Monday, April 17, 2006

Rob Peter to pay Paul

Today, (17/4/2006), there was a screening of the documentary "Words on Water" by Mr. Sanjay Kak. This is a documentary about the systematic deprivation of the livelihood of the 'voiceless' and the 'powerless' by a state machinery that is intent on filling its coffers and appeasing the rich and well do do and the influence peddlers.

I must admit that I missed a little bit of the show because of my commitments to an invigilation, a bath and dinner. But thank God for the concept of IST, I was able to view around 95% of the movie.

The opening shot (from the point I entered) was that of a water park in Gujarat, where people were frolicking and shrieking out of joy. There was a small interview segment with the promoter of the water park who said, "We use only fresh water in all these joy-rides/pools. We use recycled water for ..... (i forget the use that he mentioned)". But I do remember that the item that he mentioned was a very miniscule proportion of the total usage of water in that park. He concluded with the sentence, "Our aim is to sell the customer fresh water".

Awright buddy, your business is to sell the customers fresh water. But ever wondered how that fresh water comes to ur behemoth amusement park? Ever wondered about the hardships that people are put through so that you can have your "hangout place"?

Yes my dear friends, this is going to be yet another piece about the Narmada. Don't ask me why. Its just that I have fallen in love with the river, its name, its mythological history, the way it is different from the other rivers etc. So much so, that it has beaten the Kaveri as my number 1 favourite female name. Either the woman that I fall in love with or my daughter is going to have the name Narmada.

Leaving aside the romantic diversion and to cut a long story short, the film then moves along to narrate the story of the dispossesed and the systematic cheating campaign that has been unleashed by the Government to achieve its aims.

The post movie interaction with Mr.Kak was really interesting. Here is a man who can pasisonately argue about his movie, about the aims of the NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan), about the engineering challenges faced for dam construction, about the social costs involved. And mind you, hes not your typical "stop dams altogether" activist. He was here on a mission to make people think. More so in the case of the IITs where 85% of the population thinks that the world begins and ends with them. As he aptly put it towards the end to a question from me where I asked whether all this andolans would have any use and whether we would remain helpless forever, "Don't think everythings fucked up. And please don't feel that you are helpless. Even if you have a discussion in your mess about this, you would have contributed your mite."

Some interesting points that arose during the discussion:

1. Some students from Gujarat heaped accusations on the NBA saying that it was funded by the CIA with the sinister aim of stalling India's development. This point was parried by a former NBA activist who is currently a student here, who said that activists pool their savings and conduct all rallies with that money.

2. The repeated invocation of China's name and specifically the 3 Gorges project to which my response was: i) In China opposition is nipped in the bud literally. ii) The real costs of the 3 Gorges project are not shown on TV. One of the only sources that I can think about is an old BBC documentary which bravely showed the actual costs.

3. The same Gujarati students arguing that the Sardar Sarovar Dam will help prevent flooding in the Bhuj region. To which Mr.Kak said, "Even Europe has cases of river flooding specifically the Danube. Why don't they think of hydel projects"?

4. The revelation that Gujarat is not able to make use of even 30% of its share of water when the dam height is 110ft. Hence the question, "What the fuck is going to be achieved by raising the height to 121ft?"

5. The statement by Mr.Kak regarding Rahul Bose's recent support for the NBA. "I am happy to see an actor from Bombay ask questions which you engineers are supposed to ask. The specific question was about the percentage utility of the canal waters.

6. The filmmaker's assertion that democracy and voices of dissent are being suppressed in Gujju land. In his words, "i cannot show this film in Gujarat.Meri buri tarah pitayi hojayegi".

There was much more that was discussed, the full transcript of which will take up all my time. Do watch the movie if you get a chance.

I also would like to present one more example that Mr.Kak quoted in response to a point raised by a student. "Lets assume that the government of India decides to raze Shivalik hostel and build a multiplex here.Lets also say that you are promised an apartment in Gurgaon.You vacate in good faith and construction begins. But halfway through the government says, 'Look, there is no land available in Gurgaon, so I'll give you Rs.5 lacs'. This will be hard to take for an IIT grad like you. The displaced people in the Narmada valley are not IIT grads who can log onto and say 'Meri kheti nahin horahihe so I'll join Infosys'"...........

Concluding remarks:

1.Even if you care a damn for the oustees, do watch the movie for some sexy shots of the Narmada valley. It will make u fall in love with the river.

2.Mr.Kak also emphasised the non-violent nature of the NBA. He said,"Thank god we are a non-violent organisation.If not a Kalinga Nagar like situation would have arisen.The whole road from kalinga Nagar to paradip is blocked. Why? The maoists have set up camp there.There is no chance of such an occurence here because of the movement's non-violent nature."

3.Check out the graphics regarding the farcial nature of Mr.Narendra Modi's fast. (link via Amit Verma's IndiaUncut)

To quote Mr.Kak to conclude,

1."The battle for the Narmada may be unequal. On one side we have the governments, the rich industry captains and the WOrld Bank. On the other we have a few people, a bearded filmmaker.But the battle still is there to be fought".

2."Delhiites will know the meaning of displacement when the Commonwealth Games will come here in 2010. When 3 lakh people will be rendered homeless, and only 10% of them will be resttled, thats when the anger of the mob will be known".

Go Sanjay Kak.Go Medha Patkar.Go NBA.Win the battle for the Narmada Valley.The battle in blogosphere has some dedicated soldiers.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Narmada Again

Somehow have been mesmerised by this river. Should visit some areas through which it runs.
In the meantime read this article:
Requiem for a river

Friday, April 14, 2006

Himsa Paramodharma

Oasis once sang in Gas Panic

"That my family don't seem so familiar
And my enemies all know my name
And if you hear me tap on your window
Better get on yer knees and pray panic is on the way

My pulse pumps out a beat to the ghost dancer
My eyes are dead and my throat's like a black hole
And if there's a god would he give another chancer
An hour to sing for his soul"

This is precisely the way the UPA government is behaving as far as the NBA agitation, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims' agitation and Medha Patkar's fast are concerned. Contrast this with the peace talks with the NSCN (banned organisation in Nagaland), the PWG (in Andhra), the proposed talks with the ULFA through Indira Goswami and the much talked about and hyped Ramzan ceasefires with the people whose misison is to rip India apart, the Islamic militants operating in Kashmir.

The NBA agitation and the Bhopal Victims'agitation are excellent examples of peaceful struggles for just causes. I shall try to make a quick case in favour of the two:

The Narmada, from a mythological point of view is a holy river that arose from the perspiration of Lord Shiva. A legend relates that a severe drought gripped the earth. The gods and men appealed to Siva for succour. He began a severe penance along with Parvati on the Rksa mountain. The perspiration flowed from his body in such quantities that it became a river which cascaded down the slopes. It then assumed the form of a woman who propitiated Siva. He blessed her, saying that she would be holy and inexhaustible. Her sprightly movements and sparkling vivacity delighted Siva so much that he called her 'Narmada' or 'the one who gives pleasure' and 'Reva', 'the one who leaps'.

Geographically it is one of the 2 rivers of India (Tapti being the other) that flow from east to west. The demands of modern agriculture, indutry, power generation and flood relief mean that every major river has to be dammed. A notable exception to this is the Godavari which is not dammed because of major siltation problems. (Read "Taming the Krishna"). As the article in The Hindu says,

Nagarjunasagar has an assured life, performance-wise too. Its maximum storage continues unaffected at 408 tmcft for many years to come. This is because the Krishna is relatively free from siltation, a problem due to which projects on the Godavari have become dry. The latest example is Nizamsagar. Sriramsagar on the Godavari was designed to store 112 tmcft but because of siltation, its capacity has come down to 91tmcft. The Krishna flows through rocky terrain cutting through the canyons in granite while the Godavari collects huge quantities of black cotton soil en route.

India has a pretty tumultous history with regard to dam making. In the early days when issues like displacement, rehabilitation were all largely not considered, or even if they were, were brushed aside in the name of national development; a large number of dams like the Bhakra Nangal (u can find this on the Kangra-Chandigarh road), Hirakud, Damodar Valley, KRS, Mettur, Nagarjunasagar came up and revolutionised the face of Indian agriculture primarily.

The Narmada issue is related to the narmada valley project which includes the Sardar Sarovar dam, the Indira Sagar dam and a host of other dams. This is going to lead to a large scale displacement of people. A particular incident can be found in the coverage of the displacement of Harsud.

Many are confused with regard to the true nature of the problem. SOme writers present it as if the NBA is opposing the dam per se, which is not the case. The NBA is only saying this, "Yes, we oppose the project since it is environmentally harmful. But since you guys have decided to go ahead and there is no looking back, atleast perform ur fundamental duty of rehabilitating the affected people honourably and properly to suitable locations such that they can lead their lives with honour and less difficulty".

As is well documented by now, the governments of Gujarat, maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have carried out a massive cheating campaign by claiming to have rehabilitated people suitably when they have not done so. This is what the NBA is fighting against (though this is a dilution of their earlier stand of not allowing the dam. I say, theres nothing much that they could have done in an India that is hell bent on destroying itself environmentally). In fact one of the respected writers in the Hindu (I don't remember whether it is harish khare or P V indiresan; (I guess its the latter because he has the typical IITian atitude acquired after being director of IIT Madras of money==progress) and Harish Khare usually argues for the downtrodden, though from very idealistic viewpoints) said that the progress of a nation should not be held ransom to the future of about 10000 people.

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy is an example of laxity on the part of Union carbide followed by insensitivity on part of the Government of India in bringing the culprits to book. Added to this is the crass business attitude of Dow Chemicals with whom Union Carbide merged, which says that what UC did is none of its responsibilities.

The NBA and the gas victims have never resorted to violence to get their aims fulfilled. The max they have done is to organise dharnas, fasting, street plays which by no stretch of imagination can be called violent. But what have they got? Lathicharges, police barricades, midnight arrests, "Attempt to suicide" cases etc etc.

Contrast this with the treatment given to the Maoists, the Islamists and the NE Ultras. The government makes a attempt to crush them and when it finds that it is impotent to do it, it immediately invites them to the negotiating table and more often than not ends up accepting their demands.

Contrast this with the treatment given to the Maoists, the Islamists and the NE Ultras. The government makes a attempt to crush them and when it finds that it is impotent to do it, it immediately invites them to the negotiating table and more often than not ends up accepting their demands.

What Ernesto 'Che' Guevara said sometime ago to hs friend Alberto Granado, "A revolution without guns? You must be crazy" seems to be coming true. The guy with the gun is feted whereas the guy with the slogan and the olive leaf is mercilessly harrassed.

Remember UPA, it took the death of Potti Sriramulu by fasting for widespread violence and the birth of Andhra to happen. (read this excellent article on the Birth of Andhra by Ramachandra Guha).Don't let Medha Patkar die.

1. The song, 'Gas Panic' seems to have Bengali overtures. Specially the part when they howl at the end of "My eyes are dead and my throat's like a black hole" is similar to the howling seen in Bengali weddings.(see Parineeta or Subarnarekha for a live demo; or better still pray that ur bong friend gets married).

2. Well, today i.e 14th April is my new year called Vishu. I am supposed to see a decorated set up early in the morning, which in my case is gonna be my messy desk (i.e. if i do get up). I am also supposed to pay respects to my elders and get cash in return which in my case is gonna be wising no-one and getting no money.

3. But yeah, I am getting a farewell from the Tamil association here at IIT Delhi.

4. Simran, Vindhya and Kovai Sarala campaigned for the AIADMK. COnsidering that the DMK has been able to put up only Bhagyaraj against this troika, the glamour quotient goes to the AIADMK. What else do you expect? Iduppu Azhagi (The Beauty with a sexy waist) Simran stole the thunder from the demure Vindhya (heroine of Sangamam).

5. Would also like you, my dear reader to ask urself these questions an answer it in the comments section: (a) Do you believe in the popular rumour that all film actresses have been through the casting couch? If yes, WHY and if no, WHY NOT? (b) Would you marry a film actress (if u are male) or an actor (if you are female) considering that she/he is ur childhood friend? (just as simran has married her childhood friend).

Sunday, April 02, 2006

An eventful Narrs Tag (Fool's Day)

For many, the first of April is a day for playing practical jokes on their unsuspecting fellow-beings.Some of these jokes may be childish and harmless, while others require steely willpower to grin and bear.For others, it is just another day blown out of proportions by some 'jobless' fellas.For Amith Varma, its a day when he said he wouldn't blog (and kept the promise! I was expecting a 23:59:59 post saying 'April Fool! Sunday Monday go to school').

April 1st 2006 was also the day when I made my long overdue 'job-treat' visit to Gurgaon.Plans were made to leave in the morning, but a combination of a sudden flash of brilliance on the project side (which turned out to be a false lead) and the promise of a good lunch in the mess leading upto the union elections made me postpone the trip till the afternoon.I set out at 14:30 by the usual 'Bahari-Mudrika'(outer ring road) service of DTC to Dhaula Kuan where I boarded the 729 to Kapshera Border.All was well along the way. Subroto Park, Mahipalpur and Rangpuri Village sped by within a jiffy.All the while I was observing the shy pair of lovers ahead of me trying to furtively touch each others fingertips, caress each other's hair and lay their head on the other's suporting shoulder; all the while feeling scared that some 'moral policeman' would come and cane them a la Meerut affair.

It was at Samalka that there was a huge pile up of vehicles. As we got closer, I observed with great trepidation that the road to kapashera was closed and vehicles were being diverted towards Dwarka.All this while the conductor was muttering stuff like 'Yeh abhi aage nahin jaayegi!Wapas Dilli jaana hoga'."Oh God!Please let him take some other alternate route,but let him please drop me at the border" was my prayer.As expected,the good Lord also failed me and here I was stranded at Samalka crossing with a fair amount of distance to cover.

