Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Unfeeling Madrasi

Just read this article Laloo Yadav beats Nehru hollow

If the heading gives an impression it is about the newly acquired management skills of Lalu, perish the thought. If the first paragraph makes you think it is about economic liberalisation, it is only partly right. The real intent is to bash Bihar, plain and simple. It comes as any article on Bihar bashing, short on data and long on rhetoric.

I quote: “By some yardsticks, Bihar exceeds the national average. Bihar’s infant mortality rate of 61 per 1,000 in 2002 was better than the national average of 63 per 1,000 ………. the quality of Bihar’s data collection is suspect, so I would not read too much into these figures”. So my dear learned friend, what should you go by? Your biased hunch or that of your equally dubious co workers?

Let me quote further “the collapse of law and order and the rise of criminals linked to Laloo was seen, locally, as lower castes improving their market share of Bihar’s biggest business — crime.” What has the author based this dubious conclusion? He rants that Lalu won three elections, implying the winning of elections as Biharis endorsement of crime. In his selective amnesia, he forgets that Lalu kept loosing his vote share in each election and was kept in power partly by the ineffective TN Seshan’s failure to conduct a fair election and partly due to AICC which chose to support Lalu in spite of the clear displeasure of BPCC. As soon as we had a fair election under KJ Rao, the whole equation changed.

Now read the openly contemptuous next paragraph “I suspect that Bihar exceeded 4% growth under Laloo mainly because Biharis could migrate to other states for jobs, send remittances home and bring back new skills.” What about the prosperity that the hardworking Bihari has brought to the states he has migrated to? Or they are employed as charity? What about the equally large remittance out of Bihar to support the large Bihar student population? Perhaps his economics does not allow these to be taken into consideration. Quite apart from the demeaning tone of the sentence, notice that this is being said in Mumbai where just recently Biharis were subject to tasteless racist remarks. Should I take this as an endorsement of those anti Bihari feeling?

Thus, he draws his conclusion, “Laloo succeeded for reasons beyond his control” Now notice the superciliousness of the concluding sentence “Even Bihar, which has terrible law and order, terrible roads and electricity, terrible education and telecom, has grown at close to 5% per year for over a decade.” Italics are mine, but rest of it is exactly as given by this special gift to mankind.

Does it ever occur to this expert of economics that Bihar has had the lowest per capita spend among all states in each five year plan since independence – when it was adjudged the best governed state and when it was felt it is the worst? Whether there were same party in power at state and centre or whether they were different, the situation never changed. It had to suffer the crippling freight equalisation scheme for close to three decades. That the most recent irrigation project in agricultural Bihar is the 19th century British built Son Canal system? That it does not have a single IIT, IIM, IARI, ICSR or DRDO lab? That PUSA, the only national agricultural research centre in the largely agricultural Bihar was shifted to Delhi, presumably to research the trees of Lutyens Delhi?

Why go so much in the past, just take the modern highway projects. Inevitably, the East West corridor and the Delhi – Kolkata highway pass through Bihar. But how many towns and cities of Bihar does it serve? It does not serve Patna, Gaya, Arrah, Chapra, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga or Samastipur. Neither does it serve Monghyr, Mokamah, Bettiah, Siwan or Sitamarhi. Muzaffapur is the only town of any consequence in the whole of Bihar or for that matter Jharkhand which would be served. Does the ‘economic’ expert have the foresight to see the injustice of all this? Smug in his south Mumbai office, he has perhaps never ventured into Bihar. But comment he must on Bihar. Not for him any guilt for the feeling of hurt his line of thinking may cause to eight crore Biharis. For him, Bihar is a punching bag, to be bashed.

In the syllabus of Bihar board where I did my Class X, we had a subject called Samajik Gyan or Social Studies. Prepared by eminent Bihari educationists, it had comprehensive coverage of the various regions of India. The teachers at my school did a very decent job of teaching us about the four south Indian states and the union territories of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep, their geography, language and culture. My school also had teachers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu teaching other subjects, economic migrants, who were accepted by Biharis with full dignity due to a teacher. Thus it was at an early age that I was made aware of the subtle and not so subtle differences between the south Indian states. Then why do I use the omnibus term Madrasi in my heading? This term is used by the south Indians to illustrate the ignorance of the north Indian about the south of Vindhyas and by Dilliwalas as a pejorative. Surely, I do not wish to demean the labour of the Bihar educationists, much less typecast people from south of Vindhyas. A Bihari, I know the pain of being typecast only too well and would not wish to do that to anybody.

It is my extreme angst at the totally un-empathetic tone of Mr Swaminathan Ankleswaria Aiyer that makes me use this term as a pejorative. It helps that no place is now known as Madras. Thus I can call this unfeeling person Madrasi without typecasting anyone from any region.

What future does a Bihari youth have when a senior journalist in a national newspaper have such an attitude?

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