The Savoury called Development

We are in the middle of development. In India this word — Vikas — is used so extensively that we are served development for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact it is savoured as fried snack too along with cutting Chai. But what exactly does this mean? For today’s generation this word is all about making the country a concrete jungle with neon lights and alleys that resembles New York or Singapore or a Dubai.

We care a hoot about the development of our human resources, our agriculture, our healthcare, our education system or our malnutrition or infant mortality rate. We care a hoot about removing untouchability, casteism or gender bias. So it becomes a metaphor for beauty which lies in the eyes of the beholder and never the developer. When you move around the place you take pride in having great roads. But then you go beneath and see tragic stories of development and people who have been displaced due to development of big projects. So in short every development comes at a cost. Now who am I to value this cost as long as I am a beneficiary of this development. So the urban middle class wonders why a tribal cannot be displaced for a dam whereas an inch of theirs cannot be shared for widening a road.

And this infrastructure development helps no one except the contractors. You cannot evaluation its benefit because it is a never ending process. You will find your roads always under development either for a metro or for some underground cables or for sewage. Everything comes under development. You will always find our nearby areas being dug for new concrete places to come up. In western countries the places you see today are the same you will see in 25 years. So most towns and cities in India looks like a warn torn place a twitter user quipped.

I still remember when Mayawati built those statues of elephants assuring her Dalit identity, it was ridiculed by everyone. In a state that is horribly divided by caste and religion, this assertion helped her to be a messiah among a set of people who have never tasted development. She wanted her Dalit identity to be transformed into a powerful tool that can beat any caste or creed. But the very same people are not building another set of statues. Then the Election Commission had ordered Mayawati statues to be covered for elections. I wonder why the Statue of Unity was not covered.

So let’s come to the headquarters of development, Ahmedabad, which is part of the famous Gujarat Model. If you are a pedestrian you will have to walk in the middle of vehicles. Even the most posh areas with western style of development do not have walking paths. Neither do they have cycle tracks. So what development are we talking about? And as you go further you will see helpless citizens relieving themselves wherever they find space. I tried once to scold a man who took shelter behind a tree to relieve himself. He stopped his activity for a while and asked me if I can find a loo anywhere so that he can pause his current activity and resume if I help him in finding one. Despite all the Swacch Bharat campaigns, there is no change in public attitude. After all how can they be blamed when we have not give enough infrastructure to help this cause.

The real disgraces of this development are its side effects. We define development in terms of big road, bigger buildings, bigger malls and not the quality life we should be living. Today how many children walk to school? Development has taken place so suddenly that a section of people have not been able to match with its pace. This resulted in the anti-graft movement that led to BJP coming to power in 2014. Most people with no connection to BJP felt they have been left out of this development. Their brains worked overtime to find out the reason why this was happening. They got quick answers when CAG mentioned an astronomical figure as the kickback A Raja has taken for telecom spectrum. Their blood boiled as they thought their share of development and progress was snatched from them on a single stroke. As the frustrations grew, entry of anti graft crusaders and civil activists helped it fuel the fire. It gave much needed tonic and everyone joined the bandwagon without realizing what they were protesting for.

The one disgraceful word ‘corruption’ became the rallying point. I watched in shock and dismay as people gathered in thousands to protest against an unknown enemy waging a war against unknown people in unspecified locations. They uniformly gave the name ‘corruption’ to every evil that we are facing today.

People who invented this terminology also brought out solutions and they called it Lokpal. The government which then faced with mounting criticism, quickly brought its own version of this. Today, the entire campaign has got fizzled out because the people who were behind this campaign had more to hide than to reveal.

The campaign could not sustain its steam not merely because of the people involved but because the main protagonist — corruption — was nowhere to be seen. After much deliberation, people realized a protest or two cannot remove this evil. They saw their own neighbours and friends — those who feed the corrupt with corruption capsules — were in the forefront of all these protests.

So what has corruption to do with development — the topic which we began this discussion? In fact it has. I will illustrate the correlation. A posh bunglow owner asked one of my lawyer friends to file a stay over a proposed demolition of his parking space- which he admits has been encroached upon. He is of the opinion that since he has used it for the last 15 years without any problem, why this sudden move by the civic body to widen the road and cut the portion where he keeps three of his five cars (the rest two are on roads outside). I was a witness to this conversation between the lawyer and the client. As I always pokes into unnecessary things, I intervened and asked for his pardon if anything that I speak hurts him.

I told him the story of hundreds of thousands of tribal who stayed hundreds of thousands of years at a place where they never bothered to have a document or a panchayat receipt. They believed the land was owned by them and all of a sudden a group of people with well dressed attire on beacon led vehicles comes to their land and asks them to vacate. They refuse but in return are shown court orders which they never understand. They are forcibly vacated and a dam or a statue or a bullet train is built in that place. No one knows the whereabouts of those people. The labourers you see around at construction sites could be their second or third generation. People who owned large tracts of land are homeless with no fault of theirs. The fruits of their pain are directly poured into your kitchen tap and named as Narmada Water. You praise political leaders forgetting the sacrifice these people gave. He had no remorse and instead asked me if I was a Maoist or friend of Arundhati Roy and Medha Patkar — Gujarat’s sworn enemies.

The lawyer got a stay for him but it lasted a few months. Today all his five cars are parked on the road. Coming back to the main topic of development, I ask myself whether it is my fault not to see the fruits of development to my benefit and instead ponders over things that are not relevant. Today we have public leaders committing perjury to save their skin. Everything today is built on lies.

When the recent elections saw BJP being routed in three states, a friend wrote in his Facebook — “Surprising results in Rajasthan and MP. Will we ever learn to vote for Development? for Visions? for Economic Growth and International Recognition…. Even after Delhi episode if states still vote in this manner ..then God save the country and these states.”

Typical Justification in a Meme

This is the mindset of the urban suave convent educated people. For them modernising education and healthcare in Delhi is bullshit. Instead another Swaminarayan temple on Yamuna banks should be the priority. See the tone- Will we ever vote for development? He means the Gurgaon style skyscrapers and Dubai style Burj Khalifas so that it can be enjoyed with family and friends. The most hilarious is international recognition. Imagine the world’s second most populated country is begging for international recognition from countries that is not even half the population of Andheri. So it is not a matter of which party is in governance. It is a matter of how non-issues are served and we savour them and even digest them without an iota of guilt. And since our demand is what is being served, nothing new comes up on the menu.

Our norms for development not only deprives a large majority of people from the mainstream but has cause animals to extinct. Everyday hundreds of animals are stopped on their natural path because we want roads and rails to cross their territory.

I sometimes wonder why I have chosen a path where I confront everyone and take a stand to what I believe is reasonably correct. Should’t I ride the popular wave? Why am I swimming against the tide? Why am I thinking that a nation can mature only with human development and the rest are just byproducts. Perhaps I may never because I have something called conscience which doesn’t allow me to take a blind path.

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