Demolition Man

May 31, 2007

Appeared in the Pioneer May 30th.

Kerala’s demolition man
Rajeev Srinivasan
Kerala’s Communist Chief Minister has taken on crooks of all shades, which no other politician has done. Yet, the CPI(M) is unhappy with him. Is it because those who fund the Marxists are victims of his crusade against corruption?

There is a heart-rending sight as one drives through ‘God’s Own Country’ – thousands of acres of paddy fields, all the way to the horizon, lying fallow and useless. These were lushly productive within living memory, filled with that unbelievably joyous unnamed green of young paddy, and later rice-stalks heavy with grain, swaying in the breeze. This is now a memory, thanks mostly to labour strife. Communist intransigence is to blame.

 
There is another, equally heart-breaking sight, on the lush green slopes of the Western Ghats, which at first glance look deceptively appealing. But they are green deserts, because their luxuriant natural rain-forest habitat has been replaced by monoculture plantation crops, destroying the bio-diversity of the Ghats, one of the genetic hotspots on the planet. The Communists, and their opponents the Congress, have both colluded in a massive, continuing land-grab across Kerala.
 
Nevertheless, there is today a wave of goodwill for the Communist Chief Minister, the octogenarian VS Achuthanandan. This is because he has demonstrated that quality most lacking in the Indian political class: Leadership. Unafraid of making enemies, and despite fierce opposition from his own party, the CPI(M), he has acted in the public interest; the citizenry approves, mixed with a little schadenfreude at the hitherto-sacrosanct land-mafia taking a beating.
 
Neither in West Bengal nor Kerala have the Communists achieved much for the alleged objects of their tender attentions – the most disadvantaged. In Kerala, agricultural jobs have simply disappeared due to artificially inflated wages. In both States, the status of SC/ST and OBC women – generally at the bottom of the pile – has deteriorated sharply.
 
Two specific events have impressed the jaded citizenry. First, there was a deal with a Dubai company, Tecom, to build Smart City, an IT park in Kochi. The previous Congress-led UDF Government had agreed to terms that were a complete give-away, wherein Tecom got valuable land and exclusivity in return for vague promises of job creation. Then in the Opposition, Mr Achuthanandan fought this proposal tooth-and-nail.
 
When Mr Achuthanandan came to power, he was in a bind, because Tecom threatened to walk away unless its demands were met. However, he negotiated vigorously, and forced Tecom to concede a lot: A lease, not a grant, of land, and at a much higher price, and no exclusivity. The new deal is far more advantageous, making the previous Government look like it was hoodwinked.
 
The second incident is on-going: The demolition of unauthorised construction starting in the picturesque hill-town of Munnar, extending to waterfront resorts in Kumarakom, Poovar, etc, and now also to the towns of the State. They are reclaiming large tracts of Government, forest and Adivasi land grabbed by unscrupulous land-sharks, who have always been protected by corrupt officials and Ministers.
 
Mr Achuthanandan has set up a team of ‘Three Musketeers’ to help him in ruthless but necessary action. They are: Additional Secretary K Suresh Kumar, Inspector-General of Police Rishi Raj Singh, and Idukki Collector Raju Narayana Swami. All three of them are legendary. For instance, Mr Suresh Kumar drove the hard bargain with Tecom. Mr Singh is famous for his incognito trips in mufti to nab electricity thieves. One of Mr Swami’s first acts of demolition, as soon as he joined the IAS as a Sub-Collector, was against his own father-in-law.
 
This is a very positive development: It means that if politicians are willing to take on vested interests, the usually blasé and angst-ridden civil services will produce officers with integrity. The ‘steel frame of the Raj’ is not so rusted, after all.
 
With the support of the courts, the trio has torn down various illegal constructions belonging to the rich and the powerful. They have wielded the JCB backhoe as their weapon of choice, in the full glare of TV lights. Getting the hint, others are scrambling to dismantle illegal construction on land expropriated by them.
 
The average Malayali-in-the-street is delighted. If Mr Achuthanandan were to contest an election today, he would win with a landslide. But, alas, the CPI(M) is not so happy, presumably because loyal contributors have been hurt. The local CPI(M) boss, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, had a public spat with Mr Achuthanandan. Both have been suspended from the Polit Bureau for “disciplinary reasons”.
 
That highlights a serious problem with the CPI(M): It is only interested in self-aggrandisement, despite the copious tears it sheds about the plight of the ‘common man’. This has been seen in the Nandigram massacre, and now the same syndrome can be seen in Kerala, albeit in a milder form.
 
Furthermore, endemic casteism haunts the Communists: Despite OBC Ezhavas being their backbone, the CPI(M) has manoeuvred to always exclude them from the top job, and a particularly galling example was the exclusion of the respected ideologue KR Gowri. Mr Achuthanandan is the first Ezhava Communist to get the Chief Minister’s job, and that too, only after Mr Vijayan initially refused him a ticket to contest last year’s Assembly election.
 
All this reinforces the widespread impression that the Communists are somewhat less pure in the pursuit of the interests of the poor and disadvantaged they claim to be. This should come as no surprise.
 
As for Mr Achuthanandan, he has taken on a fresh adversary: The all-powerful Christian Church. He has ordered a fresh inquiry into the Sister Abhaya case, wherein the nun, who had been a whistle-blower exposing Church irregularities, was found drowned in a convent in 1992. There have been allegations of murder from day one, with people accusing various Church bigwigs of involvement, but there has been an elaborate cover-up: The matter was ruled a case of suicide by an unstable person.
 
New and shocking evidence has been unearthed: The post-mortem report for Abhaya has “disappeared” from the register (those pages were torn out), and the chemical examiner’s report, says the forensic lab, has been tampered with. Where the report originally said “semen found in genitals”, a correction has added a “no”. So it appears Abhaya was indeed raped and murdered; it is to be hoped that the culprits will be brought to book.
 
There is also the remarkable Christian ‘Divine Retreat Centre’, where no fewer than 976 people have died in suspicious circumstances over the past decade, amid allegations of torture, psychotropic drugs, rapes, murders, quick disposal of bodies, and other irregularities. Once again, vested interests have swept this case under the carpet, but this is one sacred cow that the honest Chief Minister really needs to slay: A thousand citizen deaths is no laughing matter. In some circles, this might even be deemed a ‘genocide’.
 
The odds are against Mr Achuthanandan, since he is taking on all the dominant vested interests in Kerala at once. But the ‘Demolition Man’ may yet surprise us; in any case, he has given a great boost to the cause of citizen empowerment and the reining in of carpetbaggers.
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One Response to “Demolition Man”

  1. psenthilraja Says:

    As of today, he has surprised us all.. He has given in to the mafias..

    My father used to say.. Communism would have been a noble thing, if they have included the spirituality in them.. But alas.. the very atheism they followed brought them down in most parts of the world.

    Even though there are pro’s & con’s in them, the con’s cover most of their qualities.. leave it all.. they should be kicked out of the country.. the reason that they are hoodwinks of china is far enough.


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