahmedabad and Mumbai, one lakh crores for the project coming from tax-payers. Is it not for the convenience of the executives of big companies? Doubts arise whether it is a quid pro quo to help the business magnates, by fair or foul methods, like what is happening in the Rafale deal and the KG basin gas fraud case.
The country is gripped with the huge Rafale deal that is snowballing into a scam, the beneficiary allegedly being the insolvent entrepreneur, Anil Ambani. Similarly, the case registered by the AAP government on the complaint of prominent citizens regarding the Rs 50000 crore Krishna-Godavari basin gas deal fraud, involving Mukesh Ambani and others, is being suppressed by taking away the Anti-Corruption Branch from the State Government. AAP government is still fighting a legal battle to regain their powers. When fooling the country with falsities and bamboozling dissent and opposition has become the norm, democratic values and the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi for working for the poorest of the poor and emphasis on Truth and Honesty, ethics and values take a backstage. For public consumption, Gandhi is ceremonially garlanded, like how the entire country does. How will Naxalism become a thing of the past?
Recently, the first temple deifying Gandhi has come up in Vijayawada, thus adding him to our pantheon of three crore gods. Now, there will be pujas, chanting of mantras and other rituals. And, as usual, amidst these rituals, we lose sight of his ideals, forget about imbibing them. But, leaving aside the spiritual aspects, even rituals have some social purpose. For example, the rationale behind repeated chanting of mantras, which are eulogies of gods, is to consciously imbibe the great attributes of gods. But, who cares? We prefer being only ritualistic since it is easy.
If at all we can pay heed to the values promoted by Gandhi, and follow his advice to work for the poorest of the poor, develop tribal areas and stop the exploitation of resources there, India would be a different place to live in. Maoists can also be brought into the mainstream. Only Abracadabra and the illusions created will not help. The truth of the tricks is bound to come out in the open.
PS: Chandrababu Naidu is clever than those in BJP. He gives an illusion of 2050, being sure that most of us will not survive till then to confront him, even if he will be alive at the ripe age of 100!
Dr. N. Dilip Kumar, IPS (retd), is former Member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal