What is real development?

This is Bholanath Bagdi (80), Bankura. He is comparatively well-to-do. His wife works -- threshes rice for others. He has no complaints.

This is Bholanath Bagdi (80), Bankura. He is comparatively well-to-do. His wife works -- threshes rice for others. He has no complaints.

We are used to the idea of getting foreign grants for developing the really poor areas—the slums in cities and the poverty stricken jungle people of the tribal belt. But real development comes from within the people, from self-reliance. The state can only provide infrastructure—roads, electrification, water supply, healthcare and education. Samir Saha Poddar, an engineer and social activist writes for ‘iCore Ekdin’ on 8 October that according to a report by Khargapur IIT on an investigation conducted on the 74 blocks of Jangalmahal There are 130,00,000 (approx)  tribal people living in the forest area of West Bengal (parts of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapur districts). 69% of these people are living below poverty-line. (Below 368 rupees per head, per month) 85% villages in this area are without electricity Supply of water is a meager 9% of actual requirement. Against the ‘100days’ work’ project, they get work for 6-7 days on an average. 59% of the people never got any education. There is 1 doctor for every 13000 people in the area. So, when this was the general picture of a part of West Bengal, 11 months ago, people formed there own ‘People’s Committee’. They started working for their own development. Spread over 2100 square kilometers of the forest area, the committee workers made roads, tube-wells, hospitals. To make 20 kilometers of red earthen road in Dharampur area, they spent 47000 rupees; whereas the Panchayat requires 300,000 rupees to make the same length of road. People came to know of the source of wealth amassed by local leaders like Anuj Pandey.

Whatever the people did in a few months may be small compared to their need, but they did it themselves. They were self-reliant. In the 1300 and odd villages they showed that they did not need any state intervention; the land, the water and the forests belonged to them. So, they knew what kind of development they wanted and they were ready to work hard for it. Where people wanted control over a small area and were ready to work for their own well-being, the state sent the joint forces – police and central military forces. Thousands of them in uniforms, month after month camped and patrolled the area, beat up and arrested the men-folk, molested the women, took occupation of their school buildings and demolished their health-centers. We have read in papers during June to August of this year how they manhandled and maimed common villagers and defecated in their drinking water wells. For a long time section 144 is effective there so that nobody can come in a group to investigate what the state machinery was doing, no one could feel the pulse of these people. The villages are devoid of men who fled in fear of being arrested and tortured. Finally the leader and spokesperson of the Committee Chhatradhar Mahato was arrested on 26 October. Most of these families depended on their meager income by making and selling plates and bowls from Saal leaves (No, they do not cut down trees, they gather leaves and twigs). The festive season of Kolkata, came and passed peacefully during September, when hundreds of thousands of rupees were spent for a singles Durgapuja structure. In total some 2000 such ‘pujas’ were conducted in the city. And in the jungles about 200-300 kilometers away from the city, hundreds of innocent boys and able-bodied men were under arrest, their bundles of saal leaves stacked in their mud-huts gathering dust. With practically no income, daily meal is a problem for them. And soon their tribal festive season is approaching. How do they celebrate? What is the big idea? Kill all the poor people? They are getting smart! We are ashamed to face them—because they want to work hard and be self-reliant? They do not beg or steal like the urban poor! Rabindranath Tagore once said – “Making mistakes is not such a terrible thing, not getting independence is terrible. When you have the freedom to make mistakes, you get closer to truth…only through self reliance men make mistakes and overcome them … you cannot eat even the most delicious food when your hands and feet are tied and someone feeds you. But you can starve while striving to grow your own food”. They are now closer to Tagore’s teachings.  [Courtesy –column by Samir Saha Poddar‘iCore Ekdin’ 8 October, 2009]

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2 Responses to “What is real development?”

  1. military singles connect 26 July 2010 at 6:22 PM #

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  2. Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay 13 December 2010 at 11:16 PM #

    The Bengali Community is in Culture of Poverty, irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in mud house or apartment, nobody is ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administration, immature mother language, continuous absorption of common space(mental & physical, both), is blindfold becoming parents by self procreation without looking for any positive alternative behaviour, i.e. co-parenting of those children who are born out of ignorance, real poverty. Can Bengali people ever be able to bring genuine freedom in their own life, own household or at least initiate a movement, by heart.

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