Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The phenomenon called 'Singur'

The phenomenon called 'Singur' that’s happening presently in West Bengal, as all sensible people (astonishingly, so many of them!) are saying, is truly grimacing. I hope this *Honourable Lady* will be saluted for ages for giving our state such a brilliant setback in economy. And, just see, what an intellect she is manifesting celebrating “ma-mati-manusher joy”/ “people’s victory” because Tata has bidden goodbyes to us all. Even Narendra Modi’s letters and the disparagement all over the world over this issue wouldn’t aggrieve her. Oh, yes, all the greatest of greatest Economists and their greatest of greatest theories are absolute trash and all of these have actually been formulated as a part of the Big Plot called the pro-CPM-fanaticism!

Well, the question is not about taking any one of the sides right now. Even our *Honourable ruling party*, with thousands of divisions and collisions of opinions amidst it's own members, isn’t on the side of a “pure” economic development. Why at all start the construction of the project when a section of the people were so much unwilling right from the beginning? How much an increase to the vote bank could they have gained from this single portion of the state? Or why not change the name of the party altogether to something like “People’s Welfare Party” or so? Which part of India is still following the ideologies of pure communism/socialism? Or, perhaps, defining themselves as “Communist Party of India”, they are emphasizing this is how exactly communism runs in India, are they??

The worst of all things is this that the old man on whose land the factory now stands, neither gets back his land nor a placement in the industry for his son. Sorry, whose victory is this? Did you say “people’s”?? Amidst the political jugglery, a wonderful boost to the State’s economy is held back. A brilliant prospect of Bengal’s industrial development and redemption of the vast magnitude of the state’s educated and disguised unemployment is pulled to a stop. I expect a long way has to be traveled before the people of West Bengal understand that industry is necessary for agriculture to become an industry – for farmers to live like entrepreneurs. That acres of picturesque farm-lands are also available (in abundance, at that) in Scotland and Wales, but a handful of manpower is complemented by sophisticated machinery and technology there. And, for that to happen here, labour from agriculture has to be absorbed in industries; industries are required in turn to produce equipments, infrastructure and national income; so that, ultimately, both efficiency and productivity in agriculture get a boost.

Contentment is a great virtue. But, where nescience, political exploitation and illiteracy are sewed in, it’s dangerous. (A simple example: coming here for the vacations to a remote town in Orissa, where my father is posted presently, I’ve tried a little deal to pursue the village children over here to come for learning the basic alphabets and the numerals. But, on asking repeatedly the few children in the near vicinity, most of them were aghast by the aspect that they’d have to cut short their playing and wandering hours. A little girl even asked me, “Aap shaadi nahin karengi, didi?”. They couldn’t really see the point in studying the basic alphabets and the numerals. So much so, that they’ve stopped visiting me now and I’m still not having any luck with them… To think that I had actually got enthusiastic students in Bihar and West Bengal! But, this is the condition in most of the rural and tribal areas of our country.) Indian rural people have become far too habituated and contented with the lack of electricity and amenities; paucity and kachcha roads; to understand what industries can bring them. Or as Andre Beteille says, in the 13th October issue of The Telegraph, that Bengalis are far too influenced by the Marxist ideas like the capitalist-worker conflict, the class war etc. as have been preached by the leftist government for the last 30 years, that any sort of logic supporting the LPG policy infuriates a large portion of the local population even now.

Dislodgment of people and occupation has also happened in the past whenever constructions of large-scale and medium-scale industries have been undertaken in several parts of India. Thousands of people have suffered even then – no elevation by any kind of development has reached the grass-root levels whatsoever. (In fact, as a child, I’ve myself witnessed the distress of the poor villagers due to the thermal power project at Kahalgaon, Bihar..) As to what really should be done to avoid such situations of chaos in people’s lives and in the state’s order, I’ll quote one of my dear old bondhu-dadas, Kaushik-da, who has reasoned brilliantly on a comprehensive land-mapping exercise where-by the administration and the authorities should:
“a) make a land inventory of the principal food /non-food/cash-crop producing areas
b) identify the areas, mouza wise or by any comparative index, which are very fertile/productive/value (commercial) –generating ,terming it as A** , 'very fertile' and gradually drilling down to lands of progressively lower value quotients, terming the least of such fertile land as say F**, (Fallow) and arriving at an updated on-line position of the same ,
c) inventorise areas having high rural incomes and categorizing them on the basis of their degree of marketability of produce
d) enumerate areas where large , contiguous land fronts are available and make a productivity-mapping of these areas
e) map out the demographic density of these various land parcels (with differing fertility/productivity) and gauge the socio-economic dispositions of its inhabitants (family -totally/partially- dependent on agriculture/or enjoying alternate source of income etc) ,
f) delineate the land areas which are located proximate to sources of water, power., communication etc and make a stratification of such areas in terms of high/medium/low productivity etc.”

Following this process, Kaushik-da (yes, given a chance, I’d have published his complete write-up, but for his protests) reasons:
“Then, of course, the process of land acquisition/leasing from Government/private hands, the issue of valuation of such land parcels, displacement/rehabilitation- social and economic/ options of gainful employment- (after adequate training or otherwise) ----and the options of profitability share etc – needs to be discussed threadbare and comprehensively. General Guidelines and Policy Principles may need to be sounded out regarding if the investor needs to negotiate with the landowner/tenant/associated user directly or allows the Government to function as the major intermediary and the detailed process there-of needs to be ideated and debated. This can be arrived at by the principal political parties, with agriculturists, economists, social planners, land-revenue experts, providing the much need technical/scientific/statistical/normative and empirical data base.

For instance, there have been a large number of project-evictees, 'ecological refugees', dispossessed and displaced, sequel to the slew of thermal and hydro power and other capital projects taken up in the past who have failed to receive any kind of worthwhile social and economic rehabilitation packages, despite lofty promises made by the project/government authorities. Can we have a detailed empirical data bank of such instances and factor into the legitimate expectations of these hapless dispossessed (who received paltry recompenses which were, in most cases frittered away in no time in absence of any worthwhile and commensurate employment packages!! ) Mohd Yunus can give us interesting leads here!”

I’ll add to Kaushik-da’s suggestions, that all these demarcations and discussions must be made known to the public by an impartial body in the media. Possibly, all the land-delineations have also been worked out by the agriculture and the industry departments (I mean, the efficient bureaucrats are always at work, see), but the data should be made known to the general public. Else, without the understanding of why a particular land is selected for the erection of an industry, or without simply the knowledge of the data, we can't help people in preparing themselves and making up their minds for the new development. Also, in that way, things will be transparent and administration will be easier.

Anyway, students of ICSE and CBSE boards have read enough of Civics, Economics and Geography to understand what’s happening in their country. What do our dear old ministers and leaders think they are doing out there? Did they believe Hirok Raja-r Mogojdholai-er jontro is applicable here??

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Judging oneself

Writing after long on my blog, so I think I will first beg pardon for not giving it much attention for a few months. I don't think reasons are quite necessary (this is my blog, after all :D), so I will avoid mentioning them too. What I will do now is write about a particular thing that has been on my mind all this while: myself. For the first time, I want to put the proverbial pen on paper (you get the proverbial bit, don't you?) and write about myself unabashedly, and honestly, for that matter. I wish I could write from a third-person perspective, like Sir did, but no, I think that will cut out my own views about myself, in a way perhaps inexplicable to the common reader. I cannot think of myself, about myself, through the eyes of somebody else; because that somebody does not understand why I do certain things the way I do, or why I think something the way I do, and you get the drift... (Though, that is not to say I completely understand myself. ah well, just read on, if I have not bored you yet!) However, I can assure a few things: (1) I am as virulent a critic of my own follies, as I am proud of my abilities/achievements (2) My opinion is as unbiased as possible, and (3) Sometimes, my views may border on insanity, so that should not come as unexpected! Another small thing, I won't write down in numbered points henceforth-- do not ask me why.

