By Ishan Kukreti
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his sound thinking and practicality, yesterday addressed a public gathering at Dantewada, hot bed of Naxalism in India. However the advise he gave to the tribals there was quite unreasonable, if not downright suicidal.
Making an emotional appeal to the tribals through their children, Modi said that shoulders of youth should bear ploughs, not gun.
A sound advice?
The intention of the honorable Prime Minister was to encourage tribals on the road to empowerment and development. Though, a question that invariably jumps to mind at this proposition is, why not a laptop, a pen or a book or anything that is at least viable to carry one’s life forward? Something that’d bring awareness and empowerment to the community which has remained on the fringes of the dialogue about development and growth in the nation.
Of agriculture, rebellion and suicides
Anybody who is a farmer or is aware of the current condition of India’s agrarian economy would have gawked at the advise. In the present times the gun and the plough have the same outcome, death, only difference being the nature of it.
In fact, data from National Crime Records Bureau and South Asia Terrorism Portal show that the death toll due to Naxal violence in India from 2008 to 2012 was 1419 while the number of farmer suicides during the same time was an incredulous 89,653.
Modi went as far as promising an investment of Rs. 24,000 crore in the region as a result of the MoUs signed in the Railways and steel sectors.
However, the PM failed to warn the tribals of Dantewada that this very investment and agriculture would mean nothing to the government if it decides to acquire the land to follow the same path of ‘development’, but for someone else. Tribals, though just 8% of the total population of India, account for more than 40% of the total development related displacement, according to a Planning Commission report.
The Land Acquisition ( Amendment) Bill, which the Modi government is so desperate to bring into action gives even more power to the state in pursuing its development agenda, disregarding any voice of dissent. Chhattisgarh being a mineral rich area has already seen development up close and personal not a happy, chirpy kind, but a displacing, uprooting kind.
Moreover, Modi didn’t tell the innocent tribals about the seasonal nature of agriculture, risks of unseasonal rains, crop failures and the reduction in subsidies including rural employment schemes like MGNREGA, by the government.
Narendra Modi, the powerhouse of economics
Narendra Modi’s sense of practicality and sound economic thinking has won him respect and honor in all the 16 countries he has visited in the last one year. Everyone has nothing but praises for the great Indian leader from Japan to the US. Barack Obama has called him ‘ reformer-in-chief’ while the prestigious Time magazine has named Modi amongst top 100 influential leaders of the world.
Though, despite all these credentials, Modi’s suggestion of a road with an inevitable dead end in the name of ‘path to development’ says a lot about the lack or presence of genuine concern.
It is downright ironic that while the present state attitude towards agriculture is nothing but apathetic, the head of the state is egging people to take up a non-viable occupation.