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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forests, tribals and sombre thoughts

Someone has posted something about our beautiful forests and the tribals who live there on his blog recently which brought a variety of interconnected thoughts flooding into my mind.

1. In connection with the beauty of our natural surroundings: here in India we have some of the most picturesque and spectacular places in the world, but, unlike in ‘advanced’ countries we (by we I specifically mean the educated, rich and powerful – the whole middle class included, politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, accountants, lawyers, journalists, teachers and all) don’t collectively value and therefore don’t have any serious desire to preserve them; rather, whatever the dread hand of ‘development’ touches is immediately despoiled, polluted and ruined. That applies to all our forests and wildlife; very soon, all the experts sadly say, there will be little of either left: we shall only have forests of shopping malls and multiplexes and housing estates and steel mills and IT-‘parks’ everywhere instead, and I am sure most of us will be perfectly happy. We have become a vast race of philistines: what a wonder that some of us still boast that we have inherited one of the oldest and richest ‘cultures’ of the world! What a wonder that one of the most hauntingly beautiful of Sanskrit poems, Abhignyan Shakuntalam, speaks so eloquently of how deeply humans can love trees. To us, ‘modern’ Indians (unlike, say, to the French, Germans, Japanese and even Americans) that is so backdated, so uncool! It’s neither sms text nor Britney Spears nor quantum mechanics, after all.

2. The plight of the wretched of the earth – our tribals prominently among them – never seems to change, despite all the rhetoric about socialism and welfare, despite all the grand governmental plans, despite all the money supposedly earmarked year after year, decade after decade, despite all the good work done by countless selfless people for their upliftment, despite all the magic formulas chanted night and day by comfortable and secure votaries of the free market. In what I consider one of the twenty greatest books of the 20th century written anywhere in the world, Aranyak (The Forest’s Tale), Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee spoke with shame and dismay about a very old tribal so poor that he had walked all night through dense jungle to eat a large bowl of rice when the manager-babu of the zamindar’s estate was giving a feast for the likes of him. That was more than eighty years ago. And today, after more than sixty years of ‘development’ as a free country, we hear that the mass of such tribals still live in the same kind of indigence, helplessness and hopelessness. And we the ‘moderns’ are not a whit ashamed to boast of our mobile-revolution, and automobile revolution, and of how many of our whizkids are contributing to the software industry. Cry, the beloved country!

3. Blame it all on illiteracy and the population explosion: that is how the know-it-all ‘intelligentsia’ has been salving its conscience for so long. Well, if those were the only factors responsible (rather than the stupidity, callousness and greed of the most privileged classes), why didn’t we take drastic enough steps early on to ensure that they no longer remained serious issues in 2008? When shall we ever say ‘it’s high time’? Why have we – as a nation – focused so maniacally on only furthering the narrow and selfish interests of the most privileged classes, so that development has come to mean only urban luxuries for those who continue to stay back in India (luxuries that make us and our children ever fatter, ruder, greedier and stupider – not those that make us healthier and wiser, like parks and libraries and good movies and museums, for instance), and opportunities for millions of them to flee permanently to ‘better’ countries?

