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Violence stops development

There is a rich body of literature analysing a variety of relationships between employment, unemployment, and violence.

Violence stops development
Jokers come in different shapes and sizes. The most recent ones have taken the garb of protesters against a movie. That such lumpen protesters, as is their wont, have very little idea of why are they disturbing peace and harmony. Consequences of their umbrage are disturbing, sometimes hilarious. Take for instance the vandalisation of a school bus in the national capital region, or a toll plaza – neither of these had any role in the making or exhibition of the film. Some even managed to set fire to a car belonging to their own comrade in protest. Such acts merely confirm the quality of the mob.
The failure of the law enforcement agencies to nab such miscreants and teach them some lessons, even at the cost of outrage from some candle-holding outfits or habitual nay-sayers, indicates that democracy, at least in India, often turns into mobocracy or ochlocracy to use Tharoorism. The commonest of the old charges against democracy was that it passed into ochlocracy. India today confirms the charge.
The row over an insignificant movie, insignificant as far as changing the perspective held by people from one end of the spectrum to another, had its origin, in all probability, in a marketing gimmick. This was latched on by certain irrelevant political party hopper and with suitable media and social media presence snowballed into a big issue. It is big enough for any prospective visitor to India to think multiple times before venturing into the trip, the excellent oratory of the country's Prime Minister notwithstanding.
Curiously this is not the only incidence. There had been many in the past with those in the last four years coming into the forefront of debates. Active participation of the mob in inflaming any minor or not-so-major incidence and generating national, even international, attention has been uncomfortably frequent. Curiously, on greater issues where outrage should have been logical and even spontaneous, demonetisation, for instance, nothing did happen. Cursory analysis indicates that violent behaviour of mob needs a lubricant called money. In a country with huge unemployment and disguised unemployment, it needs some small notes to gather a rampaging mob. Stone pelting in Kashmir is one example.
Violence is recreation for those who live an uncertain life. In their daily dose of drudgery often enough people indulge in violence as a reaction of sorts and protest against their pathetic existence. Political violence, criminal activity, joining terrorism, waging war against civil society, burning and damaging property of the state or people or even abusing family are all different forms of expressions of the urge to get out of the drudgery of existence. Not always is the reason for outburst is economic. Take the leadership which espouses and champion certain causes that lead to violence and chaos – be it banning of a movie, killing a cow smuggler or protecting a sexaholic babaji. They use the gullible with the lure of money and tempt them with an abode in paradise. The more obdurately ignorant their followers are the easier for them to convert to violent behaviour.
There is a rich body of literature analysing variety of relationships between employment, unemployment, and violence. Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker in his oft-quoted essay ''Crime and Punishment: an economic approach'' analysed how much/many violences might be allowed and how much punishment should there be for those where the social loss must not be tolerated. Even without the benefit of such erudite articles one may simply conclude firmly that a school bus ferrying children to school or an unused toll plaza does not deserve to be vandalised for the sake of stopping the exhibition of a movie. What is more, those resorting to such wanton vandalism will neither watch the movie nor appreciate the artistry (whatever is there) I the movie in question, given their level of mental development.
One likes it or not the unavoidable conclusion is that such category of the populace are an impediment to development. The conclusion derived by the World Development Report of the World Bank in 2011 was that violence is not merely one of the causes of poverty but the principal one. Violent people and violent society get trapped ion it and therefore remain underdeveloped. Examples are many – Afghanistan, Pakistan and our own India (like it or not). In fact even within a country – India for instance- more violent regions are less developed. Compare the states south of the Vindhyas with those in the Eastern part and the evidence will look glaring.
The World Bank report had taken the case study of two small African states. It was seen that until 1990 Burundi and Burkina Faso had similar rates of growth and levels of income. Then in late 1993 civil war erupted in Burundi. The president was the assassinated and in the next 12 years or so some 300,000 people died in civil war. While Burkina Faso remained placid and is now two-and-a-half times richer than Burundi.
But civil war perhaps is an extreme case. Many countries suffer from low-intensity violence. Take the continued Naxalite violence in India for example. Life is so cheap that for many it is more paying to join the gangs waging war and plundering the state than to live in drudgery. This is not merely romantic verbose. I had faced a couple of young men while working in a bank branch in a border town of West Bengal who came to seek guidance on how to join the forces in Iraq or Iran. Those were the days when Iran-Iraq war was going on. Thirty-five years later if a movie gives them opportunity to earn some extra and also to let out their pent-up feeling against the harsh economic reality one cannot blame them for grabbing the same.
The incentives or deterrents to win such people away from violence is a topic which economists will argue till cows come back home and go out for grazing again but the more important issue for others is how to live safely meanwhile. As the movie Padmaavat has shown, violence can erupt even where it is least expected. It also has illustrated how the same can turn out to be an elixir of sorts to people or group of entities who had been desperately seeking to destabilise their opponents.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)

Sugato Hazra

Sugato Hazra

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