A makeshift shop destroyed by the sea waves at Bakkhali due to the landing of Cyclone Amphan, near Sunderbans area in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal (Photo Credit: PTI)

#PrayForBengal Is Not Enough to Recover From Amphan, We Need a #DoForBengal

West Bengal, Odisha, and Bangladesh have been mercilessly ravaged. The casualty mark in West Bengal is just short of 100 so far. This figure is excluding animals and all the mighty trees the cyclone has managed to fell. When COVID-19 has been already battering the state, the present crisis has deepened the wounds. Life has encountered an exclamation mark while the comma of Coronavirus continues to linger. This further attests to the fact that Mother Nature is not quite motherly after all. Much of the human history before man made enemies of themselves has been a story of struggling against the forces of nature. As much as we like to love nature and worship her, part of the awe rises from our fear that has travelled through our past generations of men and women who lost everything at the hands of not so benign avatar of nature. We have coexisted but not without our constant struggles through millennia.

A picture tells a thousand tales. However, the images of one of the first modern cities of India, Calcutta or Kolkata in the aftermath of Amphan cyclone, no matter how heart rending, are quite tragically hiding a thousand tales. Even as the images of the devastation are trickling through, there are many areas which haven’t yet received their power supply, have not regained access to telecom network, and are fighting shortage of drinking water, food supplies etc.. There are many images yet to come. The exact measure of the destruction will be felt away from the shallow attention spans of the social media platforms, part of it immediately and part slowly.

Even before the cyclone struck, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had a fair idea of the damage that was about to come. As a result, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had carried out massive evacuation. Bangladesh too had carried out such evacuations to minimize the loss of lives. If the death toll doesn’t rise any higher, we should still be thankful to the people on the field carrying out these exercises with all the handicaps of our Indian bureaucratic machinery. Electricity will be restored, the mobile network will come back, and the urban life will be back on its toes soon, or so we hope.

However, if we keep talking just about Kolkata, then we are making the same mistake that the self-proclaimed ‘National’ media makes – assuming New Delhi to be the sun with other states being in constant motion around this sun, the same mistake a lot of pure urban generations of Kolkata or Mumbai make – assuming Kolkata or Mumbai to be the centre of the universe with rest of the state thrown to the fringes. Let us shift the focus to the region which took the direct hitting of the cyclone. Nature can be swift but it also knows how to kill slowly. Mud embankments of the Sundarbans have been breached and sea water has entered the agrarian lands. This means doom for the farmers of the region as they are completely dependent on rice cultivation throughout the year. According to some reports, about 17,800 hectares of agricultural lands may have been damaged thus. In West Bengal alone, initial estimates tell that more than 1 lakh farmers have been affected. In Odisha, the losses are being calculated in the excess of $129 million. These farmers will need as much help as possible from the state machinery, central government, media, and citizens from other parts of the country.

West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has a huge task at her hand and she did the right thing by calling on the Prime Minister to survey the affected areas. She will need all the help our country has at its disposal – money, minds, and hands. The PM has announced an advance package of 1000 crore for the state. I believe the state is going to need much more than that even if the funds are utilized judiciously. These are the hottest months in the state of West Bengal, more so in Kolkata and adjoining areas, another reason to fast-track the road to recovery. Additional NDRF teams have been sent, Odisha has extended help, Army is on the ground to ensure road and tree clearance in different parts of the city (Tollygunge, Ballygunge, Rajarhat, Diamond Harbour, and Behala). In the coming days and months, the country will need much more resilience and the willingness to recover than ever before – thanks to COVID-19 and now the cyclones.

All this is praiseworthy but what if another cyclone comes next year or 3 years later? People from deluged parts of Sundarbans will migrate to other places now but slowly come back in the next few years. Cyclone is nature’s dialect and there is no stopping it, so it will come again causing similar destruction all over again. This happens because the retreat is not strategic and permanent in nature. An article on the issue of minimising damage in the Sundarbans has been published here. The article in its conclusion says, “Strategic and Managed Retreat instead of repeated disruption and ad hoc temporary resettlement, though expensive, is known to outweigh the upfront costs in most cases. Globally, this is an accepted mode of adaptation! An increase in the frequency of extreme events is symptomatic of the fact that tropical depression forming in the Bay of Bengal has a high probability to reach to severe cyclone stage. Hence, the administration and the people of the Indian Sundarbans have little choice but to consider voluntary relocation to safer locations, but in a participatory manner so as to minimise possibilities of conflicts.”

