I'm not hungry, but I'll eat anyways

A few days back I had a very interesting conversation with a close friend about mining in Orissa and other Indian states, the inevitability of industrialization and people's perceptions about the same. You can actually have some good conversations in a restaurant waiting for food. Mind you, neither of us claim to be experts on the topic, we don't even have all the facts. All I present to you is the conversation as I remember it. Like I said, the conversation is not as much about facts as it is about perceptions and point of views. Let us call the friend as "X" and me as "M".

M: So what do you think of Anna Hazare and this morcha thingy?

X: Dude, this is India. People may start something but they are bound to lose the drive mid-way. Has happened, will happen. Nobody's got the time or energy to do dharna all day, unless it's DU/JNU radicals. {sorry to all DU/JNU friends here, I am just trying to produce the conversation in its entirety and authenticity}

M: That's interesting. If I extrapolate that, you are saying that agitation against illegal mining in Orissa and Chhattisgarh is bound to fizzle out as well, along with Naxalism.

X: Obviously. Anyways what is anyone - especially a bunch of malnourished rural poor - going to do against companies that can buy out their entire state, let alone some sorry-ass 2 acre land of theirs?

M: You mean there's absolutely no hope for these adivasis to be able to live in peace in their own homelands...

X: Come on, yaar. Be realistic. Leave aside rare earth and aluminium, most people don't understand their importance. {For the slightly less jobless friends of mine, these are the minerals that Vedanta is trying to extract from the adivasi lands.} If you're staying on top of a Uranium or gold heap, do you think anyone will let you do that? Obviously not. We're talking about a national resource here, which we need desperately to survive in the global market. If some tens of thousands of aboriginals have an issue with it, so be it.

M: See. I don't deny the inevitability of industrialization. All I am asking is, isn't there something wrong with the way our corporates are going about it? We all know that this illegal mining has become the moral and philosophical justification for Naxalism in these areas... In fact, there are people who blame mining for the rise of Naxalism.

X: Don't bullshit me. Firstly, Naxalism did not start as a reaction to corporate "atrocities". You know that it was a response by some very misguided people to governance failure in the 60s and 70s. And anyways, isn't it you who always said that any violent movement is just blood-lust trying to pass itself off as self-righteousness?

M: I do abhor violence in all forms. I still believe that fighting elections with such a strong voting base of adivasis is a better option for those who are genuinely interested in the development of the area and I also maintain that neither Kishenji nor any of his minions have any interest whatsoever in the well-being of adivasis. What I feel is wrong, though, is that through their actions, these companies are giving Naxalism an excuse. How can you expect someone to support you if you are hell-bent on kicking them out of their pushtaini homes?

X: You're taking the old line again. Those metals are far more important than any cultural-emotional sensitivity or ties that these people may have with their place, period.

M: No point debating on that subject, there's simply no answer to it. Also leave aside the environmental issue. But should not the companies at least rehabilitate the tribals before they start mining ops? I mean come on, itna toh banta hain...

X: So who's saying no to that?

M: Nobody's saying yes to that either. Nobody rehabilitated the tribals in case of the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada. Even here, no company has, as of yet, rehabilitated any tribal. And don't tell me it is the job of the government. If a company wants to mine in an area, it has to look after the people it displaces.

X: That is a point I accept. That has to be done. Anyways, let's order an ice-cream. I'm not hungry, but I wanna eat it anyways.

M: (With a smile) That seems to be the problem, doesn't it?


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