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SIGNS OF THE TIMES: Modi nightmare in Gujarat and Mridula Sarabhai’s dream for Kashmir
By Humra Quraishi
Correct me if I am wrong but even the angrez didn’t indulge in those multiple divide and rule strategies as is being done in today’s India, by today’s governance. No rebellion, big or small, is allowed to take place, as counters are thrown in as hurdles. No heated discussions take off as Rakhi Sawants are dragged in, as distracting traps of all hues and forms and sizes. No headways are made as skeletons keep stumbling out …

One is left rattled. Not sure who is supporting whom and why, together with that why not! But one aspect seems rather clear and out there in the open – there seems some sort of a rather systematic build up to get Narendra Modi centre stage, right here, at the Centre. Maybe, a foreign hand is also lending a helping hand for this to happen! After all, Modi has begun to get welcoming nods from several foreign quarters. Mind you, no quarter functions without those big and bigger interests in the foreplay No worries of those intrusive aftermaths.

If it does happen - Modi brought at the centre - then you can well imagine what will happen to the sane and sound of this republic. And also what will happen to those who are under those illusions of those developmental related facts and figures getting so very systematically projected. As that electioneering mood picks up in Gujarat, some hard facts spill out. Facts and figures related Modi’s regime. To quote Ahmedabad based Jesuit, Father Cedric Prakash, who has taken the trouble of unearthing these and placing them out in the public domain, “Modi’s talks on ‘coat of development’ deserves scrutiny. The ruling party is burdening the State Exchequer with liability of crores of rupees every day. Even through the R.T.I. route, it is difficult to arrive at the total of wasteful expenditure. The State’s debt as on 31st August 2011 was Rs. 1,13,939 crores (Rupees One Lac Thirteen Thousand and Nine Hundred Ninety Nine Crores). As per the Report of the Directorate of Economics and Statistics for the year 2011, per capita income of Gujarat is Rs. 63,961, which ranks at No. 9 among the 32 States of the country. The average poverty alleviation rate for the country as a whole is 1.5 % per year where as it is 1.7 % in case of Gujarat. The percentage of poor people in the State is 23 which, speaks volumes about Gujarat Development model …Here some snap-shots of ‘Gujarat Development’. Only 43 % of households get water at their door steps in rural areas. Only 16.7 % villagers get clean water. Remaining 83 percent are left out, 20 % of the population have to walk long distances to fetch water. In the villages, 67 % families do not have toilet facilities. In 44 % of the villages, there is increased incidence of jaundice disease. 30 % of villagers are faced with malarial fever in epidemic proportion. 25% villages are affected by kidney stones. 44.6% of the children below the age of 5 years are suffering from anemia. Gujarat ranks at No. 14 as regards infant mortality rate is concerned and ranks at No. 13 as far as children up to the age of 5 years are concerned. In short after tall talks of ‘development’, Gujarat has been able to achieve 48 % target as far as Human Development Indices are concerned. Many other States are far ahead of Gujarat in HDI measures.”

Father Cedric also quotes the CAG Report on Gujarat for 2011 -“ In this report, there are many startling details about corruption, mal-administration, clumsy and faulty administration, improper and imprudent misuse of Government funds etc. This report was tabled in the Assembly only at the last moment and that too after intervention of H.E. the Governor. No scope was left at all for debating the report in the State assembly. However this report of the CAG gives true and factual position : Funds allocated for education could not be utilized. Funds earmarked for education of the Dalits were not fully spent continuously for over three years. Government purchased gas at higher prices and then sold to Adani and Essar at cheaper prices. Gujarat State Petroleum Company Ltd. (GSPCL) in collaboration with Canada’s Global Resources Company ventured into business of drilling petroleum from Krishna - Godavari basin. In this partnership, Canadian Company had no share in the losses of GSPCL. Drilling in K-G Basin was a failure. Yet, the C.M. created a Media hype by riding a helicopter to the drilling rig. Though the entire effort incurred huge loss, the Canadian Company was given a ‘share in profit’, which never existed. Thus, poor tax-payer of the State was looted and a foreign company was handed over a huge bounty. It is believed that in this entire process, scam of over Rs. 5,000 crore had taken place. The Government, which boasts of being No. 1, has shown total lack of finance management. It has invested its own resources which fetch only 0.25 per cent interest per annum while it borrows at an annual rate of 7.69 per cent. As reported by the C.A.G. irregularities of Rs. 1100 crores are believed to have taken place in Sujalam Sufalam schemes. State’s revenue loss during the year 2008-09 was of Rs. 66 crores but the same increased to Rs. 6,966 crores during the year 2009-10. State’s revenue deficit in the year 2008-09 was Rs. 10,438 crores which rose to Rs. 15,074 crores in the year 2010-11. Do not these increases in losses point to incompetence on the part of the administration which boasts of being No. 1 in governance ? In the State’s public sector, loss of Rs. 4,216.53 crores was suffered and futile investment of Rs. 300.98 crores was made. In the CAG’s internal report, 25 pages have been devoted towards pollution in the State. Disastrous picture of pollution has been depicted making use of color slides and graphs. As many as 13 Effluent Treatment Plants (Central Effluent Treatment Plants) are not functioning as per the norms of the Pollution Control Board because of which natural sources of water have become polluted or contaminated. (The study reveals that this situation is prevailing for the last 10 years.) By the end of the year 2000, there were 3,000 large scale industrial units. At the end of the year 2010, the number has increased to 9,000. Substantial amounts of the Govt. money is spent for setting up the CETP and in spite of not getting desired outcome, no care or caution is exercised in adding new and more industries. This type of industrialization will cause huge damage to the environment about which the Government turns a Nelson’s eye.”


