Monday, March 15, 2010

NROs again

I had written about a certain set of NROs earlier at

Then recently a threat started on a listserve regarding operation greenhunt. One certain Mr. Manoj Padhi, whose heart apparently beats for Orissa and Oriyas had the following words to say about Orissa's tribals

""The answer to all these tribals is - " (tax) Money is not hanging in trees of tribal regions" so that the Government can pluck them and provide them all kinds of comfort."

Tribals have got two options.

· Maintain status quo and worship their god Niyamraja

· flow with science & technology wind and "earn" development with their own income/ sales tax money, instead of looking at Government, if they don't agree with Government's version of development (like mining Niyamagiri Hill)"

The brilliance of this comment illustrates the gap that exists between NROs who stay in USA, drive their SUVs and dip in their swimming pools in backyards and the tribal Oriya whose daily income, if any, is half a dollar. It also shows the utter alienations and disconnect between such NROs and common people of Orissa. Of course, part of it is that these NROs have been part of Orissa’s elite, used to a feudal-castebased system, where tribals and dalits are seen less than human – and therefore it is easy for them to graduate to the arrogance of a right-wing Americanism. Lets see what Mr. Padhi has to add to the above words of wisdom.

He goes on:

Many of us buying a home stead land in BBSR, Delhi, Gurgaon, etc.

Why ?

Why we don't buy land in a tribal area, where we can buy acres of land with in our budget?

For the same reason- why would any Businessman invest in tribal areas instead of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida ? Just to provide employment to tribals ? This is bad economics. Since you are against displacement of tribals, I guess, your vision of tribal development is - "Agriculture Only" === status quo

This was one of my choices. Tribals, if they don't want to be displaced, they have to live like that forever without expecting a share from the taxes of developed areas like BBSR, Berhampur or Rourkela.

Here is an analogy for Government vs Home owner Association. I live in a community, where the home owner association collects $300 per annum as HOA FEE. There are 1000 homes in the community and whatever they collect, would be spent for our community development such as swimming pool, club house, play areas, parks, walking trails.

There are other communities, with lesser homes - they collect $500 per annum for the same service. There are communities without swimming pools and they collect lesser amount. The point is - proportional service is offered by home owner associations, based on their income/fee collection.

Now apply this to tribals. They used to live in jungle by cutting woods, hunting animals - those are now illegal. Even Government has taken over "Kendu leaf" based income, which is used for "Beedi".

Now what's remaining for them ? Agriculture.

After independent, tribals were one of the biggest land losers as per the post-independence revenue records. Government is trying to correct the wrong by distributing them land pattas. So, without (sic!) negligible income (tax collection) from their region, what kind of Vision is possible ? They have to be parasites - i.e. depend on a share of tax income of developed cities/districts. Does center is able to distribute funds proportionately to states. No. Mamta Banarjee is taking 80% projects to Bengal. Lalu did the same for Bihar. Karunanidhi is getting more projects than Odisha.

And, without their negligible tax base, why would tribals expect that, the Government will channel others’ tax money to their area only ? Hence, any Vision without local tax income wouldn't be feasible and will die theoretical death. It sounds good to listen but won't be possible. Activists hate companies but NRGEA money is the result of 35% tax provided by corporate houses.

So, in short, in the absence of local tax money (please recall - lower the HOA fee, no swimming pool), there will be promises only from the Government. No quality of services.

But, if Vedanta comes and starts mining - local tax money will be generated and spent locally by their Municipality or corporation etc. Now, if they don't want to destroy the environment and wish to live like Amazon tribes, they are very much welcome. I will fully support their desire to live in the green belt provided, they don't want any thing from the Government's exchequer because they are not contributing any thing substantially to the Government's treasury.

So, let us drive Vedanta out and start a conditional signature campaign - "Mr. CM, leave us in our state and we want to live as Amazon tribe with the blessings of Mountain God Niyam Raja and we don't expect any thing from you - we are happy".

I love the arrogance of this man- comparing the State of Orissa to his Housing Association in some suburban city of USofA- the country of drone wars and long distance asssinations. I suppose for him the Maoists are “Taliban” with the beards shaved off, to be killed without any due process of law. Unfortunately for him – they still remain Indian citizens- though that doesn’t stop the government from killing them.

For him common people of Orissa, including tribals are parasites, existing on taxes of middle class and the corporate houses. Does he know by what means the Government of India (sorry the imperial british) obtained “rights” over the mineral and forest resources of tribal India? Does he know about the wars of resistance fought by the tribal communities – whose lands and forests have been sought to be taken away? Does he know about enclosures of commons- not only in India’s hinterland but also in the Americas.

