Thursday, August 31, 2006

E Azadi Kya Jhoota hi rahega?”(Eea Swadhinata Michha rahiba Ki?)

In 1947 when Independence dawned in the Indian sub-continent both left and right declared “E Azadi Jhuta Hai”, it can be translated as, “This freedom is a false one”. Those believing in Marxist or left ideology believed that the power percolated in to the hand of the semi-feudal, semi-colonial comprador bourgeoisie, and thus working people will not get the real power. Thus they coined the slogan, “E Azadi Jhuta Hai”.
The rightists, led by the communal RSS (Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh or National volunteer corps) and its allies like Hindu Mahasabha thought that the independence was not the real independence because it came at the cost of the “Akhanda Bharat” (Undivided India). Two states were chiseled out of the British India, secular India and Muslim Pakistan. Partition of British India led to a lot of misery for a lot of people, due post partition riots, which followed. It led to death of about 3 million people and displacement of nearly 10/12 million people. It resulted in one of the biggest migration, the world had ever known. And lots of misery of both Hindus and Muslims.
Fifty nine years have since passed. It is time for stock taking whether it was a real Azadi (Freedom) at least for India part of British India. This write up will particularly evaluate conditions in the state of Orissa, where I was born and brought up.
When, I analyze, I find the answer is both YES and NO.
Yes, if you are referencing Bharat, the more than 600 million people, who still live in 19th century conditions, devoid of assured food, shelter, health, education and clothes. And now communication - both physical and electronic.
NO, if you are thinking of India, the IT geeks of the world, the India who live in the glitzy cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore etc.
If you are working for IOC (Indian Oil Corporation), ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), SAIL (Steel Authority of India, Limited), NALCO (National Aluminum Company) or NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation), i.e. one of the so called Navaratna, Public Undertaking companies(PUC) or the new wave IT, companies like Infosys, Wipro, Satyam. Or the old but professional and successful companies like Tata or Reliance or Essar or Vedanta or Jindal. Or in the new Telecom companies or the well paying public sector banks and Government of India’s various departments.
This India, though real, represents only the brown Sahibs and IT nerds, based on whose inputs, 24 parties NDA (National Democratic Alliance) Government had thought out the “India Shining” campaign in early 2004, only to be dumped unexpectedly out of office. It represents roughly half of India. The other half being Bharat, which is silently watching the lighted ships sail away past makeshift windows of their huts. They dumped NDA lock, stock and barrel. I am not sure they, the Bharat is doing any better under UPA, after the initial euphoria, which is cutting down EIA, threatening to amend RTI Act, after initially passing this epoch making law.
The number in Orissa is nearer to 75% vs. 25% of Odia vs. Oriya. Oriya being the educated, English capable, well to do, dynamic section of the society and Odia the rest.
This is likely to stay same, unless two things happen.
1. Free Press
2. A non-subservient academia and educationists.

Free Press:
When I say free press, I not only mean protection from ruling Government’s allurements (free housing or prime housing plots at subsidized prices) and oppression (jail or police harassment). I also mean press’s own frailty in accepting allurements thrown in by the Multi-National Corporations (MNC) and the industrialists, who use fear or favor as tools, just like the Governments, to silence their critiques. They should not only be so but appear to be free from influence of money. For example the recent trip by some 20(twenty) journalists from Orissa to South Korea and Japan as guests of POSCO, has irrevocably tainted them. Thus the masses or affected people, in the middle of their fight against MNC or LNC (Large National Corporations) get no hope of ventilation of their grievances. Thus the frustration and chances of consequent violence increases in face of provocation unjust bureaucratic action, though it is totally against the interest of affected parties. In fact, I have a lingering doubt that the provocation is intentional.
Under such circumstances, it is absolutely justified to suspect that these journalists are compromised and as they have violated a basic tenet of journalism, having failed to avoid a conflict of interest.
Subservient Academia:
A strange silence is prevailing in Orissa, among the academia. Academia is not supposed to take sides but neither are they expected to be silent when such epoch making events like the following are taking place:
• Kalinga Nagar massacre.
• Passing of RTI Act (Right to information Act)
• Passing of NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act)
Though national press, international press, local language press have written, re-written and re-re-written about these incident and issues are being discussed day in and day out, guess WHO is silent? The prime intellectuals of Orissa – the academia. I have not seen a single posting by any of the professors of Utkal, Sambalpur or Berhampore Universities, (not even the Nabakrushna Choudhury Center for development studies), on Kalinga Nagar massacre or other issues mentioned above. Each of them has a full fledged Political Science department, a Sociology Department and probably multitude of professors for Economics Department. In addition, probably there are couple of hundreds of those who teach these subjects for a living.
When poverty alleviation and the development of underdogs is an issue of National and International importance, when people like Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University are making waves by speaking on behalf of the sub-Saharan countries and their debt trap, our academics are in total silence.
If it were any other country these academics would test their knowledge base with reality on such occasion and hone their skills in predicting reality, is not it. Interesting part is many of them have done their Ph. Ds from prestigious Universities abroad or the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) or its likes, where academia is always vociferous in its analysis and critique of the Government, both positive and negative. And yet the same professors when they come to teach in Orissa’s premier institutes remain silent.
Why do they remain silent? They only can say, why. But I will make an informed, guess, from what I have heard from my esteemed friends in academia of Orissa.
Somewhere during the process of growing up they learnt – “Silence is golden” and “Dumb guys don’t make enemies”. So silence they prefer, so as to remain outside controversy. That way they can bag consultancies from “The Ford Foundation” or “The World Bank”, and submit pliant reports, without the risk of contradicting themselves. In addition they believe if they remain subservient and silent, may be, and yes may be, our esteemed Governor and Government may select them as Vice Chancellors or for other assignments. Thus this culture of silence has grown and grown and there is silence all around while epoch making events are happening and non-academics and amateurs are filling in the “Christmas” night like silence with their din – an inadequate and incomplete action at best. Incompetent at it’s worst.

With such leaders, as the movers and shakers of the academia, Orissa is doomed to poverty and ignorance for many more years into future, unless they break their silence.
In a year 60th anniversary of Independence will come and go, and yet for more than 70% of people of Orissa – will this independence remain a falsehood? Or “E Azadi kya Jhoota hi rahega?”

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