A Country Of Small Sacrifices


Yeh dharti hai balidaan ki. This land is of sacrifice.

Yesterday PM Narendra Modi unveiled the second largest dam in the world- the Sardar Sarovar dam. This construction has been mired in controversy ever since its inception, 1961. For several years now the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has been protesting against the release of water into the dam as it will inundate the surrounding areas as it has already done so in Nisarpur and Rajghat and might include Dhar district to the list. It is said to impact negatively 40000 families. The Supreme Court of India ordered the authorities to provide proper re habilitation or paid compensation to the effected people before the dam is made functional. That has not happened. Instead, yesterday Central Government (keeping in mind the forthcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat) hastily went on to make an elaborate birthday-cum-inauguration ceremony of it. The PM gave a gift to the nation on his birthday. He claimed that a huge campaign of misinformation had been conducted. “I can’t think small. I don’t do small… I can’t dream small.” For him ‘small’ are the people whose lives will be ruined by this dam. They are insignificant. Their lives have no value, not even in electoral terms. They are the small sacrifice the nation is paying for a huge gain. A national duty or a balidan.

Just like he sacrifices everyday hours of sleep and his years of hard work, all for the nation, a new India.

Similarly a few public lynchings are nothing compared to the greater good of protecting the guamata in the Hindi-cow heartland. What are a few mob lynchings when such a glorious vision is in sight? He appeals to the men not to take law in their hands, let the beef eaters get punished as per the laws of the state. And then narrates an emotional story of his childhood where a cow made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up her life in repentance. So cow protection is the chosen path, a few Dalits and Muslims lynched along the way cannot tarnish its image.

And a few deaths during demonetization. A compulsory drive that caused havoc to millions India and even resulted in a few hundred deaths and even now continuing pain and grief. It is small sacrifice one has to make for a corruption free Bharat. A sacrifice that was made only by the poor and the lower middle class or those who had no political connections. It became a patriotic duty for everyone. And those complaining were termed as corrupt anti-nationals. Can’t you sacrifice this much for cleaning up the nation? What’s a few hours in the bank queue? A sacrifice that did not lead to anywhere getting close to ridding of black money as we have recently come to know from the RBI.

And small sacrifice by (small time) traders who will not survive the GST hurdle. A sacrifice to bring India under a one tax scheme.

A small sacrifice by the marginalized who cannot cope with the compulsory requirements of producing an Adhaar card number to get their minimum benefits like food supply and even TB medicines. The centre’s rush to get everyone enrolled onto the Adhaar scheme by life and death is proving to be huge burden to the needy and the marginalized. All to get India under on surveillance network for easier and more transparent supply of government schemes for the poor. A small sacrifice paid by the already multipli-oppressed, to add one more layer of oppression/ hurdle before getting the bare minimum for survival.

Kuch pane ke liye kuch khona parta hai. (To get something you might have to endure a bit of loss) Unfortunately the people making the sacrifices or enduring losses are always the same. The people reaping the benefits of those sacrifices are also always the same. These two groups never seem overlap, they haven’t for decades now.

PM Modi said yesterday, India is a land of 1.25 bn people and he cannot think ‘small’ (read, the minority or the oppressed). The ‘small’ are not considered a part of the category called India but what of the chai-wallahs?

Debjanee Ganguly is a PHD scholar in JNU

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