4. Wildlife will vanish, because they cannot fight back to make a change for the better. Humans, alas, can. I do not find it a cause for wonder that tribals are organizing and rising violently against all the humiliation, deprivation and oppression heaped on them for ages – in the name of development, too (at least the Mughals and the British made no such pretence!), rising all over Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and elsewhere. I find it wonderful, rather, that they are still not rising in large enough numbers, and violently enough, to make a real difference. I also find it sad and futile that they take out their wrath on the least privileged of the privileged classes – ill paid police constables, local level politicos, junior field engineers, very petty bureaucrats and so on. Even killing thousands of suchlike will not change anything in the corridors of power, anything in the mindset of those who make big decisions, those who take away 99 percent of the benefits of ‘development’ every time. The killing fields will only grow bloodier, as the state hits back to wreak blind vengeance on behalf of those who matter: cabinet ministers, tycoons, film stars, cricketers ... and their families. In a democratic country, only "VIPs" really matter (does anybody honestly think that there would have been a tenth of the uproar if the terrorists had attacked a large dharmshala instead of the Taj? Remember, 30,000 plus perished in the Orissa cyclone, and the tsunami of December 2005 killed more than 150,000!) Very many of us non-VIPs and our near and dear ones will perish in the crossfire. Alas, none of us will have the moral right to call ourselves ‘innocent’ victims. Remember, by their definition the British CID was quite justified in calling Kshudiram Bose a ‘terrorist’, because, after all, his bomb killed two ‘innocent’ British civilians, a defenceless woman and a child at that! And if making a prediction like this brands me as an enemy of the people (as defined by Ibsen and Satyajit Ray), so be it. One does not have to sympathize with the 'Maoists' to understand where all the anger is coming from.

5. One last thought. As any social psychologist knows, science itself has a culture and a history: what people choose to study and why depends a very great deal on the social mindset in which they grow up. Perhaps that is precisely the reason why most of our ‘good’ students want to study science, and that too engineering or mathematics or physics, rather than zoology or botany, leave alone history and economics and law and political science and literature and philosophy? Perhaps it’s not just because the first category leads to easy and well-paid jobs quickly, perhaps the more important reason is that in their subconscious they and their parents know that the latter category deals with far more difficult and messy problems which are best avoided? – If that is true, fine, but just how long can we keep running away, how many of us, and how far? Can our 300-million strong middle class migrate en masse to America or Europe when there’s nothing left in India to exploit, and it has grown too dangerous to live in?


Chanchal said...

Both your and Mr. Sinha Chaudhuri's post approximately deal with the same thing, but seriously speaking, there is not much we can do as remedy, the problem has already gone beyond the roof and curbing it is perhaps, impossible.

What are we supposed to do? The mentality needs to be changed, which is far beyond the reach. I read your articles regularly, try to get them, but I never forward the thoughts to anybody else, to avoid criticism...

Manoshij Banerjee

Prithwis said...

Hi Sir,
Both the blogs are very well written. Mr. Santanu really brought out the fact of the matter.

But Sir I have one question related to whatever happened in Singur. I agree the land was not barren, in fact, it was a fertile land belonging to farmers. But, a state needs industrial development as well. How would you justify the fact that a state like West Bengal needs a balance in both development and empowerment of tribals and farmers.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Your question is confused, Prithwis. I do not need to 'justify' anything so obvious. NOT balancing various interests would be unjustified. In this context, I should like to observe, firstly, that the Singur land was NOT taken from desperately poor people, 2) all that the government needed to do was to avoid hush-hush politics, and ensure that the land-losers got satisfactory compensation. Neither the government nor the opposition did anything good for the state in this matter.

The Singur-type of issue is not the sort I had in mind while writing the blogpost. Nandigram would be closer to the point. And even there it was not forest land and very poor tribals who were at risk!

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

I am honoured that you have linked my article to your blog.

I share the anger, frustration and sense of helplessness that you have expressed in this post and elsewhere. I also know that there are many others who share these feelings. I do not know where our anger will take us, or whether it will take us anywhere at all, but I know that otherwise, we don't have a future. Paraphrasing Jorge Luis Borges, one can say: "I don't know if educating ourselves about what makes our society so unjust will save us, but I don’t know of anything better.”

I hope that answers Manoshij’s concerns, at least partially.

As regards the point raised by Prithwis, was Singur only about 1000 acres of land? Was it not about the arrogance of a brute force that believed (they still do) that only they know what is good for eighty million people? Was it not about the precept that an eighteen-year-old girl can be raped and murdered by the ruling party if it helped “development” as they define it? Can we have development after excluding the supposed beneficiaries of that development?

