It seems Ashok Malik thinks tribals are too stupid to know their ground realities

Dongria Kondh Dance

It is a piece Ashok Malik wrote to explain Rahul Gandhi’s stupidity. It ends up improving my estimation of his intelligence. In a rather long winded post “Green means stop“, Ashok Malik shows his mastery over words and writing to an objective, but alas little respect for the intelligence of the Supreme Court or people. My summary of it is “But how can they just stop mining? Think of the money! Congress lost election there. Therefore proved greed is right. And oh. NGOs are evil.”

The title itself is fascinating. Green means stop. It would probably have been more relevant to the subject matter if it were “Green means stop mining” but the absurdity of implying green indicating a halt works with traffic signals, while green meaning stopping mining is plain common sense, even if you left out all policy, profit or manipulations and just went by before and after photos. I’d think the truncated title was serendipity, but credit must be where due. It is a well crafted title for the goal of the article.

Articles that comment on such issues are a dime a dozen and everyone has their opinion. My irritation with this article is the sneering patronizing, not only of the view it challenges, which is only to be expected – for example this article itself, but of the Supreme Court and the people themselves.

The most important paragraph of the piece (at least to my irritation) is:

The final roadblock came when the environment ministry and the government’s lawyers used a provision under a new forest law, drafted by UPA or more specifically NAC, to seek concurrence of the local community for land acquisition. In his wisdom, a Supreme Court judge agreed. In theory, the concurrence of the local community sounded like a noble idea. In practice what did it amount to?

“In his wisdom, a Supreme Court judge agreed.” Really? He means like agreed on a personal basis? And the passive aggressive “in his wisdom” before going on to call that wisdom wrong belongs to an Ekta Kapoor script. Perhaps Ashok Malik is not aware that when a Supreme Court judge gives a judgment, it is THE SUPREME COURT speaking in judgment after considered evaluation of the matter, not an individual opinion of agreement. This is not to say the Supreme Court cannot be wrong and my belief is that in a democracy people should be able to speak up when it is, but it cannot merely be shrugged off as individual opinion either that doesn’t require any explanation about flaws in the case.

What is more worrisome is the manner in which the article goes on to dismiss the local population as ignorant and disinformed into refusing a better life. I don’t know how much experience Ashok Malik has in engaging with rural/backward/remote populations, but in my experience, while it is easy to disinform them to aceept short term profit for longer term loss, it is nearly impossible to do the opposite. It is extremely difficult to get a person to let go of profit visible right now to remain at a disadvantage and that too suffering state brutality, pressure tactics and intimidation in order to do it.

People are not stupid. If a promise will give them a better home and livelihood and also get the state and private militias off their backs, in one fell swoop, they aren’t stupid to refuse it just because a few outsiders tell them to. Maybe you could convince a few with conspiracy theories that the advantage was not real. But to convince twelve gram sabhas? That would take a level of gullible that is only possible if you have never really interacted with any rural or tribal populations. Development isn’t a mere concept there with variable weight depending on who is arguing. Necessity forces knowledge.

Let us take a look at the knowledge. Odisha currently has the highest income of all the states from mining. So what is the prosperity mining has brought to Odisha that it should do more of the same? What is the prosperity mining has brought anywhere?

To write about economics for the country, economists go “Increase manufacturing! exporting raw materials and importing finished goods will keep India poor.” Yet when it comes to getting regions to accept mining, the argument follows the opposite logic and predicts prosperity to come, even if the state is the national leading state in the prescribed activity.

The progressive state’s hatred of anyone endorsing rights to anyone outside a tight circule of people with power is hardly a surprise – be it by caste, gender, economic class or social. Yet, it takes a special kind of ignorance to believe that people of the state earning highest revenues from mining need outsiders to explain to them what the consequences of mining are for their livelihoods, displacement and health. Because of course they live conceptual lives and have never seen the realities of mining like an elite theorist has.

And who is supposed to deliver this miracle and at what cost? Vedanta, which has polluted many places already.

I am no fan of NGOs or the cartel state. But I have a special contempt for those who dismiss rights, plight or concerns of Indians – any Indians, anywhere – for profit.

Note: This post does not cite anything issued by the Congress Party or NGOs. None of my posts on the subject do though some cite court judgments against bauxite mining in other countries.

(Visited 62 times, 1 visits today)

3 thoughts on “It seems Ashok Malik thinks tribals are too stupid to know their ground realities”

  1. Simply loved your article. Ashok Malik takes a lopsided view of the Vedanta fiasco. As a resident of western Odisha where mindless industrialization is rampant, the death of Vedanta project came as a wave of fresh air to our incarcerated lungs which are forced to inhale the toxic air of pollution. As ordinary residents of western Odisha, we would like to ensure that Kalahandi is not poor because of lack of Vedanta. So far, there has been huge influx of central and state funds for development of the region, but governmental apathy and corruption at every level of fund channelization ensure that it does not reach the target population.
    Also, if we take Mr. Malik’s view to its logical conclusion, every forested area of the country would be mined because industry always provides jobs for thousands and in that case prosperity would be raining on us, because there were no dearth of mining activities and industrialization till the presiding government was hit by a huge boulder of mining scam. Instead, our rivers are polluted, farmlands are getting toxic everyday and large swathes of forests are denuded.
    Farmers and forest dwellers don’t enrich the coffers of corrupt politicians and officials, industrialists do. Everyone knows how environmental clearances are given. We wonder, if a single industry in Odisha adheres to the basic environmental norms! Crores of rupees remain unpaid by the industries as water and electricity surcharge. Why no-one raises voice against that!
    As citizens of a free country, we have the right to clean air, clean water which are poo-poohed by the presiding governments and industries. We are not against industrialization, but are deeply concerned how everything else is cornered in its name. The writer rightly assumes that mining is never a picnic. We hope he will make that understood to the cunning industrialists who assume it to be so! It is better not to mention the publicity oriented CSR activities of the business houses.
    Rahul Gandhi and congress might be out of tune with india’s hopes and dreams. But if Mr. Malik in his wisdom likes to ignore the verdict of the gram-sabhas and local sentiments and squarely blames Mr. Gandhi for blocking Vedanta, for once we people of western Odisha are thankful to that man.
    Lastly, a senior journalist of Mr. Malik’s caliber should refrain from superficial analysis of such a grave issue. The Dongria Kondhs are scheduled as an endangered tribe. The Niyamgiri hills have religious sanctity for them not because of some blind faith, it is so because the hills have been a source of livelihood for the tribe for thousands of years. The adivasis know by instinct that once mining takes place, they will be bonded labourers in their own land, at the mercies of petty officials and contractors.
    The writer also lacks empathy when he compares the mining of a fragile ecosystem to the construction of a flyover. Destroying a bio-diversity rich ecology that supports many medicinal plants, rare herbs and rivers for the profit of an industrial house and thereby jeopardizing the livelihoods of several thousands is not akin to building a flyover by a house.
    By the way, would the writer give shelter to the tribesmen in his house, if the hills become treacherous and inhabitable due to mining and other activities as seen in Malin village Maharashtra and other man- made devastations?

  2. Hi,
    We appreciate your blog and the content available on it. We would like to upload articles written by you and/or the content published on your blog to Political Times India is an online platform for citizen journalists to voice their opinions on Indian Political matters. You will receive acknowledgements for your posts/articles. Links to the same will be appended to them as well. Kindly contact us if you are interested in publishing your content on our website. Thank You.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *