Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Confusing politics

After Singur its Nandigram. It is so confusing... especially sitting far away and almost disconnected from daily news (I don't have a TV and stopped taking Newspaper). My sister is appearing for her XIIth, probably the most important public examination that determines the student's future. Day after tomorrow is her first exam. She called me this evening and said,
"I have a surprise news for you. Can you guess?"
I thought of the wildmost news and answered very matter-of-factly,
"Your exam has been postponned."
She was stunned!
"How did you come to know? Are you watching TV?"
This was my time to get puzzled.
"No I just told you the most unprobable thing. Is your exam really postponned?"
"Yes, We have a All-Bengal Strike day after tomorrow..."

Bandh, Hartaal, Strike ... These were slightly off-the-track for last couple of years. Thanks to unputdownable Mamata Banerjee and industrialization of West Bengal, they have come back with a bang! Tomorrow and day after tomorrow are consecutive bandhs called by various poilitical parties. So the students can wait, let the issue be politicalized first.
In Singur the Tatas wanted to build an automobile industry. They took hundreds of acres of field for that. Protesters came, as most these lands were moderately fertile and few part was very fertile. So the farmers will lose their business. Well, the industry will certainly create employment for more people than all those who will lose their land, but still...
So entered Ms Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul. They put up heavy protests, which were followed by riots, bandhs and hunger strike. Everything in vain! Tatas are on their way to build up the industry. It was not a very successful campaign for Mamata. So at Nandigram they had to play more cautiously.
At Nandigram Govt. is planning for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for Chemical Industry to rip the benefit of proximity of Haldia port and petrochemical industry. Eventually most of Nandigram is barren salty land. But protest is more vigorous here. Opponents have allegedly brought cadres from outside of Bengal to protect their stronghold. They have even cut-off the roads to prevent incoming traffic in the whole area. This situation lasted for almost a month and today the police were there to evict the outsiders and clear the land. I heard ten people has been killed by police. This has added more spice to the tasty dish of political turmoil. So there is Bandh. Tomorrow called by SITU and day after by Trinamul and Congress.
Whatever news I get are mostly from my parents when I call them. They are commoners. Singur or Nandigram shouldn't bother them. But still they are bothered like all other Bengalis. What I don't understand is that when everybody is talking of unemployment, poverty, crime rate, etc, an industry like automobile or a SEZ may light up the scenario for sure. There is certainly a price ot pay, the land, in these cases. But if you think economically the industry will generate more employment and revenue than hundred acres of land. Ofcourse it wold have been a real concern if we were running short of farming land. But at least at present we are not. Some say, they could have chosen a barren land for automobile industry. Sure, they could but the infrastructure is poor and moreover you should give some positive points to the man who is going to invest. Again Nandigram is a barren land. But still there is no dearth of protesters!
I think its not the immediate effect of losing land and homes. What we should think about is the social impact of having such big industries. Economically an automobile industry will bring forth a huge amount of small scale industries in its vicinity. (I'm not clear about of Chemical Industry, but anyway they are on barren land!) This means a lots of employment. This will lead to decrease in antisocial activities as the youths will be engaged and employed. Yes the nearby villages will become more and urban losing its virginity and culture. That is a trade off. But we are already going towards that, only industrialization will make it happen faster! Similarly if more and more industries come up, then we may land up in shortage of farming land. But at present, I presume, we don't have that musc fear. What we need more is to strike a balance between industry and farming. And now we are really lacking in industry.

By the way, bandhs are normally called on Fridays and Mondays (especially the ones called by Trinamul) so that one can enjoy a long weekend! Otherwise they could have combined their protests by calling a bandh on same day as SITU, i.e., on Thursday.

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