I have a question to ask the NROs- is Mr. Padhi and his ideas representative of standard NRO thinking? Are all of you so out of touch with the reality of Orissa- or is this person an aberration, and outlier, a statistical anamoly. Can anyone respond to this?

I am also copying a response to stuff like this which I posted on the said listserve. The post was in support of Prashant Patanaik, the veteran journalist from Orissa, who pointed out that people who were screaming hoarse about the employment corporate houses would provide are silent about the nearly one lakh vacant posts in government jobs.

This was my post

the self-same intellectuals will than add - but government doesn't have the resources to employ one lakh people. Then you could point out that we are selling off our best quality iron ore, manganeses and bauxite for peanuts so that the miners and industrial houses can be subsidised - and that literally hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees have been siphoned off from the collective wealth of Orissa by the same companies and individuals who are being supported by the diaspora. You could also point out that inspite of the manyfold increase in mining output, the employment in mining sector has fallen over the years. And that the employment that these new industries would bring in is miniscule compared to the people they are displacing- and that this employment will go to the well educated people, mostly non-Oriyas. We could tell them that in the current situation, Orissa is being looted, legally and illegally, and that its only these movements who are trying to do something about it- and that almost everybody else with power and voice has sold out to outsiders.

In the larger picture, we could point out that zones of intense natural resource extraction have never benefitted from the same- maybe the example of Appalachia mountaintop mining or iron ore mines in Upper Peninsula of Michigan will help to convince Mr. Padhi. We could point out that such zones have almost always led to undemocratic governments and that in literature this affliction is called "resource curse" - countries like South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Bolivia, Peru, Iraq.”

We could point out the slums of Jamshedpur and Rourkela, where you can find the original "tribal" inhabitants of these areas- living in misery. We could point out that Rourkela, Jamshedpur, Koraput are outposts of internal colonisation.

We could claim that those who speak against Green Hunt and have approached the SC against Salwa Judum are not supporting Maoists - that in fact the naxalites, when they come to power (an impossibility), would be as vicious and cruel as the current dispensation, with their belief in a static ideology. That probably the first people that the armed revolution will target are the same "intellectuals" that one of the poster called "agents of China" for speaking out for the human and democratic rights of the poor.

We could point out that the process of creative destruction of capitalism implies that surplus populations sitting on resources needed by the powerful will be extinguished - and that development no longer means the development of everyone in India and Orissa- but the development of a vocal, powerful minority of Indians. That this planet doesn't have the resources to support a billion Indians to live in the same lifestyle that Mr. Padhi enjoys - and that his swimming pools and manicured lawns are "unprecedented" in human history - and that these are sustained by resource exploitation on a totally unsustainable and extractive basis. That the modern systems of wealth have been built on the destroyed lives of hundreds of people and unprecendented resource grabbing; and that what we see in Orissa is the continuation of the same processes. We can also point out that we are fast running out of resources that fuel his consumption life style.We may point out that the same processes which sustain his swimming pool and american lifestyle are also destroying our livelihood support systems, including our atmosphere.

However, all these would fall on deaf ears of those in the diaspora who are the multiple beneficiaries of the which grinds our people to dust. They were privileged when they were in Orissa- fattened by the cheap labor and cheap resources of their fellow citizens. And then they are privileged by the same processes of global circulations and extractions which allows them to maintain their swimming pools and SUVs in the US of A. They have transitioned smoothly from the privileges of feudal-caste society of Orissa to the capitalist societies of the west.

And then they have the gumption to advise people and their movements here- at the receiving end of all these processes - to support the same anti-democratic and anti-people entities to rape and ravage our land, treating our people as so much filth to be kicked out from their lands and livelihoods.As Satyasagar pointed out, Indian elite, unlike the western elite, doesn't consider the three fourth population of our country as human- and therefore denies their basic human rights. How can the diaspora (though with many exceptions), which has spawned from the same elite, be expected to think of the majority of Oriyas, including tribals, as human beings having certain basic rights. They dream of a glorious, utopian Orissa- yet this dream is an upper class/caste/diasporic nightmare/dream, where the poor don't exist- not because they have been "uplifted", but because they have been decimated or made invisible.

Let us stop paying attention to them - those who dream of Vedanta Universities and the shining metro of BBSR, built on the bleached lives, destroyed livelihoods and extracted labor of our people. The struggles of people for their rights and justice is too important to waste time with these long distance advisors.”


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