Friday, February 02, 2007

ACCIDENTAL AGITATOR: CEMETERIES AND COOKING CYLINDERS

In this post, I would like to talk about two incidents that happened to me this past week: they shed some light on the problems concerning the urban areas of Chhattisgarh. My participation in both cases was quite by accident.

The first one took place while my friend Mr. Abhay Goyal was driving me to my father’s political secretary, Mr. Shailesh Nitin Trivedi’s house (where I am currently in self-imposed exile, studying for my law exam due next month). Enroute, an angry crowd had blocked passage: one of them saw me sitting in the front seat and soon, they were shouting “Amit Jogi Zindabad’. I had no idea what this was about. In any case, I had no option but to get out of the car. The activist NSUI state president, Mr. Vikas Upadhyay, and the local corporator, Mr. Anand Kukreja, were also there. I asked them what the matter was.

I was led to an empty plot, which had been dug up at various places. Earth moving vehicles were parked nearby. This was the site for an upcoming Housing Board shopping plaza. At first glance, there seemed nothing wrong with this scene. Except that it is the local burial ground: it has been so for the past fifty years at least, as documented in the patwari’s register. I saw at least four prominent cemented tombs. The paucity of cemented tombs can be explained as being due to the poverty of those brought to be buried here. In fact, the sole marker of recent gravesites is a jute rope tied around bamboo poles circumnavigating a rectangular burial enclosure. On closer inspection, I saw a sari dangling out from the cross-section of one of the dug-up pits. The deceased lady had been buried only three months before. Skeletal remains could be seen jutting out from mounds of dug-up earth. The whole scene was ghastly.

The corporator informed me that the PWD Minister, Mr. Rajesh Munat, had come there, and had a bitter altercation with the crowds, telling them that they were ‘enemies of development’. I was asked to do an impromptu ‘bhoomi pujan’- the laying of the foundation stone ceremony- right then and there for the construction of a proper, enclosed graveyard, which I did. On the next day, I was happy to discover that the earth moving vehicles had gone, and the earth was put back into the dug-up pits. The dead were finally resting in peace.

The second incident occurred at Abhanpur while we were driving with Papa from Rajim to Charama. Once again, we were caught in a two kilometer-long chakka jam. Then I received a telephone call from one Mr. Sanjay Yadav, a youth leader from Abhanpur. What follows is a text of the conversation:

Sanjay: Bhaiya, we have caught a truck loaded with LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinders. They were being taken to Raipur, to be sold in the black market. It belongs to (the local minister) Ajay Chandrakar’s personal assistant (PA).

Me: What are you doing about it?

Sanjay: We have gheraoed the truck. The driver has run away. The police refuses to register an FIR. What shall we do?

Me: Have you done a chakka jam (stopped vehicular traffic) also?

Sanjay: Yes. How do you know?

Me: Because I am stuck in it!

Sanjay: Arey Wah! Where are you?

Nothing could have made Sanjay happier. Next thing I know, there were about fifty boys, all led by Sanjay, surrounding my vehicle. I decided to go with them. After having walked the two-kilometer stretch jam-packed with honking vehicles, I finally saw the truck. About five hundred people had surrounded it. The police was also there, huddled in one corner. The crowd was positively belligerent. Among them were members of the local press. I asked them for the facts. They told me that despite a severe shortage of cooking cylinders in Abhanpur, the local gas agency (run by the minister’s PA) was selling cylinders allotted to them in the Raipur black market. The TI (thanedar) came to see me. I asked him why he wasn’t writing the FIR, which in any case was simply a formality; after all, he was free to investigate the matter in whatever way he liked. The crowds continued to grow around me, as did the vitriolic of the anti-government sloganeering. Following is the conversation that took place between the TI and someone else who was at the other end of his walkie-talkie (mike):

TI: Sir, the crowd is becoming uncontrollable. Roger.

Other voice: Use force to clear chakka jam. Roger.

TI: But Sir, Amit Jogi has also come. Roger.

Other voice: Who? Roger.

TI: Amit Jogi. Roger.

(Static)

Other voice: Prepare a seizure report of the vehicle and register FIR. Clear chakka jam. Roger.

TI: Roger.


Subsequently, the seizure report was prepared in my presence, and two witnesses- Sanjay Yadav and the local Dainik Bhaskar correspondent- signed it. I left the spot, wondering what it was that I did to make the police change its mind about registering the FIR.

The lesson I learnt from becoming ‘an accidental agitator’ on not one but two occasions in the past week is this: Greed is the greatest enemy of Governance. It was greed- profit to be got from illegal hoarding and black marketing- that prevented handpicked allottees of fair-price shops in Kota from distributing essential food grains and cooking oil to their intended recipients: hapless, needy villagers; it was greed again that prompted the PWD minister to sanction the construction of a shopping plaza over a cemetery that happened to be on prime land; and it was greed that lured a minister’s PA to try to sell cooking cylinders in the black market. In each case, what emboldened them in their misadventures was not only the sense of impunity- that they could get away with it- that comes from being close to the powers-that-be but also the fact that their ‘victims’ were all poor, and therefore, expected to take things lying down, without uttering a word in protest. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

Almost suddenly, the People of Chhattisgarh are no longer silent. The sooner this government realizes this, the better for all of us.

AJ

3 comments (टिप्पणी):

amit tiwari said...

The people of Chhattisgarh may be mute but definitely not silent. "Kota" being the recent example where people voted against all odds despite of state govt's every possible tactics. They spoke through their vote. The silence now is a sign of shriek that may be heard on November 2008. I believe that this Govt is evil & that trying to improve is largely a waste of time. Better to kick them out it in the next round.
You express yourself freely & boldly. More important, people of state have started to identify you as one of their own. All these incidents where your accidental presence motivated the people made you move closer to their heart.
Sometime man chooses his destiny, rarely destiny chooses the man. You fall in second category. Bigger challenges are still in wait for you. Needless of any preparation, just be what you are & you, surely, would overcome them.
Regards

Anonymous said...

Dear Amit,
wishes. It was great reading your experiences in the 36garh digest. Just to agree with you: corruption is the enermy of governance.
Just to introduce me: I am Richard Mahapatra, a environmental reporter currently heading Centre for Science and Environment's natural resources research unit.
rgds
richard

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Amit on the use of your providential presence in crunch
situations for the benefit of the public. It is a sad truth in this country that
the intervention of leaders of mainstream parties succeeds in getting results
where the masses on their own would not succeed. Actually the opposition parties
ideally should work in this manner but they rarely do. In the cases you have
described there were some spirited workers of your party that created the
situation for you to intervene. But many more such scams are going on all over
the country and nobody is bothered.

Rahul Banerjee
74,Krishnodayanagar,Khandwa naka,Indore,Madhya Pradesh, India-452001
Cell no: +919425943023
webpage: http://rahulbanerjee.notlong.com

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Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
Raipur- 492001
Chhattisgarh, INDIA
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