BAD TIMES, SAD TIMES, REALLY!

THE SHAME OF IT: In no other country do mega-dam oustees/refugees/victims have to stand in a river for days on end (nine days and still counting) to draw attention to the injustice of it all. But for Medha Patkar and her Narmada Bachao Andolan national alliance of activists, the affected people would have long since lost out to the insensitive “mai-baap government” in Madhya Pradesh. This can only happen in India that is Bharatdesh!

 I AM not a political animal, my dears, but every now and again I take cognizance of how much politics impacts us and mostly negatively nowadays. Especially ever since Narendra Modi’s BJP government came to power by hook and by crook. It’s like there’s not a scrap of morality left in public life, not even a pretence….governance has given way to power-seeking, aggrandizement and anarchy in its wake. See the entire fabric of morality in tatters before us. There is no respect for spirit of opposition, defiance and criticism. There is no real governance either and what chatur baniya businessmen we have in our pack of politicians!

On our 70th Independence Day my thoughts are sombre. I grew up thinking good governments make for good governance, committed to larger and smaller interests of the country and its people at heart, and especially BPL and marginalised citizens — the people dispossessed of their home and livelihood courtesy mega projects like the Narmada Dam project which has dragged on for years on end. Bit by bit, in bitter battles of attrition, the government is hell-bent on nailing and will eventually kill the river itself give or take a few more years. AM not a political animal, my dears, but every now and again I take cognizance of how much politics impacts us and mostly negatively nowadays. Especially ever since Narendra Modi’s BJP government came to power by hook and by crook. It’s like there’s not a scrap of morality left in public life, not even a pretence….governance has given way to power-seeking, aggrandizement and anarchy in its wake. See the entire fabric of morality in tatters before us. There is no respect for spirit of opposition, defiance and criticism. There is no real governance either and what chatur baniya businessmen we have in our pack of politicians!

MY thoughts are with the gallant fighter Medha Patkar and her band of heroic people and all the dam oustees or refugees in Madhya Pradesh, who’re only asking that they be decently rehabilitated and not tossed a few crumbs, that are not enough to sustain them.

Don’t the common people of this country have any basic human rights? Long back during my Bombay days I had gone and interviewed a young Medha Patkar at her home near Chembur and as a young reporter I still remember the gentle passion with which she spoke about how wrong it is to displace large communities of people just because the government wants to take away their river, their village, their trees, water resources, food resources….as if the rural poor living their lives of dignity, if not privilege, power and wealth, have no right to protest against the manner in which business stakeholders and government authorities come together to rob them of the resources which are their livelihood.

Medha Patkar and her Narmada Bachao Andolan and allied projects around the country are now well recognized and I dare say she has as many friends as enemies, and the enemies are powerful, they would like to erase her from their conscience (something in such short supply these days). She is one gutsy woman and having imbibed Gandhian values she has mastered the art of fasting for a cause, she uses this “weapon” if one may call it that, to draw the government’s attention to the injustice of the country’s monstrous projects (we know corrupt governments love monstrous projects of development because there’s more money to be squirrelled away in them).

But this is to say for years now Medha and her alliance of supporters have been standing up to the haves of society and refusing to let them get away with their insensitivity, cruelty and boorishness towards their fellow citizens from poorer, illiterate backgrounds. It’s not for nothing that she’s worshipped by the people on whose behalf she seeks a better quality of rehabilitation vis-à-vis mega projects of development.

This time around she and her group were fasting in Madhya Pradesh and 12 days on she couldn’t move the Shivraj Singh government’s attention to the plight of people affected by the Narmada dam’s increasing height. It is anti-farmer, anti-tribal government refusing even to have a dialogue with the dam activists. Finally, the police broke the resistance and dragged the activists to hospital, some with injuries in hospital ICU. This bit of familiar news comes tucked away in small paragraphs in the inside pages of media, and I’m thinking what kind of killer governments are we voting into power in state after state?

Our governments live off the fat of citizens’ money and constantly stash away fortunes for the next seven janam….but don’t have an iota of the sensitivity, warmth and ethics an older generation of politicians in the country had! Is this the India or Bharatdesh of our dreams? Not at all. The kind of politicians I’d like to see in this country are really 24-carat women like Medha Patkar, Sudha Murthy, Kailash Satyarthi, and others of their kind who have given so much of their life towards the betterment of the underprivileged classes of the country.

Government after government only harps on garibi hatao but how can they garibi hatao with the quality of politicians we have? They lie, cheat, steal to build up personal fortunes and jump parties at the drop of an excuse — they are not committed to anything at all except their own business and family privileges. And we, the people, keep voting them back into power! Truly, we deserve the government we get.

ON the subject of dams on rivers, I’d like to draw an analogy here. Hey, think of rivers as the arteries of the earth and how they keep our coastlines intact – they are lifelines for Mother Earth and all her residents and the more our greedy human civilization dams them, diverts and exploits them with mind-boggling industrial technology, the more we kill them. Our rivers are dying because we’ve done a bad job of respecting them.

Most of our big mainstream rivers arise in the mountains of the Himalaya and now China is there wanting to destroy the entire fragile ecosystem of the mountains for a highway across central Asia — it won’t take long before the triangular sub-continent of India/Bharatdesh loses its rivers altogether.

The process has already been going on and now we have our fake brand of patriotic politics to deal with courtesy the Bajpa sarkar! It’s more like our years are numbered given a government hell-bent on pursuing a retrogressive kind of politics in the name of religion, cows, and real or unreal past glories. Destroy the present and India may well become a nuclear wasteland. First we need to save our rivers and other water resources urgently and persuade the rest of the world to persuade China to leave the mountains of the Himalaya alone in their own and the world’s long-term interests.

And yes, my dears, I’d like to see more people like Medha Patkar and Sudha Murthy play a role in how this government should clean up its act! I asked Sudha Murthy when she was in Goa why she won’t go into politics and she replied, “It’s not my cup of tea!” Funny, politics has degenerated to become only the crooked mind’s cup of tea in India! But this is to say if you haven’t read the Infosys’ Foundation chairperson’s latest book “Three Thousand Stitches: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives” I urge you to read it, also all her other books. She tells us so much about ourselves, good, bad and ugly in this country and has become my favourite India author.

And somebody tell Narendra Modi that if his government focuses on making the women of India rich from the bottom up…garibi hatao would no longer be a just a dream in the best sense of the word!

On that note it is avjo, poite verem, selamat datang, au revoir arriverdecci and vachun yeta here for now. Think about all this and don’t just think.

 — Mme Butterfly

 

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