A phone call to my friend made sure that he would be there to pick me up.With nothing else to do,I turned around and saw a female from my German class also standing at the same spot.Decided to muster up my guts and more importantly, get over my dirty habit of becoming an introvert when confronted with a female and talk to her.You might have guessed that this day was soon going to be renamed as Deepak's day.Just as I took my first step towards her,along came her dad and whisked her away in the direction of Dwarka."Damn!Next time I promise that I'll be quick"

Oh!Why was the road closed in the first place you ask?Well my dear reader,Delhi is in turmoil now with a pitched battle being fought between the corrupt and the non-corrupt (to put it simply and avoid complications, because its a twisted affair. Someone started something, someone encouraged something, and someone is trying to end this something which someone has started and continued).There is something known as Delhi Masterplan which also contains details called Building Bylaws which define what constitutes a legitimate residence,commercial space,when can residential complexes also contain some business interests (Ex: a doc can have his practice in his residence itself).Supposedly the MCD has woken up to the fact now that some traders have violated these laws and are running businesses from their residences itself.Hence the courts have ordered illegal business establishments to be sealed and the water and power supply to those be disconnected.This disconnection drive has sparked off angry protests among traders who are being affected.I don't blame them too.For the simple reason that they are not the ones who broke the law in the first place.I doubt if they are aware of somehting known as a Delhi Masterplan.They have gone just like everyone else to get permits issued.Whats their mistake if some corrupt MCD official decides to make a quick buck?

In protest against this sealing,the traders had gone on a rampage hurling stones at vehicles, specially government buses.They had also smeared a hoarding of Mrs.Sheila Dikshit with cowdung and with nothing else to do,I kept staring at the geometric pattern of dung till my friend arrived.

We set out towards Dwarka in search of an alternate route.We were literally stunned to see the magnificient subcity of Dwarka.Awesome roads,well planned,and with the Metro line being extended,I would have personally preferred the commonwealth games to be held here rather than the eastern part of Delhi.Just in case,you need directions,Dwarka is in the south west of Delhi.All was fine till a couple of policemen reeking of corruption flagged us down."Behenchod!!Helmet nahin pehne hain!!",was my curse of anguish.Once we stopped,the 'senior' officer (of that checkpost) asked me,"Aur bhai!Helmet kahan hain?"

M-Me P-Police A-Ashish (friend)
M:Sir,actually main bus main aa raha tha aur Kapshera ke liye raasta band tha.Isliye mere paas helmet nahin hain.
P:Acha!!To tum karte kya ho?
M:Student hoon sir.
M:IIT main.
P:(suspecting that I am lying,and having a strong suspicion that I am some well to do techie)Bag main kya hain?
M:Sir,kuch kitaben aur kapdein.
P:Kholke dikhao
(Action performed,he was convinced that I was nothing more than a student.He then turned to my friend)
P:Aur aap kya hain?
A:Sir,main bhi student hoon.
P:Documents dikhao. (A showed him the documents)
P:Arre,yeh to original nahin hain.
A:Sir,lekin yeh attested copies hain sir.
P:yeh sab nahin chalega.200 rupaiye dedo abhi ya phir gaadi surrender karo aur kal court se collect karna.
A:Sir,dekhlijiye thoda please.
(The above sequence went on for a couple of minutes.Finally...)
P:Thik hai!100 rupaiy ka Bagpiper leke aao.Chalega.
A:Sir,utna nahin hain sir.Thoda dekhlijiye.
P:(looking at me.I had put on my 'innocent child' look which has mesmerised many teachers and kids in my lifetime) To, kya kiya jaye tumhare saath?
M:Sir,is baar maaph kijiye please.Emergency tha sir aur dar ke maare yeh galti hogayi.
P:Hmm,andar jao tum dono.
(We went in and all the while I was shivering with fear that we would be strip searched and the 3000 bucks that I had with me would be discovered.Slowly his hand sneaked into the checkpost,while he stayed outside.We placed a 50 rupees note in his palm expecting the worst.What happened was unbelievable)
P:Aao sir,paani piyo.
M & A:(wanting to get away ASAP)Nahin sir,pyaas nahin hai.
P:Theek hai,theek hai,aapko Palam Vihar jaana hai na?
A:Haan sir.
P:(pointing to the way we had come by)Woh railway track ke paas ek gully dikh raha hai na?usme seedha jao aur beech me aayega Bijwasan gaon.Wahan left lelo aur pohunch jaaoge Palam Vihar.
M & A:(aloud)Thank you sir(to ourselves)"Friggin Jesus!!Why did we miss that gully???"
(We set out to leave when we were called back)
P:Idhar aao.Haath milao...
(We shook hands and left chastened by my first and Ashish's 4th brush with Indian corruption)

The drive back was through the village of Bijwasan which was seeing a gradual battle between rusticism and slow urbanisation.On the way,Ashish Khare made a very apt statement "DK,such type of cops are good for criminals but are the devil incarnate for the simple man."