The last year of this decade has been among the most eventful in contemporary history. The year 2009 has seen the centre of the world moving, from West to East. This article looks back at 2009 and the issues and the newsmakers that made the headlines around the globe.
Winds of Change
In West Bengal, everyone seems to be feeling the winds of change. Ever since the drubbing in the last Lok Sabha elections, a few by-polls, local body elections, etc, the Left for once appears to be cornered while Didi (Mamata Banerjee) is all over the city (The Railways is run on taxpayers’ money. Right?). But several questions arise. What happened to the science of rigging? Successive Chief Election Commissioners and election observers, not to mention politicians of various hues, have attributed the Left reign to scientific rigging. But no concrete/mathematical model has ever been proferred. Well, maths and science are not really everyone’s forte, least of all, of a babu.
The Maoists are having a ball of a time. They loot, kill and evade elite para-military forces with impunity. Not only this, Kishenji rings up a senior official late at night and has a detailed conversation on industry and pollution. The officer gets pulled up (if one goes by media reports) for talking to the caller, for bureaucrats are supposed to be responsive. Change, it is said, is good. However, it is left to be seen whether a political change in West Bengal will result in a better quality of life for the poor, lesser siphoning-off of development funds, lesser dadagiri by contractors-builders and petty lumpenism by the local clubs. With the present condition of agriculture in the state, there is little hope of any meaningful increase in productivity. In the manufacturing sector, after the Nano fiasco, not many industrial houses will venture into the state. The service sector, despite sincere efforts by Wipro, IBM, etc, and also by the government, faces the risk of bandhs at the drop of a hat. Now it is up to Didi to assure all that the changes she offers will be a change for the better.
The Ruchika Girhotra episode, sad as it is, is just one more example of acute lack of appreciation and sympathy on the part of government, police and civil society. Today, all those who are up in arms maintained a studied silence when Ruchika was molested and when she committed suicide. How come there were no media and street protests then? How come the convicted Mr Rathore kept on going up the ranks till he was elevated to the rank of DGP? What is that ‘extra’ a cop can provide as a service to his political boss? If Rathore is guilty, what about the officers who had conducted his departmental inquiry? Rathore can probably be tried further. But how will the political leadership be tried?
The most-hyped climate change summit at Copenhagen turned out to be a fiasco. The organisers, in a fit of generosity (some could say a momentary lack of reasoning), invited anyone and everyone for consultations and in the process the cream of the frivolous and non-serious society laid siege on the venue. The negotiators, each of whom had a specific brief from his respective masters, tried to blow each other away. USA pushed China who pushed EU who pushed India who agreed to put on board its efforts in mitigation. The reason given later was that if India had not done that, the talks would have broken down. Now, what if the talks would have broken down? Would we be on a better footing? Have we done enough for our environment? (Dr Ramadoss-engineered campaign against smoking has not dented sales and now you get to buy Malboros in India!). The public sector units, irrespective of their polluting history, remain holy cows and no one dare touch them even with a barge pole. The private units are flush with money and it is said, money can buy everything–even clean environment!
Looking back, except a blimp here and there, 2009 was a tolerable year. No more 26/11, lots of inane music and films from Bollywood, Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire, a Nobel Prize to an NRI (some say he is a bit churlish in not accepting India’s role in his achievement), Grammy nominations…. Not so bad, eh?
By Kamal Chaudhary