Whilst going through my earlier done interviews with Mallika Sarabhai, I thought it is important that I put forth this particular interview with her …this was done around the summer of 2010. And as the questions are somewhat connected, one leading to the next, so I’m using the entire interview. Here it goes -

Q1 -You come from a family with strong women personalities - your mother Mrinalini, your paternal aunt Mridula Sarabhai and your maternal aunt Capt Lakshmi Sehgal. Have these strong personalities left an impact on you and on the general outlook of the rest of the members of the family ?

Ans 1 - I can't answer for the others (none of the other Sarabhai women or men are activists, several women cousins on my mother's side are) but it certainly left a deep desire in me, and a burning need to do something for others who were under-privileged or ill treated in any way

Q2 - Do you feel strong women leave an imprint on the very fabric of society? Do such strong willed women suffer on the personal front ? Do you feel such women clash too often with their children and spouse /companion ?

Ans 2 - I have been fortunate in my family's support, though my stand against the Modi government lost me a lot of faint hearted friends! Yes of course they leave an impression in society, even if they are not famous, within their immediate circle. And yes, many have to suffer the consequences of these decisions or stands. Many choose not to have a family. Many face ostracism.

Q3 - How would you describe yourself ? Also, you are known to be blunt and forthright cum brutally frank and with that have you gone through some rough patches etc ?

Ans 3 - Do I need to describe myself? …Yes my bluntness and frankness have got me into a lot of hot water, but I have no time for pussyfooting. I loathe obfuscation. And am not at all diplomatic. I suffer fools badly and detest society games - also what is referred to as "networking". I can't do it, and in today's society pay a heavy price for that. I believe in honesty and transparency and there is little currency of either in today's world. I believe in basic values of fairness and justice, honesty and humaneness and find it difficult and unforgivable when these are breached - which they are, today by most everyone all the time.

Q 4 - Your paternal aunt Mridula Sarabhai had, way back in the 1950s, taken on the then establishment, on the very issue of the Sheikh Abdullah's detention cum curtailment of his democratic rights. She had protested to such an extent that she was put under house arrest for 14 years in New Delhi. Comment on her crusade and that too for a Kashmiri leader -Sheikh Abdullah? Why did she get so taken up by Abdullah's detention? Did her house arrest strain relations between the Sarabhais and Pt. Nehru?

Ans 4 - I was far too young then to have understood her stand. Nor did I ever get a chance to discuss this with her. So I can't really answer those questions. And Papa and Amma remained very close to Indiraji so I don't know if relations with Panditji were strained. I don't think so.

Q5 - You were then a child but what recollections do you have of those days ?

Ans 5 - Her house always being full of Kashmiris. Of her always rushing around and in parlays with people. Her amazing gentleness just behind the gruff exterior. Of my family pointing to me and saying, "She will be the next Boss" as this is what she was called. Of her cooling herself in the Delhi heat by keeping a bag of ice on her head!

Q6 - Suppose your aunt Mridula Sarabhai was alive - how do you think she would have dealt with this present Kashmir crisis ?

Ans 6 - She would have been heart broken. How she would have dealt with it, I don't know.

Q7 - You travel to the Valley and have even performed there with your group. Comment on the present crisis in the Valley. And suppose you were a politician from that particular state (J&K) how would you have dealt with the crisis ?

Ans 7 - The issue is so complex and so much ill will exists that it is difficult to say. It is awful to watch what is happening there and in the North East. I have not studied the issues intensely enough to understand all that is at play and I too get my news from the papers which are hardly trustworthy any more.

Q8 - You fought the last election against a Hindutva /BJP bigwig. Comment

Ans 8 I fought it against Lal Krishna Advani from my own constituency of Gandhinagar. I hold him responsible for the new Hindu Muslim divide in India and for the politics of hate. I also hold him responsible for corrupting the very idea of Hinduism and the Sanatan dharma - inclusiveness, acceptance, tolerance. So if I was plunging into politics it was him that I wanted to challenge. And my campaign certainly made him and his family run around here, more than he has in the twenty years of representing this constituency. The whole family camped here for days, even having to hire a house!

Q9 - You lost in those elections... comment on your future in politics?

Ans 9 - I have continued working with the people. The electoral system is skewed towards only party politics and is full of loopholes. Threats and money are what elections are about. I am not sure whether an individual can ever stand a serious chance especially here in Gujarat. But I do want to win and prove what an honest politician, deeply committed to governance, transparency and getting things done by empowering people, can do. SO, I am not sure which route to take.

Q10 - Do you believe that women politicians do make a difference, or what is actually important /crucial in a healthy democracy are leaders /politicians who are honest and dedicated.

Ans 10 - Women will make a difference if there are enough of us and we don't have to become even more corrupt than the men, to succeed. That is why I believe that a time bound reservation is necessary.

Q11 - Tell us about your bonding with your mother and what role she plays in your very life and outlook etc...

Ans 11 - I used to be called her calf, as I was always hanging on to her pallu. She is pivotal in my life. She is my creative inspiration and her generosity of spirit and compassion are something I always try and emulate.

*(Humra Quraishi is a freelance columnist based in Delhi and is currently a visiting Professor in the Academy of Third World Studies in Jamia Milia University).
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News Updated at : Thursday, November 15, 2012
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