C. N. Ramachandran
Thursday, September 13, 2012
G. N. Mohan, tr. Bara Andre Ellarigu Ishta
Bengaluru: Abhinava, 2012 pp. 504; price: 350/-
“yahan admi aur bail me kya pharak hai?”
People like Medha Patkar, Baba Amte, and Teesta Setalvad are very different from others –because they choose to tread a ‘path not taken’ by the ‘brightest and the best.’ Palagummi Sainath is one such in the field of journalism: he gave up his prestigious jobs in such periodicals as The Daily and Blitz, got a Times fellowship, and, during 1993-94, toured two of the poorest districts in each of the five states: Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttara Pradesh, and Tamilnadu. During this challenging tour lasting 15 months and, roughly, 80,000 km, he filed a series of reports based on his experience, published in the Times of India. Later, he undertook another trip to some of those and other districts in order to write a book based on those reports; and the book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, was published by Penguin Books in 2000. Immediately, it became a best-seller and got translated into many other languages. G. N. Mohan, another committed journalist and Sainath’s friend, has ably translated this book into Kannada.
The book contains 68 reports, divided into ten sections, and the long article on “Poverty, Development and Media” concludes the narrative. Though each report narrates an ‘incident,’ Sainath is interested not in ‘incidents’ as such but in the ‘process’ which bred these incidents. Through these reports, Sainath intends to demonstrate that while ‘India shining’ is true only for the small chunk of 10% Indians, for the remaining 90% , consisting of mostly tribals and dalits, ‘India is dark and nightmarish’. Sainath drives home the hard truth that the majority, taken for granted by the bureaucrats and ignored by the media, are not mere statistical figures on official reports but human beings, breathing and bleeding.
As instances of muddle-headed planning and bureaucratic apathy, we can consider a few ‘stories.’ The very first story narrates the introduction of jersey cows into Nuapada (Orissa) and mass-sterilization of the local Khariyar bulls to ensure the ‘purity’ of the breed, only to realize later that these cows do not yield any milk or calves while all the local bulls are impotent. The ‘Duruva’ tribe in Malkangiri (Orissa) cannot get any benefits earmarked for scheduled tribes because, in official notifications, that tribe is spelt as ‘Daruva’ and none is willing to change the single vowel. The teacher in Adro (Godda, Bihar) hasn’t seen his school for two years; but he regularly gets his monthly salary and the school is used as a storeroom for corn and tendu leaves.
The most appalling are the stories of ‘Development-refugees’—a phrase coined by Sainath to refer to those unfortunate tribals and dalits forcefully evicted to acquire land for some project or another. According to Sainath, since 1951, 21.6 million people have been displaced in the name of development ; if one adds to this number the 2.1 million people affected by mining, it amounts to the entire population of Australia and Canada forcefully evicted from their homes and hearths. The most heart-rending instance of forceful eviction is the 400-500 families of Chikapar (Koraput, Orissa). This entire village was first evicted in 1968 to make room for MiG Fighter Project; after they were resettled in another place (which also they named Chikapar), they were evicted again in 1987 to make room for a multi-purpose Hydel Project; and, in 1993, again they were evicted from Chikapar-3 so that Military Engineering Service could be established there. ‘Arguably, no other village anywhere in the world has been evicted three times, in the name of development,’ comments Sainath ruefully. To add insult to injury, most of the promises of ‘resettlement’ are never fulfilled.
However, even amidst such gloom, a ray or two of light is visible, says Sainath. Total Literacy Mission has ignited sparks of awareness and protest, here and there. The poor and backward women, working in the quarry mines in Pudukottai (Tamilnadu) have formed a society which runs these quarries on lease, thus driving away the old, corrupt contractors; another women’s organization at Pudukottai has begun a movement against illicit liquor. Members of the local forest committee at Latehar (now Jharkhand) have risen against illegal timber business; organized farmers at Nuapada (Orissa) have begun to grow Babul tress in the place of Nilagiri trees. In other words, protest movements have begun to rise amidst people from below; and that is a sign of hope—declares Sainath.
A poet-journalist, Mohan has done an excellent job as a translator; though he hasn’t taken any liberty with the original, he has adopted a style suitable for Kannada –precise and emotive. Kannada readers are indebted to both Sainath for his daring ‘counter journalism’ and Mohan for making it available for them.
C. N. Ramachandran
C. N. Ramachandran
Labels: Book Reviews