Jeremy Seabrook wrote in the Statesman: “It ought to be clear by now that people will not meekly renounce their heritage simply because they are obstructing the will of the powerful. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee intones the mantra “Without industry and commerce there can be no progress”. He has managed the worst of both worlds, an ugly hybrid: the ruthless authoritarianism of Communism and the monstrous social injustice of global capitalism.”

It is sad that the Statesman has discontinued Seabrook’s column. I could not find the article on the Statesman site. I will request everyone to read the article ZAMINDARS OF GLOBALISM here:


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

Thank you for the article. I have always noticed that how reluctant we are in general about our environment. In fact, this reluctance is costing the entire world to-day. I believe in India at least, some of the religious customs (which perhaps still prevails amidst the tribes), necessitated worship of animals and trees - essentially for the very reason of protecting them. I am not sure that it was the case elsewhere. Sadly, even if that custom was unique to India, we could not possibly understand the root meaning of such a custom.

India could have done a lot but it chased a goal which was probably never meant to be its goal. Australia and NZ are mainly agrarian economies but the state of farmers are not the same as they are in India. In fact, most Kiwis that I meet here belong to either farming or fishing communities.

However, no country in the world has treated their natives properly.In India you and I can see the problems out in open since everything happens at our doorstep. Elsewhere one cannot see them as they are hidden.

That should not be an excuse to escape from such issues.

Solutions to most problems Indians face to-day start from home. Alas, we don't realise that.

To-day only I was telling someone that perhaps river Padma is cleaner than Ganga because few people take holy dip in Padma. My German friend could not believe people take holy dip in a river yet make it dirty for ages!

Perhaps few comments on what we should do now, may help.



Stotra said...

This topic is very close to my heart. I shall comment in greater detail shortly.

Stotra said...

Sir, your post deals with a matter very close to my heart. Being a student of Zoology myself,I clearly understand the problems that crop up while conserving Nature. The issue is not just about conserving our wildlife or our forests, but about preserving the eco-system as a whole, in which the "tribal" and "jungle" people play an integral part. Not only are the different species of animals getting rare, the jungle folk and the tribals are becoming "endangered" as well.As a note, I would like to add that India loses approximately 132 species of its wildlife (which includes insects as well) everyday.
Most of us are shouting for development, but very few people know what "sustainable" development means. If "progress" means shopping malls, cell phones, IT-parks and numerous other ways of benefitting the rich and the middle class; then I fear the day is not far when Mother Nature will take her toll- may be in the form of a "Tribal" uproar...who knows!
Lastly I want to thank Sir, for this wonderful post. It was a pleasure reading it.

Kaushik Chatterjee said...

I was just wondering if I could reproduce what Jawaharlal Nehru, in one of his historically significant statements, outlined some of the overriding conditions that have to be borne in mind while framing a strategy for development of tribal areas.

• “ People should develop along the lines of their own genius and we should avoid imposing anything on them. We should try to encourage in every way their own traditional art and culture.

• Tribal rights in land and forests should be respected.

• We should train and build up a base of their own people to do the work of administration and development. Some technical personnel from outside will no doubt be needed especially in the beginning. But we should avoid introducing too many outsiders in the tribal territory.

• We should not administer the areas or overwhelm them with a multiplicity of schemes. We should rather work through and not in rivalry to their own special and cultural institutions.

• We should judge results not by statistics or the amount of money spent but by the quality of human character that is evolved”

Leaving aside the tribal rights activists, geologists, environmentalists’ take on the subject, can we make a soul-searching of how, if at all, the main stream development agenda of the state, while pontificating about creating adequate tribal buffers, core area containment, promotion of eco-tourism , gainful (for whose gain, after-all?) resource exploration (read, exploitation), etc, of tribal areas, honestly buys Nehru’s vision ?

Or are these merely passé, empty shibboleths to be paraphrased so pompously in seminars and scholarly dissertations and given a convenient go-by when you actually deal with the hapless tribals ?

