Disruption of Development

Proposing a developmental project and disrupting it later has become a norm in India. More than social concerns in preventing development vested interests rule the roost. Opposition parties block industrial projects and support the same when they occupy treasury benches in the legislature. Political opportunism is costing the nation heavily. It is a fashion for the Indian political class and some self-appointed social guardians to organize dharnas against every programme. There is a decadal shift and victims in the drama of disruption. In seventies protest against private sector and MNCs.


 Eighties saw massive uproar by Left parties againt the introduction of computers. They were in argument that computer introduction in the management of public sector enterprises will throw out human labour. To aid their protests there was a major disaster in Bhopal. The leakage of methyl iso cyanide a poisonous gas from the Union Carbide Factory killed 4000 people and handicapped 10,000. This gave more leverage to the Left protests against industrialization. Those were the communist anti-establishment times with West Bengal and Kerala in their ruling kitty. These two states adopted ideological statusquo and seconded the party’s opposition towards capitalists and technology.


The introduction of neo-liberal reforms in 1991 slowly taken away the sheen of Left protests. With non communists are leaping forward and exit of Jyoti Basu triggered a new change in the Indian development scene. The successor of Jyoti Basu – Buddhadeb Bhattacharya strongly supported foreign capital and heavy industrialization. The strong impact of liberal economic reforms impacted communist leaders. There is a shift in their tunes for the capitalists support for development. All three states under communist rule – West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura dilly dallied over capitalism and finally embraced it with double standards. In their states communists gave a red carpet welcome to capitalists and in other states they opposed their entry. Public started losing faith in Left parties sincerity in opposing development projects. With the credibility of Left coming down, NGO era stepped into bridge the gap in protest world. Medha Patkar, Vandhana Shiva, and Sunderlal Bhauguna are the prominent figures in this phase.


Medha Patkar emerged as the most prominent figure in this phase. She was known for high voltage campaign against proposed projects. Whether it is a dam or an industry she stepped in with a band of volunteers. Hunger strikes and gheraos marked this phase. It can be said that 90s was a decade of anti-dams.


The green brigade dominated by Sunderlal Bhaguna, Vandana Shiva and Medha Patkar was joined by Arundhati Roy. Her Booker Prize catapulted her into global fame. This brought into anti-establishment scene. The new millennium first decade can be termed as the watershed in the history of Indian NGO movement. During this period Sandeep Pandey, Rajendar Singh, and other NGO leaders emerged with Ramon Magsaysay award. They too joined the battle against establishment to realize that sheer protests will backfire from the public. Troubled by frequent dharanas Supreme Court has banned strikes and bandhs. The impact of consumerism also reduced the support base for all the agitators. Slowly the dharna culture was dying down.


Emergence of regional parties and coalition politics pushed political groups to enter agitation politics. The Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and a large-scale acquisition of lands from farmers gave a new lease of life to protest politics. In this phase coalition partners of the ruling alliance gained an upper-hand and disrupted development projects. Due to the survival necessity of the government many of these protests were handled soft and the projects were suspended temporarily. The Left Parties played a dominant role at the national level. The Insurance Regulatory Authority, SEZ, privatization of airports was carried out despite their opposition. The climax came in the nuclear deal with America. Despite their opposition the Manmohan Singh government clinched it and shown the door to the Communists.


Pataali Makkal Katitchi (PMK) in Tamil Nadu opposed every project of the government as an alliance partner. The mega star of this phase was Mamata Banerjee who played a divisive role in stopping the Nano (cheapest car in the world) from rolling out from West Bengal.


Opposing for opposition sake is detrimental for the national development. The political parties should shed their opportunism and rise above their petty interests and support the development. Any objections should be made before the finalization of the project not in the middle. The cost of everyday protests is enormous. Strengthening laws against such divisive evens can only curb it when the political culture is increasingly becoming petty.   


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