The article also quotes the former Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”. Considering the number of crises our country faces year after year in different parts of its geography, it appears we let each one of them go to waste.

Consider Bihar. 76 percent of Bihar lives under constant threat of floods. This means when a flood comes in Bihar, about 76 pc of the region is immediately impacted. Now for the uninitiated, Bihar gets its due share of floods almost every year. Loss of human lives, cattle, crops, homes occur annually. Patna and surrounding areas were flooded as recently as last year where even the deputy Chief Minister of the state was seen vacating his house.

study on the flood risk of Kosi basin says, “…It (flood) is the very mechanics of river formation which demands that highest discharges would not be confined within the channel and overbank flooding will occur. The risk from flooding becomes greater because of the increase in population pressure as more and more floodplain is occupied thereby necessitating the efforts to reduce the flood risk to be stepped up. However, it is very rarely possible to provide complete protection against floods, and therefore, all flood management programmes have to be designed in such a way that it does not give a false sense of security to the people living in the region, as is normally the case in India…”

It follows that the areas which should be under constant strategic upgrades and adaptation in the face of natural disasters are left to themselves for the rest of the year. High risk areas which should not be colonized by humans because floods and cyclones are the ways of nature and no amount of preparations can ensure zero destruction to lives and properties are being stressed with overpopulation. The affected survivors are now habituated to see helicopters flying up above them where a politician surveys the affected areas and announces a relief package, only to repeat the exercise every year. Our forefathers died crying over the deaths in floods and cyclones, we will do the same. Particularly in Bihar, flood has become a way of life and inevitably, also a way of death.

I am bringing Bihar into this discussion for one more purpose. Right from the time Amphan made its landfall, the ‘Antifact Slacktivist Internet Bengali’ also made his presence felt like a netquake. This Antifact Slacktivist group exists for other states too. These rebels without a cause, (or if you want me to be more respectful, rebels with a meaningless cause), obsessed with a self-serving obligation to express their racial superiority to the rest of India is the closest to a Nazi Indian you will meet, of course with all the Che Guevara sugarcoating. They keep themselves busy alienating the rest of India from Bengal by raking up fake movements over ‘we eat meat during Durga Puja, so we are better than you’, ‘we don’t worship Ram, so we’re better than you’, ‘we have given you National Anthem, so we’re better than you’, ‘we threaten the airport staff for speaking in Hindi, so we’re better than you’ all their life. Not surprisingly, their first response to the cyclone was to curse the rest of India for not trending #PrayForBengal on facebook. This lot is fast appropriating the whole of Bengal on the internet and is whitewashing the diversities that have existed in West Bengal for centuries. Most of these people have a very tinted understanding of Bengal’s own history and culture, leave alone that of the country.

Each of such crises and the following outrage is an opportunity to propagate their politics and ideology. If every single reaction or its absence is to be put as a test of nationalism, then the first people to fail this test will be this kind of Internet Bengalis. At least, I don’t remember to have seen any trending #PrayForBihar (not that I care) response from them when Bihar – a close neighbour having its capital city at a distance of about 500 KM from Kolkata – floods every year. When the farmers and the poor of the state who happen to be the worst affected of all and need all the support coming their way from all across the country, this self-posturing is a fraud being committed on the people who have no stake in the ideological battles and who would really welcome help from any part of the country with both arms wide open right now.

Having said that, it is important for us to differentiate between the ideological warriors and the victims of an ecological disaster. These victims cannot fill their bellies with our national anthem, cannot get their crops back by winning the Hindi-Bengali debate, and cannot have their cattle back with the victory of Kali over Ram. Keep the self-serving warriors aside and please come out to help Bengal. It will serve us well to keep in our mind the words of a great teacher from Bengal who embodied an enormity of heart and incisiveness of intellect that made him the true heir to the legacy of both Gautam Buddha, who attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya of Bihar and Adi Shankara who travelled from Kerala to the length and width of the country for the spiritual unification of India.

“You merge yourselves in the void and disappear, and let new India arise in your place. Let her arise – out of the peasants’ cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fisherman. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop, from beside the oven of the fritterseller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts, and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains.” – Swami Vivekananda

Please donate generously and help the ones who really need your help by visiting this link and send whatever amount you can – https://donations.belurmath.org/appeal-amphan-cyclone-relief-services-98376.

Cover Image: A makeshift shop destroyed by the sea waves at Bakkhali due to the landing of Cyclone Amphan, near Sunderbans area in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal (Photo Credit: PTI)

 

Rahul Gandhi and the Politics of Defeat

Almost every time Rahul Gandhi starts campaigning before the elections, he seems to be aspiring for a loss. His speeches sound like appealing for a thumping defeat. Every time I hear him appeal for votes, his sentences get autocorrected in my head to sound something like this – “Hamein vote na dekar bhaari maton se haraayen!” (By not voting for us, inflict a massive defeat on us). After all, when you get rewarded after every loss, why would you want to win?

Thanks to our enslaved mindset, there was a time when ‘Gandhi’ fetched votes. That is no longer the case with the majority of the country. On the contrary, in our time, Gandhi ensures failure. The love affair between the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress party could be defended till Rajiv Gandhi on the basis of our love for nepotism. This love for dynasties and surnames converted into votes for the party and though the culture could be termed as immoral and undemocratic, they had a reason to stick with Gandhi. Although in a feebler tone, even for Sonia Gandhi, such an orchestra of populism could be explained. Today, I doubt if there is a sane mind on the planet to explain the current love story between the Congress party and Mr. Rahul Gandhi.

Dynasties taking control of a political party in India that should otherwise be a democratic entity with equal opportunity for everyone, is a matter that should shame our nation whose constitution wishes to provide equal opportunity and equal right to every citizen. Rahul Gandhi’s control over the congress party defies all logic. He hasn’t been able to win elections, he is popular only as a meme subject, he doesn’t exude confidence in public, and he doesn’t have a plan for the country or himself. What makes congress stick to him then? Dynasty politics is a phenomenon that banks upon the popularity of the existing/deceased member and family’s name to fetch votes for the new entrant. It is perhaps impossible to understand how the party and the soon to be anointed don’t see that the family’s name has lived its shelf life. I might be wrong and Rahul may manage a turnaround for the party after becoming the President but that won’t be necessarily a good thing for the country. The child of undeserved favoritism cannot promise equality or equity to the nation.

It is important to understand the position Rahul Gandhi is going to assume. It is the same position that has been in the past occupied by Dadabhai Naoroji, SN Banerjee, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Madan Mohan Malviya, Annie Besant, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sarojini Naidu, Mahatma Gandhi, and Subhas Chandra Bose. A leader of the stature of Subhas Chandra Bose had to fight an election against Gandhi-backed Pattabhi Sitaramayya to become the President of this party. Today, a group of sycophants have almost managed to unanimously elect Rahul Gandhi as the President. It is a tragic scene that the party which accuses Mr. Modi of running a dictatorship has not one contender for the position of the President opposite Rahul Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi is passing the mantle of autocracy to her son. One of the two major national parties of a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy is either one of the longest running dictatorship empire of the world or a group of sycophants who clearly do not possess any spine and serve the Gandhis to insure the political future of their own dynasties.

Politics of dynasties has been a long-living tradition in India, Congress of the present has mastered the politics of inheriting and procreating incompetence and failure.

Indira

Journalist and News anchor, Sagarika Ghose’s book titled ‘Indira: India’s Most Powerful Prime Minister’, was published by Juggernaut Books to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi. ‘Insecure daughter, Betrayed wife, National heroine, tough dictator’, reads the blurb for the book. Journalist, Political commentator and documentary filmmaker, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta too began his discussion with Sagarika on the same note. Continue reading “Indira”

Firecrackers are Anti-Hindu, not the Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court has prohibited the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi and NCR region and daggers have been drawn. The noise on twitter post the decision has been shriller than any of the crackers sold during Diwali season can produce. For many, like every other debate in our country today, this has become a Hindu identity versus other religions. There are others who are pitching 364 other days against this 1 day and defending the sale and usage of fire-crackers. There are also people who are rationally calling for bans on a lot of other pollutants that are more poisonous and hence more harmful. I stand by the last lot.

