Monday, December 14, 2009

Development vs Insurgency

(Blog on the make …more will be added and what has already been written will be edited ...)

This is a debate as ancient as the other famous one: egg or chicken -- which comes first. The recent Maoist violence has again brought into fore the debate, from the jungles to the media rooms.

I have followed some of the debates. There are two contradictory lines of arguments:

One says, development ruins the tribal way of life. It does not benefit the indigenous tribal people, they do not want it. When we forcibly develop their land (in our perceived way), we antagonize them and force them to the path of insurgency.

The other says that it is actually the lack of development that is what frustrates the indigenous people and fuels insurgency. So develop the area fast which in turn will dowse the insurgent flames.

Let us take up the first argument first. I have seen the tribals of the North East of India. The youth there, and this I have seen even 20-30 years back, do not intend to be in their loincloths like their grandfathers did. In fact they do not wear even the desi jeans; nothing short of designer American jeans will satisfy them. For that matter, not only the NE tribes, ask any youth of any tribal region and you will be surprised to find that contrary to what the activist would make us believe, the tribal youth do hunger for the good life that modern civilisation brings (particularly the western way of life) – perhaps hunger more for it than a youth from the plains (who is more likely to be entrapped in traditions) would do. I am not saying this in a sneering manner… rather I find this yearning quite appreciable. Is not it why people became civilised in the first place? Deliverance from danger and hunger to safety and comfort, from diseases to health, from constant struggle for existence to leisure and luxury – is not this the motivation behind all kinds of human civilisation?

Nothing remains constant if we look at the annals of history -- civilisations rise and decline, races intermingle and new races are born… even faiths do not remain stationary. Today’s thriving race becomes tomorrow’s extinct one (example, the mighty Romans) and vice versa. There is nothing sacrosanct in a people’s present identity that should not change and must be preserved at its pristine quality. To attempt to do so will be actually a disservice to the tribal community for whose so-called benefit such an endevour will be made. Will the Medha Patkars and Arundhati Roys ever understand this?

But a politician is a different species altogether. Outwardly they may toe the line of not violating the tribal way of life. Keeping people backward actually suits them in a perverted sense. But at the same time, they understand the need to fulfill some of the aspirations of the people, and the easy way out to achieve this is to throw asunder some money. Don’t develop, don’t create job opportunities, just give money to grab and spend. This way they create a corrupt system of patronage to some which is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a people. When I say politicians, I not only mean the ruling class, but also the radicals who supposedly fight for these people. Take the case of Maoists/ULFA/NSCN. Have to ever touched Madhu Koda or people like him? They would rather impose a ‘tax’ from each lorry, from each business transaction, even a fixed cut from the salaries of people. They are part of the vested interest. They use their force to perpetuate the tyranny of the politics of backwardness.

I have always strongly believed in the essence of the second theory that says tribal people also aspire for and need development like anyone else. But I have disagreement with the simplistic solution that just bringing in huge investment would solve all problems. First, in most cases the indigenous people neither have the skills nor the drive to take up the job of development upon their own shoulders. In my experience in many of such regions they are bone lazy (one reason for their remaining backward) and hardly fit for any work above the menial ones (there too the migrant workforce work much harder and are more productive). But the greatest hurdle is, in most of the places, the culture of anarchy –insurgency, the local vs outsider tussle, extortion, indiscipline. Surely an entrepreneur cannot be expected to tackle such situations? This is the duty of the administration first to establish the rule of law there… to come down upon the trouble-makers with an iron feast.

More another day…