Regards, Kaushik Chatterjee

Rajdeep said...

Both the articles are extremely educative and brilliantly written. I did not know so many things! Hope more and more people read these two articles. I admire the passionate style of both the authors. I have always believed that poverty is man made as many famous people have already said before. Having been in Japan for a long time, I returned last year to Durgapur after many years. I was shocked to see the change in my hometown that I could not recognize any more. And all the while I had been pining to go back to the "same old place!" that does not hold so much of its charm any more after my visit. I thought it is the only place I have to go back to for finding my peace of mind. I was wrong. Of course the Big Bazaar in Durgapur is more spic and span than many of the older supermarkets in Japan. But where has all the serenity of the place gone! It is I think Suvro da's influence that has made me hate sms text language people use these days. And having got a mobile phone for myself only after coming to Japan I find I have lost much peace of mind and have become irritable. These days I switch off my mobile and keep it and only turn it on at times to check for calls and messages. My Bangladeshi friend who recently shifted to US from Japan, cancelled his mobile phone here on the day before he was leaving. He later told during his farewell dinner that he hasn't had such peace in years as he got after his phone was unhooked off the network. I just want to mention that the Japanese got iron ore from India cheap in those times as written in the article/ essay. Now they are getting wood cheap from countries like Philipines to build beautiful Japanese style wooden houses or concrete ones panelled inside with exquisite wood. They have kept their own forests intact in all its pristine beauty and voice a lot of opinions about the Kyoto Protocol. I am not saying this to blame anyone or trying to show bad from good. What I want to say here is that no country in the world is I guess as self destructive and hurting their own selves as we Indians do.
I read Aranyak only after Suvro da suggested it to me. Of course it is a great book. I urge Suvro da to put your list of twenty greatest books ever written in the 20th century and put it up on your blog with brief introductions. Pity the ignorance of people these days. They have lost "The Sense of Wonder(title of a book by Rachel Carson)."
But parks and libraries and hundred percent literacy alone does not make ignorant people intelligent and thoughtful. They remain as ignorant as ever about the world they live in. The best example is Japan and the average citizen here. It is policy and implementation of good, healthy education that determines the future of a child. I am not sure whether the strong middle class in India could migrate en masse to better countries. They might be able to or they may not be able to. Who knows! I also did not know that, "the Singur land was NOT taken from desperately poor people." Could Suvro da provide more details please? After reading the article I felt disgust at the way my country is going and the way tribals are inhumanly treated as if they were stray dogs. And also depressed that I chose a career that is not helping my country much. Hope in future I can bend and twist it to suit a better purpose!
With regards and best wishes.

Rajdeep said...

postscript: Tanmoy's German friend is not the only one who wonders why people dirty a river they revere so much! I guess all foreigners who go for a trip to India attracted by the Ganges feel the same. I too have been asked the question a number of times. I have no answer and that pains me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Tanmoy.

Chanchal said...

There are not many people who care involve in such issues..

Thank you, Sinha Sir, for the concern and Suvro Sir, a greater thank you to you who help like-minded people unite, in the dream of a happier tomorrow!


Manoshij Banerjee

Asima said...

A few questions arose in my mind after reading the article. The victimization of tribals has happened everywhere in the world. The destruction of forests and tribal culture in the name of development has happened all the time..it has happened with the Indegenous Australians in Australia, with the Red Indians in America just the way it has happened and is still happening in India. There surely is a more peaceful way of integrating different cultures in a society but somehow throughout history its been more violence than peace. I seriously do not think that there will be a mass uprising against the national forces by the tribals of India no matter how many Binayak Sens try to bring forth their plight. They are simply too few and too weak not only against the government machinery but also against a lot of their own kind who can be easily bought off by a shiny watch or a job or a piece of land. Yes, they might resort to the new trend of terrorism – suicide bombings, but for how long? Do you think that any amount of government aid can help a tribe that cannot help itself? They have to change their plight themselves if they have to survive and not look up to social welfare organizations to bail them out. I might be sounding rather harsh or I might be missing a point but if a tribe’s plight has not changed a bit over a century do you think it can be changed by some outside forces?
And, in the same note, the destruction of forests will stop only when we realize from within how our lives are dependent on them. Today, if you notice, the trend of people leaving the Indian soil for better lives is gradually reversing. I am optimistic that people will definitely realize that just like it is good to have IT parks, it is even better to have them along with greenery around them. Today the word of the common man does get counted – we have seen that in the results of a lot of legal battles going on in the last decade. So maybe as more and more well meaning citizens join hands we can get back at least a part of what we have lost.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

There are things which are factually, logically as well as morally wrong about Asima's comment. But since most people find it offensive if I point out their errors, I hope someone else who is informed and rational enough will do it for me.

Sayan Datta said...

It's sad. Very sad indeed. No one realizes that individuals though we are, we are all ultimately and intimately connected to our surroundings and the society we live in; and in that sense what happens even thousands of miles away affects our everyday routine in a close and very personal way. And just as freedom does not come without responsibility, no one can really call himself an individual in the truest sense of the word until he has realized this. And the progress (whether IT Parks and concrete jungles go anywhere near to defining 'progress' is of course debatable) that is reserved only for a handful of the population, that does not take the majority along with it is no progress at all .I have seen people who have the ready logic up their sleeves that in a free country everyone has the right to his/her own definition of enjoyment (perhaps it would have been more appropriate and less hypocritical had they said that a free country guarantees them the right to an unrestrained enjoyment of carnal desires at the very height of avarice, and that too at the cost of the starving millions!). It’s all very well to say that and perhaps hard to debate against because it ultimately boils down to the choices of the individual, whether ignorant or wise. But the question remains – Are we prepared for the cost?
And going by this logic the immediate conclusion that can be drawn is that the rickshaw puller chooses to be a rickshaw puller from amongst a plethora of choices available to him, perhaps because he enjoys pulling the rickshaw and that too for only two square meals a day. Don't you think that’s absurd? Don't you feel that something is very wrong somewhere? If you do and feel that perennial urge to blame someone; let me tell you, do blame yourself first.
Think people! Think! How many of our countrymen do not have a choice! How many are forced right from birth to live a life that we, cocooned in the comfort of our shells would dread to!
Lastly, though the state of things are very bad as they are, and rapidly worsening every passing day, not all is lost yet. What gives me hope is the knowledge that the India portrayed so vividly in the media these days and in cheap newspaper supplements is not the real India at all. Remember, the poor, the people who do not have a choice, who have not had a choice for generations make up our majority. Maybe one day when the sun rises they will have a choice and they will choose a far better India.

Sir, I was having a bit of trouble loading your site.

Sayan Datta

Tanmoy said...

To be honest, I feel ashamed to believe that we are such a disgusting race but it is a reality that I believe so. We have shown sparks of brilliance in having great men being born around us, but there lives tell us how difficult their lives was, whenever they ventured out to reform.

While I have been talking about community services and started acting on it, I found out within one week that at least 2-3 people I spoke to in India about doing something turned out to biggest hypocrites I shall ever see. A bit of exploration made me realise they are nice talkers outside which is a façade but sadly all of them are the most hated in their family circles and if you prick their ego a little bit they are unleashed as hounds. You would be surprised how rude, uncivilized suddenly they can get which is a variance from the image they normally try to maintain. I wonder how one can hope them to make a difference. They just talk nicely outside but whenever they are caught on the wrong footing they have a person within them which is uglier than Mr. Hyde can ever be.

They saddened me since they were part of my “extended family”, but in all that I got 5 people in NZ who were far more eager to contribute in anyway they can even for a country / society which they have not visited either. I don’t know in what form they can contribute but they looked far more eager discussing ideas.

