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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The latest round of atrocities has been against young Northeasterners in Bangalore and Gurgaon. These racist attacks by illiterate and semi-or unemployed youth have been widely condemned; but investigation and punishment have been inadequate and tardy

Modi Wins Amid Storm Signals

The poll verdict is a crushing commentary on the utter non-performance of Rahul Gandhi. Modi must now turn to reform, tribal uplift and dealing with all Indians, equally.

By B G Verghese

Tribune, 20 October, 2014

Not unexpectedly, as forecast, Modi has won the elections. But it has not been a famous victory. The BJP has a clear majority in Haryana but must partner with the Shiv Sena, with which it broke, in Maharashtra. The Congress has been swept away. Anti-incumbency, in-fighting, corruption, lack of leadership and arrogance brought about its downfall. The verdict is a crushing commentary on the utter non-performance of Rahul Gandhi who has been propped up by Sonia despite his proven incompetence. The Congress will die if the duo continues. The cry to bring in Priyanka has already been heard. But dynastic politics has no future and the tainted Vadra is a millstone around her neck. Now that Hooda is no more there to protect him as Haryana’s chief minister, the man probably will be arraigned on the serious charges of malfeasance levelled against him. The political field has changed.

In Maharashtra , tricky, coalition and leadership talks will begin.

The Congress has become so petty as to have removed Shahsi Tharoor as a party spokesperson for accepting Modi’s nomination to be a “champion” for Swacch Bharat or Clean India. He is said to have praised Modi, and not for the first time. Normal civilities should never be abandoned and no Opposition party or critic should damn the Government irrespective of the merits of the issue in hand.

The Hudhud cyclone was handled pretty smartly with mass evacuation of vulnerable populations. If post-cyclone relief was tardy, especially in and around Vishakapatnam, the epicentre, this was partly because of the unprecedented wind velocities. There are lessons to be learnt about post-disaster management as climate change is going to produce severe aberrant events. But there are other storm signals too and it is here that Modi will be tested. He has promised development and reform and is entitled to full support for worthwhile initiatives. But he has to walk his talk of dealing with all Indians equally as Prime Minister.

The madness of love-jihad appears to be dissipating now that the polls are over and charges brought forward have been repeatedly disproved as a pack of lies and malicious plants by an anti-minority HIndutva lobby. The latest round of atrocities has been against young Northeasterners in Bangalore and Gurgaon. These racist attacks by illiterate and semi-or unemployed youth have been widely condemned; but investigation and punishment have been inadequate and tardy. More stringent laws are required. Racism is blood brother to communalism, casteism, fear of loss of identity, economic insecurities, loss of habitat and petty regionalism/chauvinism. There is inadequate understanding of the fact that India’s racial composition includes Mongoloids and Negritos in addition to Aryans and Dravidians and that this is what makes for our vast cultural and social diversity. Our education has failed to teach us this and many of us live in enclaves of the mind. The foremost among these exclusivist forces is the Hindutva-Sangh Parivar that Modi embraces.

Talented, English-speaking northeasterners are seen as “stealing” jobs from native unemployed youth in much the same manner as the Shiv Sena defends the original rights of the “Marahatta manoos” . In parts of the Northeast, Hindi-speakers are seen as “outsiders” and driven out while J&K and Sikkim haves state subject laws.

Jobs for the boys is an understandable aspiration. The problem arises only because population growth has outstripped development opportunities linked to investment and skills. We need to create 10 m new jobs net every year just to absorb the swelling work force. This is a Herculean task in any circumstances but is rendered impossible by dilatory administrative clearances and by environmental conservatism based on loss of “forest”, submergence and poor resettlement and tribal rights. The latest expert group on tribal rights in development led by Professor Virginius Xaxa is a no-no document. The tribal is so over-protected as to become a hapless prisoner of abstruse virtue that leaves him/her impoverished at the end of the day. These reformers do not look down the road to see what will the tribal condition a decade or two from now.

The State had dramatically failed to improve tribal lives and administration. They have been isolated and left to stew in their own juice. True, there has been exploitation from all sides without redress. The problem is now seen as callous neglect and the need to protect these communities from left-wing extremism through “packages”. The existing legal and constitutional structure under the Fifth schedule has been by-passed and we are today in no-man’s land. Only a leaked summary of the Xaxa report is available and we must in fairness therefore wait to see what redeems it.

Corporate partnership, as prescribed by the Supreme Court’s Samantha judgement and sought to be implemented in the Vedanta case, has been proscribed or stymied. A good, independent study of the Vedenta development experience in Lanjigarh-Nyamgiri in Orissa could be instructive. The project has been rudely stalled and tens of thousands of jobs, and downstream benefits and the multiplier effect resulting therefrom have been thrown away. What is the tribal condition in that desperate region minus Vedanta? What is the State’s record and what has a busy-body like Rahul done? What and where is Modi’s policy, though the BJP rules in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh?

Modi’s so-called diplomatic coup in getting SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in in Delhi, never well planned but tom-tommed endlessly, is now in tatters. We are now in confrontation with Pakistan and China on the border, with the BJP having drummed up the idea of a “strong, no-nonsense leader”, stirring chauvinist cadres and commentators to frenzy, squeezing electoral mileage out of this. Neither Pakistan nor China are innocents abroad and the two have probably joined to drum up the latest border tension. None of this augurs well for peace and neighbourhood cooperation.

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