OPINION: Rage for the right causes

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - ​News of the desecration of Lenin’s statue in Tripura reverberated across the country. It was like a copycat act. Somebody demolished the statue of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the RSS ideologue, in West Bengal and in Tamil Nadu, the statue of Ramaswamy Periyar, the father of the Dravidian and anti-Hindi movement, was vandalised.

Clearly there is a rage that is gripping people across the country. This rage manifests itself in various ways. Mob behaviour in any case is irrational and spreads across populations. When this rage is channelised into political campaigning that rises to a mad crescendo then there is no longer any place for reason and sanity.

The erstwhile Left Front rule in Tripura as well as in West Bengal was marked by violence inflicted by Communist cadres on those who don’t tow their ideology. Those cadres didn’t allow for a dissenting space. For nearly twenty years, those who did not subscribe to the Leftist-Socialist ideology in Tripura were pushed to the margins — literally into a zone of silence. It was a case of “take it and lump it”. This sort of situation can become dangerous because it can turn ordinary people into vengeful lumpens that can hit back at the first opportunity and they have done so in Tripura. Some have done so in West Bengal and others in Tamil Nadu. The message they want to send is that every dog has his day.

The Congress party in that state is moribund and without leadership. Hence the alternative political space was captured by the BJP on two counts — first, with the promise of development (vikas) and second, with the promise of change (Chalo Paltai). Both slogans reverberated across Tripura because the Left Front Government has kept large sections of the people there at subsistence level.

While the claim to fame of Manik Sarkar is that he is the poorest chief minister in the country, his people don’t want to make a virtue of poverty. The youth are looking for employment, which does not seem to be on the agenda of the government. By keeping out investments because of the compulsions of ideology, Sarkar deprived countless youngsters of employment opportunities. The current marketplace is such that certain skill sets are required in order to join the bandwagon. With the current education system going at a tangent to what the market demands, it is inevitable that unemployment would grow by leaps and bounds.

This time around the tribal people of Tripura too were far more assertive. The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura leader NC Debbarma staged several protests to demand a separate state. Debbarma and his associates even went to Delhi and parked themselves there, demanding to meet Union home minister Rajnath Singh. The desperation of the tribals of Tripura is understandable. They have been pushed to the margins and their plight is visible. It is not easy to see your land taken away by hordes of migrants and the indigenous settlers are reduced to a miserable minority. The tribes of Tripura are conscious of the fact that their forests are encroached upon, their resources exploited by the Bengali majority and that illegal migration from across the border continues unabated.

Their fears are genuine and needed to be addressed but Sarkar failed to do that because he believed that every citizen of Tripura has equal rights and that tribals cannot be treated distinctly. It is this grouse that the BJP capitalised on. The BJP did not promise the IPFT a separate state but there must have been a tacit understanding that the District Councils would be further strengthened and provided adequate resources for better development of the tribal population, their culture, language, monuments and history. This sounds like a fair deal because the statehood demand is utopian.

But coming back to the public rage, it must be said that when there is too huge a gap between aspiration and fulfillment, backlash is expected. This country speaks of a demographic dividend but does not seem to have a template for engaging this huge population in productive activities.

Criticism against the Modi government for not creating enough jobs is mounting. But the same is the case with America or any other country of Europe. And with Artificial Intelligence and other non-human kind of employments being touted as the roadmap for the future, one wonders what this will lead to in a situation where we still need to create labour jobs for our youth.

The problem with the private sector is that it looks for profits above all else. Hence it is futile to think of labour-intensive business models in the private sector. The public sector has limits as to how many people it can employ beyond which it will become non-viable. So we are really walking a tight rope as a country.

The NDA Government has been talking of entrepreneurship programmes such as Start Up India et al. The point is that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. By definition an entrepreneur is one who takes risks. A person who is a first generation entrepreneur relying on bank finance cannot afford to fail. But how does he/she ensure that the start-up will work?

We had a case of a young woman from Nagaland last year who seemed to be doing pretty well with her start-up but ran into a roadblock as far as finances were concerned and ended up taking her own life. Such case studies are abundant in this country. Those who are entrepreneurs are usually young people with families that can back them up financially. Not many of our youth fall in that category.

The youth today are impatient. If they take up entrepreneurship, they will require some hand-holding. They would need financial assistance from banks and a lot of business counselling. Are banks willing to take the risk to fund first generation entrepreneurs? Are there enough institutions for skilling our youth on entrepreneurship and the mental resilience needed to be an entrepreneur. And what about finding the market? An entrepreneur has to look at the entire value chain.

Normally banks tend to fund people in known businesses. It’s a different matter that the public sector banks have sunk in thousands of crores to fly-by-night operators like the Vijay Mallyas and Nirav Modis of this world. In fact the banking system itself needs to be reformatted to do the work it was envisaged to in the first place.

There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure on the NDA Government to make good on its promises in the last Lok Sabha election. But things don’t look too good on the ground as there was huge backlog that the NDA government inherited from its predecessor. It’s difficult to correct a governance system that has been self – serving for 70 years.

It’s also a predicament to tone up the financial systems in this country, which seems to favour defaulters. We are not an easy country to govern by any yardstick. India is a composition of disparate forces each with their own agenda. Our governance system from the very beginning ignored the largest stakeholders — the public. Bu without public engagement how can there be governance? Indeed the people are the sine qua non of governance.

In this confused scenario, political parties have been winning elections by promising the electorate certain deliverables. Sometimes they succeed; many times they don’t and are ousted out. We are a country whose citizenry is very political but do not engage sufficiently with their respective governments, instead preferring to watch from the sidelines.

And then when they experience failure of governance, that sentiment gets transferred into rage. They rage against statues and beat up individuals. This will not do. It’s time to rage for the right causes.

(The writer is Editor of the Shillong Times and can be contacted at patricia.mukhim@gmail.com)


  • Rage for the right causes


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