The more notorious a criminal you are, the more respected you are in Tihar, says Kobad Ghandy in his Indian Express column. The petty thieves and other little criminals vie with one another to join the notorious ones. Your very survival, let alone success, depends on how close you are to the great guns. Virtue will undo you. Principles will turn into knots round your neck.
Kobad Ghandy knows what he is speaking about. He has spent seven years in Tihar. Seven years in Tihar is enough to dehumanise anyone, writes Ghandy.
Is this true only of Tihar? Isn’t it true for the entire country? Where do you find virtue and principles in the public life of the country? Criminals and murderers occupy eminent seats in the parliament and state assemblies. Mafia dons and land grabbers masquerade as godmen. The poor become poorer and end their lives on knots that descend in various shapes from above.
The rich are given more and more. What little the poor have is taken away from them. The forests of the Adivasis are snatched and given generously to the rich miners and real estate developers who hobnob with the political leaders. The whole country is being taken for a ride in the name of development.
Kerala is one of the states going to elections soon. The total debts of the state amount to Rs 135,440.4 crore during the UDF regime according to the Legislative Assembly Reports published by Malayala Manorama on 10 Feb 2016. If we assume that an average family in Kerala has four members, then the debt of every family in Kerala is Rs. 159,340. Many farmers in the country committed suicide because of an amount smaller than that. Should the people of Kerala start committing suicide because of the developmental projects on which the State government spent huge amounts of money? [e.g. Adani got thousands of crores of rupees from both the State and the Central governments for the Vizhinjam Transit Harbour.]
Development is a mantra that has been chanted for a couple of years in the country. Is the country being converted into another Tihar jail while it is pursuing development? The question may sound farfetched. But if we open our eyes a little more and look beyond the miasma of developmental illusion that has enveloped us, the question will find its concrete reflection in some very familiar images: the potbelly of the politician who meets you once every five years begging for your vote, the squint in the eye of the yogi who teaches you yoga and culture on a popular TV channel, the facelessness of the industrialist whose sky-high edifices stymie your very shadow...