Most of us urban educated, professional folk believe that if we get good roads, skyscrapers and beautified cites with having to pay no bribes to get our work done, then that is development. Of course, the economics of it has to work out so industries/ SEZs have to be set up, GDP, exports, currency strength all have to be strong too. What we never see nor realise is the cost of this cosmetic development to the millions living on the margins of our urban conglomerates.
We are made to believe that it is perfectly justified that in order to set up industries, SEZs, build dams, highways and airports, mine coal and minerals, millions have to sacrifice their homes, livelihood, health, and lives. If they protest they are branded anti-national, violent, divisive forces supported by foreign money to destroy India, and then punished by media, law, and government policy…forced into silence or destroyed.
These 2014 Indian general elections they say was won on the development agenda. Whose development is the million dollar question? Development of the rich, the upper middle class, corporates/ companies/ industrial houses or holistic sustainable development where every Indian has the right to dignity, sustainable livelihood, health, education and fulfilling of their potential?
We like to believe that both these are the same and as the former happens the latter will automatically take place, which is a lie that we conveniently believe. The social trickledown theory has long been disproved but in popular mindset it still holds good that wealth and benefits will trickle down from the top. The reality is that to make the top 15 percent of the country meet its development agenda the life of the bottom 85 percent is being slowly sacrificed and they are even told it is for their own good. Reminds me of the Nazis telling the Jews being sent to the concentration camps, it was for their own good!
So what do you mean, should we go back to the Stone Age, you may ask. No, but if I ask you, will you sacrifice the lives of nine of your children (not that you will have even half that number!) to fulfil the unreasonable demands of the last one, would you? That is what we are doing. To fulfil the unreasonable demands of the bully brother – call him the market or the corporate- we have been torturing and starving our other children, taking away their needs to fulfil his greed.
One example is of forcing villagers and Adivasis out of their homes and lands and giving thousands of acres to multinationals for SEZs or industries. The government always claims they have given compensation but the reality is that in most cases this has only happened on paper.
Dear friends, do not blindly believe the propaganda of false development. Let us lift our voices and our influence to force the government and multi-nationals to be accountable. Let us not give them a free hand to destroy our less fortunate brothers and sisters in the name of making our lives better. In reality our lives get worse because we destroy the forests, the ecology, fill our lives with plastic and pollution and as a result struggle with stress, cancer, heart attack and what not. Lifestyle diseases they call them rightly! I challenge you again let us not agree to any development which takes away the rights and dignity of others. Development is what gives every person the right to dignity, sustainable livelihood, health, education and fulfilling of their potential. This is inclusive and sustainable development. Development which snatches these away from a host of people to help the parasitic market will one day take away yours too. Then when you children are abused or raped or kidnapped for human trafficking you will have no one to stand with you or for you.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
This is a version of what the author, a German, wrote about the silence of Christians during the initial years of the Nazi reign. And this can be true of us. Today if we are silent when they take away homes and lives of our people in the name of development, tomorrow when they come for you there will be none left to speak. Beware!
No development can be justified at the cost of human rights violations. The understanding of development has to be in the context of sustainable use of our natural resources and the communities who have for generations, preserved this. Once this is gone, we will not have non-toxic food to eat, fresh air to breathe and health to enjoy life. So, what use will our malls and highways be?
What can I do? Begin by reading more about the realities across the country – of people’s movements who are fighting for the survival of their communities using constitutional and legal means of protest, to demand their basic rights as guaranteed under the law. Don’t dismiss them as activists with no understanding of development. Local indigenous communities are doing their bit in demonstrating how they can live in harmony with nature. We have a lot to learn from them.
- Be aware– Get educated about what is happening beyond what is portrayed by popular media. Search the net for articles on ground reality and stories from the perspective of the downtrodden.
- Be involved– Use your influence and right as a citizen to ensure justice is done. For example visit www.videovolunteers.org website and support the campaigns you can relate to.
- Be willing to get out of your comfort zones and maybe visit at least one of the areas where people live in difficult situations so you and your children can experience and journey with few of the people you meet. So that they are not just numbers but real people whose lives you can share in.