Saturday, 30 August 2008

Political Bankruptcy

I was born and brought up in the steel township of Durgapur.

The city was a brainchild of the most dynamic chief minister of West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. At that time it was the most modern steel factory in the entire country embodying the hopes and aspirations of a surging newly independent nation state.I grew up in an industrial environment where the household clocks were set to time depending on the siren heard from the factory. All of us knew a little bit of the steel making process by the time we were in high school.

For a long time I believed that working for a livelihood meant working in a steel plant. All other professions were either dependent subsidiaries/ancillaries or did not exist at all. Above all, I was a first hand witness to the growth and prosperity that the factory and its ancillaries brought on to the peripheral regions of Durgapur. It had the best educational institutions, medical services and entertainment areas of the entire district.

I had also been a first hand witness to the fall of the steel plant from a place of pride at the hands of militant trade unionism. The other premier steel plants grew from strength to strength whereas, Durgapur Steel Plant moved from one strike to another. The union leaders grew so powerful that they held the factory at ransom and the degeneration was definite to the point of being complete.

Dr. Roy’s dream became a problem child. My entire generation was forced to look outside for livelihood and till date we all regret to have left our place of dreams at the behest of some short sighted individuals.

Now, seeing the daily happenings at Singur, I feel frightened. It’s ironical that the political parties have changed sides and the erstwhile tormentors are mouthing platitudes. But what is really spine chilling is the ease with which a handful few are holding the future of the entire next working generation in balance.

I feel so tired to think that the idiosyncrasies of a few would decide whether the average ethnic educated male would be in a position to be able to earn his livelihood whilst staying in his place of birth. My present profession forces me to get in touch with land selling agents and believe me; they come from all corners of the political spectrum irrespective of the public stances taken by their leaders.

Where are we going? Whose gain are we talking about? Who cares for us?

These questions at the moment have no answers as my home state braces itself towards another plunge into darkness—and no, I am not talking of the present power cuts only

Monday, 18 August 2008

Independence Day

One more Independence Day anniversary has come and gone.

There were the usual annual parades and the speeches to the nation, flag hoisting ceremonies in various organisations and institutions, oaths and pledges taken in chorus, fluttering paper flags being sold with gusto at the street corners and the electronic media showing innumerable videos related to ‘Deshbhakti’.

There were also the usual threats from militant groups, bomb blasts in expected places like the North East, routine attempts to cross the LOC by the neighbouring nation and the Valley of Gods erupted in ethnic quasi religious violence which nurtured back a secessionist movement.

In sports, the cricketing glamour boys got whipped again in Sri Lanka, the glamorous tennis stars got whipped in Olympics and India with a population of 100 million once again personified the Olympic motto of Participation being more important than winning. (Kudos to Abhinav Bindra, but he is an aberration and we all know that in our heart of hearts.)

In politics, the usual crooks and corrupt rule the roost. Bundles of currency are shown up in the Parliament and that too on National Television. Strange partnerships have been created and we may have a choice between two most uncouth people as the next leader of the nation.

So, if one sits back to look at the 61 years gone by , what does he/she see? Hopelessness? Or is there something round the corner? What would make this land of 100 million carry on?

The answer is a cliché. The answer lies in the hands of the common man. The battered and taken for granted man on the street. The ability of the mass to survive this outrageous onslaught and continue regardless will be the determining factor of the future.

I know that the above point is open to challenge. But at he end I will leave you with is image:-

It was around 11:30 at night on the 14th of August and I was standing on the footpath outside a marriage house waiting for my car to pick me up. The roads were deserted with only a few vehicles plying. Suddenly, from a side lane emerged a young man (must have been in late teens or early twenties) furiously pedalling on a bicycle with the tricolour hoisted high above his head and mounted on the handle bar. I watched the young man moving away with the national flag fluttering above his head – a head held high with obvious pride of carrying the flag.

My day was made. I felt the same pride swell in me. Jai Hind.