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Open Letter To Annaji

May 26, 2011 by  
Filed under lead story, Persecution

Open Letter To AnnajiDear Annaji,

Welcome to Gujarat – to you, Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh,

At the outset, we sincerely commend you and the others for the stand against corruption in India. In December 2010, when Swami Agnivesh was visiting us, we readily accepted to support this campaign because corruption seems to have become a way of life for many, in most parts of the country.
Now that you are in Gujarat, we hope that you will make a sincere effort to see how corruption has not only become institutionalized, but in fact, has entered our system in such a big way that everything seems to be ‘alright’ as long as there are a few who reap the “benefits” of a so-called “development model”. We therefore invite you to look closely (among other things) into

1. The nexus between the politicians and the corporate / industrial sector
Be it in the urban or in the rural areas, the poor and the marginalized have literally no say as the corporate houses manage to steam-roll their way. A classic case which has been flaunted all over is about one big corporate house getting all its permissions in a few days. Does the Gujarat Government have an industrial policy? Will a small entrepreneur be treated the same way? Or is it the big bucks / big guys that matter here?

2. The plight of the victims of development-induced displacement
The poor, very specially the slum dwellers in the urban areas and adivasis have been displaced because of so-called “development”. The River Front Development programme in Ahmedabad is an example of how the poor are uprooted overnight. Adivasis, displaced by the Narmada Dam are still struggling for justice and compensation. Your colleague Medha Patkar can furnish you substantial data on this. Besides, the small farmers of Mahuva will surely tell you about their situation.

3. The trigger-happy policeman of Gujarat
Gujarat is famous for its trigger-happy policemen. For several years, encounter deaths seem to become the “in-thing”. The powerful industrial / mining lobbies play a significant role in this. Some of the policemen (now in jail) have amassed unbelievable wealth because of their “encounter speciality”. Fortunately, because of civil society and judicial interventions, there has been a halt to it, but the fact remains, that these encounter deaths were because of the nexus between the police and powerful vested interest.

4. The endemic corruption which destroys, pollutes our environment
Gujarat pays scant attention to the environment (an RTI activist Amit Jethawa was killed because he took on the vested interests who were destroying the Gir forests). There is enough of data showing that chemical and pharmaceutical companies pollute several of the rivers / towns of the State very specially Narmada, the estuary in the Gulf of Khambhat; Vapi and Nandesari. This is obviously done with a total connivance of the Gujarat Government.

5. The situation of the adivasis
The State has a sizeable number of adivasis. These have been systematically denied forest lands which are rightfully theirs. It is common knowledge that the tribals continue to be victims of exploitation and at the mercy of Government officials. Adivasis in this State continue to be denied their rights to the forest lands.

6. Government programmes not reaching the poor
It is also common knowledge that several from the Government are involved in plenty of scams. The Sujalam Sufalam scam, the ‘MGNREGS’ scam and the Fisheries scam are just at the tip of the iceberg. In order to get things done or for that matter-to get a job or a plum-posting, people certainly have to pay hefty sums. The scams here run unto crores of rupees.

7. Communalism in Gujarat
To assume that communalism has nothing to do with corruption in Gujarat is, not being able to read a reality! The hegemony perpetuated on the minorities, by the Government and some others is a moot-point of how corrupt our system has become! The victim survivors of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 are still denied justice and even today adequate compensation is not given to them. There are enough of instances of how minorities are systematically targeted through subtle and not-so subtle ways and denied access to opportunities and privileges which are rightfully theirs. Those who take a stand on behalf of these victims are consistently hounded, intimidated, harassed… and even framed!

Dear Annaji and your colleagues, what we present to you is just a tiny bit of the reality which has gripped the State for the last many years. It is true that plenty of aggressive propaganda has perhaps shown things in a different light. We also get fooled by the ‘cosmeticization of society’, by some of the urban middle class who are obviously reaping the benefits. On the whole, we live in a society which thrives on myths, lies and illusions!

While we welcome you once again, we humbly request you to open your eyes to the reality here in Gujarat: of the poor and the marginalized, the dalits and the adivasis, the child-labourers and women who are victims of violence, the poor fisher-folk and the small farmers. They all bear the brunt of a corrupt system.

We have taken a stand and we truly appreciate your stand. Yes, let’s work together for a corruption-free Gujarat in order that we move towards a corruption-free India!

Yours sincerely,
Sd /-
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

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