There is a saying – "promises are meant to be broken", and the MSEZ, this time, has lived upto its promise of breaking a promise. Nearly 183 students, who had completed a training conducted by MSEZ, were eagerly waiting for a well-paid job at the company to which they had sacrificed their fertile lands and ancestral property. However, the waiting time has been too long, and the MSEZ’s ‘bug off’ type of response has compelled the job seeking candidates to stage a dharna at the gates of the district administration office. The naivety of the local youths has been very well taken advantage of by the so called "unique combination of Central and State government entities along with industry body and financial institutions" (as the MSEZ introduces itself in its website).
The dreams of the local youths are now broken to pieces. I am writing this article not as a sympathizer of the situation of these local youths; instead, for the time being, I assume or imagine that I am one of them, who have committed an irrational act of blindly accepting a promise. This is not sympathy; it is empathy, which is to vicariously experience others’ pain.
Therefore, these are the lessons that I would have learnt out of the bitter experience of betrayal. There are three primary truths/considerations one needs to be aware of before innocently accepting promises. Firstly, a corporate or an individual has the tendency to change for its or one’s own convenience. When there is a change for convenience, the promise made is gone for a toss. The Indian elite, which plays the role of the protector of MSEZ is very well trained to defend and rationalize such changes and broken promises. Secondly, reality check is a must before agreeing for promises. In this case, it was very important to study the patterns of employment by the earlier companies such as MRPL. It was crucial to analyze whether a good number of land sacrificers were employed before and also the type of positions held. Thirdly, to question whether one’s action of blindly sacrificing/accepting a promise would lead to the disharmony of the other, who matters more than the one to whom the sacrifice is made for. Might be that my neighbour was not willing to give her/his land and was compelled to do so because I did not cooperate with the neighbour’s protest. Apart from this, if I was a land sacrificer, I should also have asked myself whether I was meant for the job that MSEZ had promised. As otherwise, what was the need to compromise?
The objections being raised by the 183 protestors and their supporters might appear hollow to the concerned authorities and the MSEZ as well. If not, they would be made to appear hollow. The Indian elite are again very good at it. They seem to be in the dearth of a willingness to empathize with others’ pain. Despite its sour relations with the local public, the MSEZ has not taken major and crucial measures to promote justice for the people from whom it has taken valuable natural resources for its existence. The local governing bodies should have been responsible for dealing with the unfairness shown by the MSEZ.
Unfortunately, the local bodies have more or less been like a tricky classmate who subtly abandons you to befriend a newly admitted rich classmate. While holding dharna and raising slogans is an expression of grievance against a particular issue or for a cause, it should aim at being strategic. In the sense that the dharna should include approaches to understand the minds of the people whom you are protesting against, and further go as far as towards planning for the stage, subsequent to the achievement of victory. In other words, the colonized needs to understand the mindset of the colonizer and be aware of the latter’s next move. Simultaneously, planning for the future needs to be started. Therefore, it should be considered more as a strategic process rather than as a protest. It is upto the 183 local youths how they design their strategic process.
Perhaps, they could start with non-cooperation, one strategy that could turn the elite upside down, not because they hate it but they are aware of its strength. If you observe the behavioral patterns of the privileged bureaucratic types in the country, most of the sins that they commit is preceded by a non-cooperative action (negative in its nature since it is driven by non-transparency). For instance, you start realizing this the moment you face a sarkari babu, who is unwilling to share a document (that is supposed to be shared with the public). Apply through Right to information act for the document. The babu would initially start being non-cooperative by not letting you know how to apply for the document, and later might go to the extent of claiming that you have not spelt out the name of the document correctly. His only intention is to make you tired so that you give it up and don’t come back to him. I have met people who have experienced this at the various departments of the government. If non-cooperation has worked for maintaining bureaucrat-driven secrecy, it might as well work for unlocking it. It would also work against the ill-effects of corporate-government love relationship. The non-cooperation strategy (positive in its nature given its intention to seek justice) adopted by the affected local youths should involve diplomacy and straight-forwardness. The next step could be to follow up with the impact assessment report produced by the MSEZ. That is to check if this report has mentioned anything about jobs for rehabilitated communities, and if so, to understand how local communities can participate in the follow up process. Apart from jobs, the local environmental issues are also something that needs to be followed up with the polluter, and the communities need to have a say in it.
However, what has to be seriously thought about and decided by the 183 local youths is the purpose of their campaign. Is it only the jobs they are seeking for or a control system in place to keep an eye on the actions of their betrayer?
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." – Mahatma Gandhi
Author: Kedar Uttam- Sweden