Re: CRUEL FACE OF INDUSTRIALIZATION – KILLING OF SUSHIL LAKRA BY SECURITY STAFF OF OCL AT LAJIBERNA MINES
Private security in areas where there are sensitive social issues is a matter of grave concern. But had it been a state-owned factory or mine it would have been much the same. It is always the forest and the adivasi land that has to bear the highest stake in "development" and be paid the least for it. If we can tolerate mines on our land, in all fairness, cement factories should be located in prime land in the heart of Bhubaneshwar, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Bombay. Encroach, if you need to, on the farmhouses of ministers, and let cement silos and steel bar stockyards brush cheeks with manicured lawns for a Naveen Patnaik, a Ratan Tata, an Anil Ambani or a Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. If these guys lead by example we can think about tolerating the mines if not the factories.
The reason for my angry diatribe is twofold.
One, when in West Bengal, the government bled taxpayers there to offer subsidised arable land there was an enormous public discourse around it. Well, amazingly none of the Bengali babus from Calcutta bothered to suggest that the factory could be in Howrah or Barrackpur or any of the now defunct industrial suburbs of the city. Not a single suggestion to hand over the defunct factories in and around Calcutta. No talk about the rotting mills in Bombay Central, Parel. No, these have to go their rightful inheritors, the land sharks of the big city, right? I guess this Singur thing deeply shook the implicit confidence of the middle class Bengali that the CPI-M led State Government would never overstep its mandate from the middle class Bengali to leave untouched what belongs to Bengalidom and would not have done a Singur without evil corporate machination. That they would have uprooted some expendible adivasis from their expendible homelands in Bankura and Purulia instead. This is not to absolve Messrs. Tata and Bhattacharya of the Singur mess-up, but Mr. Tata has shown us he is capable of much worse - Dhamra and Kalinganagar. What astounds me is that we heard not even one tenth of the noise that we heard about Singur on any of these issues, because there were no bespectacled, be-kurta'd bong intellectuals from Coffee House Calcutta to speak for them. The bottomline is, if we want industrialization, the promoters should be willing to shell out money for realty in and around cities so at least we can concentrate the pollution, congestion and noise without messing up our environment and biological wealth. Or they have to agree to operate with marginal ownership, 75% or more ownership being equitably distributed among local stakeholders who would protect local biological diversity and cultural survival. This, and not the typical verbose and disgustingly holy platitudes we hear from industry and political leaders, would actually make a difference.
Second, we tend to often miss the wood for the trees. These assaults on the forests and the homelands of indigenous peoples began long before what has now come to be known as corporate globalization or neoliberalism. India's state led planned economy did the same - the discourse sounded different, the vocabulary was different, the net effect was exactly the same, in fact identical. At least in this age of neoliberalism, with some other factors like cultural globalization and the huge expansion of ICT, there are people talking about these injustices, and there is some space in the discourse for the most marginal, the most vulnerable. If there were no cellphone, no internet there would have been no space and opportunity to mourn Sushil Lakra or pay tributes to his valour. This again, is not to absolve the Tatas, Vedantas, POSO and Reliances of the world of their sins of commission and ommission. Only to put things in perspective - making new bugbears won't exorcise us of the old ones. It wasn't a Coca Cola which dammed the Narmada but three state governments. It wasn't a Coca Cola that put pesticides in ground water but Nehruvian socialism and state emphasis on chemical intensive farming. And it wasn't a Coca Cola who forgot to compensate displaced adivasi peoples for the Hirakud Dam pimped in children's textbooks as the world's longest mud dam, just so the children of the next generation think nation building was a good thing. I guess they missed out on a few deviants in my generation, like me. Now in a rush to catch up with the new 'global' paradigm, they have possibly forgotten that this monumental edifice to state-planned idiocy has run out of its life but the pople it displaced are yet (unbelievable, but it's true!) to get paid for it.
Johar Sushil, my last respects to you. And Johar to the Lakra family and clan, and to the other Oraon people of Lanjiberna.
Arnab Sen Flat # 1024 Sector C Pocket 1 Vasant Kunj New Delhi 110070 INDIA __._,_.___