So, the first thing about me is that I am ordinary. Strange that I should begin this way (and all my previous self-descriptions begin in the same way too!). Matter of fact is that I don't say this just to be a bit modest before everybody, I believe in it. And somehow this is always the first thing that comes to mind when I ask myself for a self-description (those "then really, who am I?" moments). The funny/confusing bit about this point is that I sometimes inherently know that I am not acting the way ordinary people do! Now now, these self-realisations aren't really self-assured pats-on-the-back. They're more like "so okay, sometimes I can stand out from the crowd just because I feel like doing so". Those moments/incidents do not make me proud, they just give me some dollops of reason justifying my existence.

Second thing, I am a self-questioning, and quite often, self-doubting person. I often do not know how I am going to react to a particular situation, plainly because I have known myself acting differently in similar situations on different occasions. Sometimes, I don't even know if I am going to do something at all! Call it whim, if you will, disorder too, if you wish. Which is why I do not have a fixed routine in my day-to-day life, and in the bigger scheme of things. I am pretty sure that adherence to a strict routine would nearly kill my ever-so-volatile spirits-- which wants to do something only when it knows that the job is going to give it happiness/satisfaction. And I can say all this only because I have tried out the other side of the fence too. I have, on multiple occasions before (and at times, even in the present) done things just because they need to be done. The end result of such compulsive action has been almost uniformly the same: lifeless, unenthusiastic (even a few blogposts of mine bear witness to this fact: browse through them carefully, and you'll spot the ones with ease!). This ceaseless self-doubting and self-questioning does not end with action and reaction, though. It extends to the way I look at my own self. But, more on that at some later stage of this post. Let's move on now.

If the reader hasn't noticed it till now, let me spell it out: I have several inherent dualities (or ambiguities, if you want to call it that) in my character. So much so, that it is impossible for me to track down which particular facet of my character is active when (shades of Heisenberg's principle?!).

I have felt, though not completely understood, love. Love that is completely spontaneous, liberating, mesmerising, invigorating, a gush of emotions that flow through your self making it feel well, happy and exalted (maybe I can't describe it any better). Something like what Roger Daltrey sang about in The Who's cathartic Love Reign O'er Me. And yet, I have also felt so completely loveless at times-- just a void in me, nothing that I could feel. Love has given me both serenity and restlessness. Only one other person and the one above us all know how much I have searched for peace in the labyrinthine mazes of the all-encompassing emotion. That search hasn't yet ended, though it sometimes is put on hold indefinitely, and then resumed-- I believe soul-searching is one thing that will go on and on, anyway! So, I've put all my hope and belief in God, and wait for Time to tell me (ah, yes, borrowed this phrase from a favourite Nick Drake song :)).

Now that I have spoken about both love and myself being ordinary, let me say this: I find it sometimes strange and amazing, and often feel quite grateful that there has never been any dearth of people who have showered their blessings and affections on me, especially since the onset of self-consciousness. Even when I least expected love or care, I've had a few people who have unconditionally given me those treasured things (some teachers, a precious few cherished friends, and even some people who knew me for a rather short period of time). It sometimes makes me feel so happy, sometimes a bit ashamed of my own self-- do I really deserve all this? A friend keeps assuring me that I do, as for myself, actually do not yet know. The best part of it is that all this affection keeps reminding me that I need to fashion myself so that I can become deserving of it. *Did I make sense here?!*

Which brings me to one very important thing that needs to be written about: happiness, and its opposite. As with every other thing, I can't quite assure myself if I am inherently a happy or a sad person. Because, I am often quite melancholic and depressed (some think for no good reason!)-- little things I notice (and a lot of others can't, or don't) make me feel quite sad. On the other hand, I can get quite cheerful and happy suddenly (again, for no good reason, it seems to some!) on certain days just because I feel like being so. Yeah, I am mad, and I make no bones about that! Somewhat interconnected is the question of my temper, which is as volatile as my mood. With time and a lot of self-control (and because I have grown up more or less alone, without people to share my emotions with), I have successfully curbed my extreme anger (of which only I know). So even if I am not in the best of spirits, one sees me cool, quiet, and generally averse to speaking. Though, it is worth admitting that I have not been able to completely control my anger-- if disturbed while I am in that quiet stupor, I may just explode for a brief moment before calming down (I detest these moments, and without fail, I have begged pardon for being rude on every occasion these outbursts have taken place, that is, as far as I can hark back and remember).