It only shows how difficult it is, to motivate Indians especially perhaps Bengalis (I spoke to Bengalis in India) who are underachievers, ruining their state, blaming others and doing everything to break social dynamics not just in the larger society but in their home.

It is hard path ahead for me or anyone, I am immature so sometimes I cannot gauge it and hit roadblocks only to feel isolated and sad but while I was hoping to at least make a difference with a group of 10 people, I somehow think it is tough as people are calling me hypocrite and all.

I don’t want to feel selfish and say let you all go to hell and I don’t care. I wish, however, I had the courage of going and telling some people (not politicians, sportsperson or people who are reported in public media), how they are ruining the families and lives of many people and their own by being such hypocrites.

That is why, I am trying to reform myself first, completely because for doing something even slightly bigger I need tremendous patience and tenacity as already (when I have just written a mere article), I am being called hypocrite, sarcastic etc. This is not the first time but I am still shell-shocked.

Can anyone tell me, why I should be proud to be a Bengali, other than for the history that we have read and accumulated but not learnt?

If not, at least wish or pray that I don’t turn out to be like them unconsciously.

In all I salute Suvroda once more, because as I am ageing, I am realising how difficult it has been for you to be what you are and how courageous you are. Unless, we have an inherent militant in us I think nothing can be done, sadly.

Rajdeep said...

Happy New Year 2009 to everyone.

Good book:

"Infrastructure and Development in India - Linkages and Policy Issues," by Rajarshi Majumder (2008). ISBN 81-316-0195-1.
232 pages, Rs. 300, Rawat Publications (www.rawatbooks.com).



Suvro Chatterjee said...

I was expecting some more comments here, especially to counterbalance (with facts and stronger logic) Asima's very painful remarks.

Sudipto Basu said...

Regarding Asima (di)'s comments, I may have a little to say. First, if history has been witness to tribals being oppressed without respite, it has also been witness to rebellions. I do not know much about Australian aborigines or the Red Indians, but back here in India, we have already witnessed the Santhal rebellion. While that has not done much to bring this deprived race to the level of their more fortunate countrymen, it has at least led to some improvement overall: small but not imperceptible. Even Sir has presented yet another example: that of the Maoists. I do not condone violence, but at least those people have a humane right to express their anger and frustration (it is a different matter that killing of a few law-keepers, petty politicians and bureaucrats isn't going to help them much; as has already been observed). One must also agree that the Maoists have had some substantial success in mainstream politics too: and that is not news too old to be so easily overlooked. Which means that history can still be repeated.

However, my argument is more on a moral plane than a factual one-- what irks me is the statement that we can be assured that no one will rise up against all the injustice because there are traitors in their own camp who'll sell their souls for a few transient benefits or gains. Of course, there are such individuals, and their kind always has been. There were Indians who betrayed their countrymen to the British, but you must also remember that it did nothing to decelerate the freedom movement as a whole. Rebellion is imminent. What the tribals now lack is a leader who can galvanise all the local pockets of frustration and lead a mass movement. If and when they do, God save those walking in the corridors of power. The clock, therefore, hangs ominously in limbo; it may start ticking once there rises someone capable of leading the disorderly tribals to justice.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I notice that no one has commented thoughtfully on point number 5 yet! Too unpleasant a truth to countenance?

Sudipto Basu said...

We all know the truth about point 5, don't we? The psychology of the masses is simple: have the most of what you can make with the least of what you can give. Something an Economics professor at college summarised as "optimisation of human resources"-- something I cringed at, deep inside. Ah, only if it was actually possible and viable (economically, or otherwise) to have something really worthwhile with the least possible effort!

That said, I really don't see any real difference between a student of technology, the sciences or the arts based on their choice of subject-- the only differentiating criterion is whether the student concerns himself/herself with studies that do not directly relate to the school or college/university syllabus. I made my point, I hope.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

It's been a whole year since anyone wrote a comment here!

