The Biggest Reservation of All

April 20, 2010

by Anandi Sharan Meili

We must assume that the UPA government is going to fall. The UPA has 258 votes whereas it requires 272 for a majority in the Lok Sabha. A three line whip will not help. The Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal have threatened to join the opposition in the Finance Bill debate. Their 22 plus 4 votes would give the UPA 12 votes more than they need. What price will the MPs from those two parties extract for voting with the UPA?

But more importantly the time has come to ask whether in any case the price the country is paying for allowing the UPA members to stay in power is not too high.

Naveen Jindal, MP for Kurukshetra and owner of Jindal Steel is buying Bramhani Industries Ltd owned by the notorious G Janardhan Reddy and Karunakara Reddy, Ministers for Infrastructure development and Tourism and Revenue respectively in the Karnataka government. These two are under investigation for the illegal mining activities of their Obulapuram Mining Company. But that did not stop them gaining 10600 acres of land in Andhra Pradesh through their association with the late YSRs son Jagan Mohan Reddy, UPA Member of Parliament for Kadapa. What sleezy deals are Naveen Jindal and Jagan Mohan Reddy doing in Delhi to assure Jindal Steel its land in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh?

Why ever should these people be in charge of our policy making at the centre?

And what about the role of the other Jindal associate Madhu Koda, the ex-Chief Minster turned Member of Parliament for Singbhum who is arranging things for Jindal in Ghatsila region where the farmers of Potka, Kalikapur and Asambani villages of East Singhbhum District are unwilling to give away their land to Jindal Steel and Bhushan Steel companies, but the villagers allege the government is still forcibly evicting farmers from their lands?

The media laps up press releases by Jindal advertising their “ambitious plan of up-skilling 6,000 youths belonging to the displaced families with a total investment of Rs 20 crore. ..and spending Rs 50 crore on the resettlement and rehabilitation of around 900 displaced families and other persons by providing them with gainful employment and making them economically empowered as a part of various corporate social responsibility initiatives.”

But land grabbing by these and other politicians-cum-industrialists which is taking on unprecedented dimensions goes unreported. The middle class connives in it. They dream their dream of American style cut throat capitalism. But hunger and starvation cannot be made good by social corporate responsibility nor indeed by a few jobs here and there in the cities. Nor can the UPA government redeem itself just because it has one Jairam Ramesh usefully trying to bring some order into the chaos that is this mining and steel mafia run country. We need something more than a Ministry of Environment and Forestry to defend the interests of the people. This country is an agricultural country and forest dwellers, agriculturalists, adivasis need land, not horror. But getting a hearing for four lakh people without land in Gudalur, ten crore tribal people betrayed by the UPA despite the historic Forest Rights Act, fifty crore working class people suffering from food price rise and arbitrary eviction from their land by so-called democratically elected governments has not been possible, though the courts have done their best.

We have to ask: is it not time for a new justice party in this country? Can the intellectuals not for once drop their know-all attitude and join with the people? The time is now. We will not have a second chance. We must throw industrial growth onto the scrap heap of history and replace it with ecological justice. We must manage our adaptation to climate change by creating just systems. The present is bleak. The future is bleaker. All we can do is face it together by booting out the mafia and bringing in those who defend the land rights of the landless, of the tribals, of the forest dwellers, of the agriculturalists, of women, and of dalits. It may well be as the intellectuals argue that India is ready for a democracy based on justice and not on reservations. But for that the biggest reservation of all must first be abolished: the reservation by the UPA government of the country’s land for the rich.