More dualities coming up: intertwined with the question of happiness/sadness, and my temper, is my emotional strength (honestly, I don't find a better alternative for "strength" at the moment). Only a few people know this, but I am emotionally quite feeble. Those who know me, and know me quite well, can judge my mood by a single word I say or a single twitch of my eyebrows. I am that transparent! I cry, perhaps more than girls (yeah, have your laugh, if anyone of you is reading), though not in the "I can create a pool of tears" sense. Just a silent outflow until I feel quite light. Funny that at times, though not always, I don't myself have an idea of the reason for crying, just a inextinguishable urge somewhere to empty my mind of some disturbing thoughts. All of this is not without reason, though. Having grown accustomed to, perhaps even comfortable with, confiding the deepest of my thoughts only to myself (like several others who go through emotional crests and troughs, I do not maintain a regular diary-- for fear that someone may actually discover it some day, I don't know when. The mere idea of someone knowing my deepest thoughts without me directly selecting him/her for that purpose disturbs me, since I know that there is a dark shade to my self too, a dark shade I prefer to keep private, you could even say trapped inside me!), I am naturally more prone to emotional upheavals. Which does not mean that I actually leave all work aside and retreat to a dark corner of some room-- in fact, I am quite a master in being seemingly so happy and contented outside while something keeps on constantly gnawing away in me. I won't lie, I often wish I could just lay off the whole burden and tell someone I trust (there are people whom I deeply trust, that I can assure myself and you too!) everything I feel. But then, it dawns on me that if it would help me somewhat, it would be a whole load for the one who shares-- and hey, even my closest confidantes have their own lives to live. However, little bits and pieces of my heart, I do share now and then with those whom I care for, and who, I hope, care for me too. Funny I should say all this, and then add the next bit-- but someone else's (I mean anyone of my confidante's) emotions I am always glad to share, in fact, sometimes I positively hope that a few people open up and make themselves comfortable in confiding to me. Nope, not saying all this because it'll earn me a few brownie points for being deeply understanding and caring-- it is just that helping someone in any way makes me happy, very happy. So happy, in fact, that I can forget the troughs I sit in (that has happened on occasion, so I definitely know what I am saying).

Ah! Since I am talking about understanding, caring and loving, let me take the liberty of saying that I do care, love and understand, at the very least, those who I deem worthy of it. Thank God then, for I am not Severus Snape! :D I hope everyone who is reading takes note of this: being inherently shy and tongue-tied, I cannot, simply cannot, express to all the people I love and care how much they mean to me. I wish I could say something unabashedly admiring, lovely and appreciative about certain persons, but I always fear someone or the other may cynically misunderstand it to be flattery or thoughtless, meaningless exaggeration of one kind or the other. Yes, I give two hoots about what others think, but this is where "others" get the better of me.

A hostel room-mate often says that I am in the habit of judging people by my own standards, which may well be good or nasty, depending on what you think about me. I cannot pass any judgement on this aspect of mine, just thought I'd concede this point openly here.

I think, that is one thing I nearly always do. I wish, and certainly hope, that I break free from the shackles of laziness that so cripple me at times-- all my own fault too. I am just too whimsical at times, you see. By the way, this reminds me that my tastes and interests are as whimsical, if not more (I thought initially that I'd label them "eclectic", but eclecticism is not to be used lightly, especially when it is me who is the subject of discussion). Before I wind this up, just one more thing to say: I have tried out various things in life, and already have a fair idea of what I really enjoy doing. I have no concrete plans for the future (shades of caprice again, you see!) though I have rough sketches of what I would like to do-- and believe me, that is one long long list. Do not know if life will even afford me the time to do all I love to do, but hey, I at least know something a lot of my contemporaries don't-- the path to happiness! Following my heart through the myriad mazes that encompass it, playing around with light and darkness, solemnity and frolic, ecstasy and melancholy, work and leisure, everything and it's opposite. I embrace life as it comes-- with all the complexities and the quiet, simple joys of living.

Since duality is a running theme throughout this post, it is quite apt for me to end on a note that strikes that chord between opposites yet again-- remember how I mentioned my fear of baring my heart; lo and behold, I already have!