I should like to share an interesting bit of information with my readers today. There's a short story titled The Tiger in the tunnel, written by Ruskin Bond, which I have to deal with for the ICSE syllabus this time. It deals with tribals in Indian forests. Well, by way of checking out their GK, I asked more than 120 15-year olds whether they could tell me anything at all about tribals. Not one of them could tell me anything coherent for 15 seconds. This, despite the fact that, thanks to the Maoist insurgency all around us, tribals are in the newspapers and TV headlines every other day.

And many of these young people are "good students", looking forward to good careers and expecting to be regarded as educated citizens in ten to fifteen years' time. Many of them, I am sure from past experience, will even land up in the US of A, being 'talented' enough for their economic requirements...

Shilpi said...

For now, I’ll raise some questions and make some comments regarding some of the points that Asima made a year ago in her comment.

Do you realise, why the tribals are in the state that they are currently in and how and why their living conditions have been steadily deteriorating over the course of more than just one century?

Do you seem to vaguely sense or realise that they must have had land – the land of the forests primarily, where they used to live?

Do you realise that they must have had some means of growing their food away from urban centres, and of surviving (more or less) on what they grew and gathered?

Do you wonder what happened to their land over the course of the more than a mere hundred years - but especially post-Independence? Do you wonder where their land went? Why and how it ‘disappeared’?
Do you realise/wonder why tribals along eastern India are banding up with Maoist insurgents?

Do you ever wonder why some of them might be ‘bought off’ with a job, a piece of land or even indeed a shiny watch?

How exactly do you propose that these tribals pull themselves up by their boot-straps?

Do you know/ have the rudimentary awareness of the sort of indignation and humility that the tribals (and from different parts of India) go through on a daily basis? Or the sort of basic amenities that they lack?

Do you wonder how/why different tribal groups have been cordoned off into little pockets (and by whom), which are overpopulated and why the tribals lack basic resources?

Maybe it might help you a bit to look up these basic bits of info so that you know what you’re talking about – at least in relation to the Indian tribal situation. There are other problems and many levels too of the problem within specific tribal groups and across – but the rest can wait.

Your comment about being harsh, reminded me of a friend who in college with a sense of righteousness had said, ‘All these poor people should just be killed. They reproduce in droves, live on the streets and create such a mess, and they can’t even get themselves out of their situation!’

Pray, what is good in having IT parks? And IT parks with greenery around them will then make up for our chopping down our forests, killing off our wildlife, polluting our rivers, pumping noxious gases into the atmosphere, and exploiting the poor and the underprivileged of more than a 450 million people who are desperately poor? And you are being serious?

As for the reversing trend of Indians leaving India – I have no idea where you got that bit of absolutely wrong information. I’m sure you can do a basic google search and find out the real figures for yourself.

Finally, I'm guessing that you must have read Suvro da’s own essay, ‘They live beyond the lights’ and the linked article on his blog at least… ....so I’m curious - which ‘common man’s’ word gets counted? Would that be the daily wage-labourer in the cities or would that be a starving tribal or the starving debt-ridden peasant who kills himself in desperation because of failed crops? Please let me know when you find out.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

No point in getting so angry with the Asima type, Shilpi: they don't know, they don't care, they have never had to bother, and they will never unbend to the extent that is needed to acknowledge to themselves that perhaps they need to re-educate themselves.

It sometimes so happens, though, that life itself teaches them lessons... but I shudder for them, because such lessons are invariably harsh. One old boy of mine, ex-IIT and all that, who had emigrated with a job to the US, got his legs broken by a drunken mob who kept shouting 'Go back home, black beggar!' He has since come back to India - he finds it better now, after having devoted his whole childhood and youth into preparing to run away to 'greener pastures'! Also remember the Marquis in The Tale of Two Cities'.