Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gorkhaland: The hazards of statehood

The demand for creation of new states to support the cause of an individual community is nothing new in our country- the demands for Khalistan, Telangana, Gorkhaland and Kamtapur have caused many bloodbaths but have been unsuccessful as yet while others like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand) have met with success. Communities demand small states where they themselves are the majority to better serve their interests individually and as a whole but the glaring question is does this serve the cause? The creation of Jharkhand has led to further decrease in the average monthly household income in the tribal belt, whose interest the government was supposed to protect. There has been no dramatic betterment in the conditions of the other two new states either, though it has been more than 8 years since their creation and there is no reason to expect that this would not be the case for Gorkhaland too.
In most cases, these demands are fueled by mass leaders who use the public sentiments to further their own cause, and we see people who were practically nobodys rise to prominence spectacularly in a short span of time. The person who could only dream of being an MLA or MP at most, now dreams of being a CM and this political lust leads them to be even more vociferous in their demands.
Speaking specifically of Gorkhaland, the  region has practically been out of the state administration’s control for years now. The government agencies are all either dysfunctional or nominal in the region and the major control is held by the local parties and leaders, of whom a new one seems to creep up every now and then. The frequent change in the leadership itself suggests the political infighting going on in the region. Also, the conduct of the demanding parties gives further reasons for skepticism. The demand for Gorkhaland has not been accepted yet and already they are curbing individual rights. People are forced to wear the traditional dress, their activities are controlled and the parties seem to take a keen interest in the person who doesn’t go by their ideology. Opposition has virtually been silenced already. The most important question in this situation becomes that even if the demand of Gorkhaland is accepted, how can we presume that the same people who are killing fundamental rights now would all become angels overnight. Instead, there is the dangerous risk that the region may become a mini-nation within the nation with its own set of rules. The persistent protests and demonstrations have already broken the backbone of the economy of the region. The main sources of business- tourism and tea gardens are in ruins and unemployment has risen to even higher levels. The living conditions in the closed tea gardens are worse than slums with no access to education, health-care and even food and water in some cases. Darjeeling, which was considered the Queen of the Doars and was the must-visit in all tourism diaries of West Bengal has seen the number of domestic tourists visiting annually go down to less than 1/5th of the earlier levels. The entire tourism industry is in doldrums. It is true that it is very difficult for the state government to take care of the hills and doars sitting in Kolkata, 500 kms away but the solution suggested has the potential to be even more dangerous than the current situation. The present crop of leaders in the region seem to be interested only in their selfish personal ends.  So before taking any concrete step in the direction, care must be taken to ensure that there is not another Mr. Ashok Munda who pockets the entire state budget and leaves the poor poorer. In fact, a better solution might be strengthening the existing government institutions of self-governance and making them more efficient and effective. This would satisfy the people’s demands of development while safeguarding democracy. But then again, this is India and leaders are more often elected due to their caste than their credentials and the situation might just be hopeless…


  1. Good work Dhiresh. you have tackled a very sensitive issue with great finesse. :)


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