Continue reading “Firecrackers are Anti-Hindu, not the Supreme Court of India”

The Secular Facade of Indian Politics

An India Today article quotes from the autobiography of Kuldip Nayar Beyond the lines: An autobiography (Source). Kuldip Nayar writes, “It was Sanjay Gandhi, known for his extra-constitutional methods, who suggested that some ‘Sant’ should be put up to challenge the Akali government. Both Sanjay and Zail Singh, particularly the latter, knew how the former Punjab chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon had fought the Akalis. He had built up Sant Fateh Singh against Master Tara Singh, the Akali leader, who had become a hard nut to crack. Zail Singh and Darbara Singh, who was a Congress Working Committee member and later became chief minister, selected two persons for Sanjay’s evaluation.

Continue reading “The Secular Facade of Indian Politics”

Swami-Vivekananda-Bookstalkist

A Gaurakshak meets Swami Vivekananda

“The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.” Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth.

Continue reading “A Gaurakshak meets Swami Vivekananda”

To Exist In Soul – Swami Atmasthananda Ji

The Advaita system is nondestructive. This is its glory, that it has the boldness to preach. “Do not disturb the faith of any, even of those who through ignorance have attached themselves to lower forms of worship.” That is what it says – do not disturb, but help everyone to get higher and higher; include all humanity. This philosophy preaches a God who is a sum total. If you seek universal religion which can apply to everyone, that religion must not be composed of only the parts, but it must always be their sum total and include all degrees of religious development.

Continue reading “To Exist In Soul – Swami Atmasthananda Ji”

वैलेंटाइन’स डे, अम्मा, और हमारा प्यार।

फिल्म डॉन में अमिताभ बच्चन ने दो भूमिकाएँ निभायी हैं। उनमें से पहला किरदार नकारात्मक है। डॉन एक बहुत खतरनाक अपराधी है और उसके ही शब्दों में ११ मुल्कों की पुलिस उसका पीछा कर रहीं होतीं हैं। फिल्म शोले में जय और वीरू टुच्चे चोर हैं। फिल्म डर में शाहरुख़ खान ने एक बेहद संगीन और जुनूनी आशिक़ का किरदार निभाया है। फिल्म स्पेशल छब्बीस में अक्षय कुमार ने एक ठग का किरदार निभाया।

ये सब मैं आपको क्यूँ बता रहा हूँ? इस से पहले कि मैं उसका जवाब दूँ, मैं एक बात और बता देता हूँ। अभिनेता प्राण शायद अब तक के सबसे हरफनमौला कलाकार रहे हैं। कहा जाता है कि उनके नकारात्मक किरदारों को इतनी नफरत मिली कि एक वक़्त पर दर्शकों को यकीन हो गया कि प्राण निजी ज़िन्दगी में भी वही हाथ में चाबुक लेकर घूमने वाले पूंजीवादी हैवान हैं जो गरीब किसानों का खून पीता है। लोगों ने अपने बच्चों का नाम प्राण रखना बंद कर दिया। Continue reading “वैलेंटाइन’स डे, अम्मा, और हमारा प्यार।”

Communism or Alcoholism? Understanding the overstated!

Mr. Narendra Modi had just completed a year in office and ‘India’s National Newspaper since 1878’ was fraught with performance analyses, reviews, report cards and the habitual slander for Government’s first year. Amidst the chaos, a dormant voice tried to make the best of the opportunity. The newly anointed Captain of a sunken ship not-so-fondly remembered as CPI with an (M) wrote a column in The Hindu of May 24, 2015. Continue reading “Communism or Alcoholism? Understanding the overstated!”

Where’s my news?

How do you print a newspaper everyday – relentless reporting, wiring, proofing, editing, consulting, rewriting, printing ? No! Like everything else, there are newspaper hacks – Sell most of your pages for advertisements, write a couple of columns criticizing Modi’s choice of words, write an article praising Modi’s fashion statement, put a few churches under attack, arrange the ‘Letters to the Editor’ so as to put the ones that resonate with the Almighty Editor’s opinion on top, never try to go into details in the rest of the pages.
Continue reading “Where’s my news?”