Sardar Sarovar Dam
Certainly India has
Progressed. But most of its people havn't
Our leaders say that we must have
nuclear missiles to protect us from the
threat of China and Pakistan. But who will protect us from ourselves?
What kind of country is this? Who owns it? Who runs it? What's going on?
It's time to spill a few State Secrets. To puncture the myth about the inefficient,
bumbling, corrupt, but ultimately genial, essentially democratic, Indian State.
Carelessness cannot account for 50 million disappeared people. Nor can Karma. Let's not
delude ourselves. There is method here, precise, relentless and one hundred per cent
The Indian State is not a State that has failed. It is a State that has succeeded
impressively in what it set out to do. It has been ruthlessly efficient in the way it has
appropriated India's resources-its land, its water, its forests, its fish, its meat, its
eggs, its air-and redistributed it to a favoured few (in return, no doubt, for a few
favours). It is superbly accomplished in the art of protecting its cadres of paid-up
elite. Consummate in its methods of pulverising those who inconvenience its intentions.
But its finest feat of all is the way it achieves all this and emerges smelling nice. The
way it manages to keep its secrets, to contain information that vitally concerns the daily
lives of one billion people, in government files, accessible only to the keepers of the
flame-ministers, bureaucrats, state engineers, defence strategists. Of course we make it
easy for them, we, its beneficiaries. We take care not to dig too deep. We don't really
want to know the grisly details.
Thanks to us, Independence came (and went), elections come and go, but there has been no
shuffling of the deck. On the contrary, the old order has been consecrated, the rift
fortified. We, the Rulers, won't pause to look up from our heaving table. We don't seem to
know that the resources we're feasting on are finite and rapidly depleting. There's cash
in the bank, but soon there'll be nothing left to buy with it. The food's running out in
the kitchen. And the servants haven't eaten yet. Actually, the servants stopped eating a
long time ago.
India lives in her villages, we're told, in every other sanctimonious public speech.
That's bullshit. It's just another fig leaf from the government's bulging wardrobe. India
doesn't live in her villages. India dies in her villages. India gets kicked around in her
villages. India lives in her cities. India's villages live only to serve her cities. Her
villagers are her citizens' vassals and for that reason must be controlled and kept alive,
but only just.
This impression we have of an overstretched State, struggling to cope with the sheer
weight and scale of its problems, is a dangerous one. The fact is that it's creating the
problem. It's a giant poverty-producing machine, masterful in its methods of pitting the
poor against the very poor, of flinging crumbs to the wretched, so that they dissipate
their energies fighting each other, while peace (and advertising) reigns in the Master's
Until this process is recognised for what it is, until it is addressed and attacked,
elections-however fiercely they're contested-will continue to be mock battles that serve
only to further entrench unspeakable inequity. Democracy (our version of it) will continue
to be the benevolent mask behind which a pestilence flourishes unchallenged. On a scale
that will make old wars and past misfortunes look like controlled laboratory experiments.
Already 50 million people have been fed into the Development Mill and have emerged as
air-conditioners and popcorn and rayon suits-subsidised airconditioners and popcorn and
rayon suits (if we must have these nice things, and they are nice, at least we should be
made to pay for them).
There's a hole in the flag that needs