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Blast from the past: The Unglamourous State
I wrote this shortly after a cyclone devastated Orissa in 1999 (?). Orissa almost always continues to live with years alternating between cyclones/floods and drought. It really does amaze and sadden me that one state can suffer so much misery annually.
If Sachin Tendulkar's back breaks down, its news. If Debasis Mohanty is rested because of a foot injury no one cares about it. It really seems to be a similar situation with the recent cyclone(s) in Orissa. One of my earlier articles talked about how India got united like I hadn't ever seen before during the Kargil conflict. Surprisingly though (or maybe it isn't so) the cyclonic devastation hasn't really resulted in the same scale of sympathy and mood.
I am tempted to think that it really must be so because its Orissa. If the affected state were say Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bengal or one of the eastern states I'm sure the feeling would be stronger. I may be totally wrong though.
Assume, for a moment or two, that Pakistan actually was staking its claim to Bihar/Orissa and not Kashmir/Punjab (or Junagadh which isn't really a state but just a province in the northern part of Gujarat). Assume that they invaded Bihar/Orissa (impossible though it may seem, considering they would have to cross the entire breadth of India to get there but then again strange things have happened at Purulia, haven't they ?). Would the public outcry have been on the same level as it did ultimately turn out to be for Kashmir ? There is no doubt at all that there would be a lot of strong feelings expressed but would it be on a similar keel as that of what we see for Kashmir today (or Punjab 8-10 years ago) ? Probably not.
For those who wish to know, Giridhar Gamang, the present CM of Orissa was the one who was allowed to vote in the previous government's vote of confidence even though he was holding the twin positions of MP and MLA. Gamang voted 'Nay' and there was another election. Orissa has also been witness to the burning of Staines and his kids. Is the BJP government deliberately delaying aid to Orissa because Gamang brought them down by his vote the last time around ? Is nature punishing Orissa for having allowed an innocent person to have been killed by a mob ? I would brand anyone who propounds the 2nd theory naive and insane.
Yet, the suffering of Orissa's people is very likely not because of the lack of public interest/sympathy for their state (pun unintended) today or because of the step-fatherly (or step-motherly) attitude of the centre, but because of the callousness of the state's administration. The latest issue of India Today (a magazine, that I respect a lot) speaks about how there is money, the food stocks are there but there is no way this can be distributed to the villages because the state administration system had collapsed on the day of the cyclone. The various secretaries at the state level and the district collectors etc. just fled. The result is those haunting eyes that look at us from magazines and newspaper photographs.
Overnight people have been rendered homeless, family-less and income-less. Surely the people of Orissa deserve better. So what if they don't produce the glamour boys of India ? So what if it isn't as much of strategic importance as Kashmir or Punjab ? So what if it doesn't boast of any metros ? They are Indians and that is reason enough.
All the blasts: Kargil & WC 1999, Lata v Asha, Tam-Brahm wedding, Madras, Unglamourous Orissa, Idols and Bangalore.
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