Goa is on the boil. Or so they said. For the last one month, it seemed that people of Goa were hitting the streets every day. Sitting on railway lines, holding candlelight vigils. And of course, lighting up social media.
Their cause? Something that they called “Save Mollem.”
The movement takes its name from the Mollem National Park in Goa, next to the Bhagwan Mahavir sanctuary. The central and state governments have recently cleared a bouquet of infrastructure projects in the region. First, double tracking on the railway line that carries coal from the Mormugao port to Hospet in Karnataka. Second, a widening of National Highway 4A into a four lane road. And finally, the laying of a power transmission line through the region.
This sounds like important work, necessary to create jobs both in the area and stimulate the economy elsewhere in the country. And it’s not even such a big project. Do you really expect to run a major port in the 21st century with only a single line of railway track? Yes, like everything else in the world, there is a tradeoff here. The improvements run through an ecologically sensitive region. There is going to be a cost. But, do you seriously expect to survive with two lane highways in the 21st century?
But as with every little thing in India these days, “everyone” seems to overreact. Activists, civil society, candlelight brigades; they all went into collective hysteria. Open letters, protest petitions, “revolutionary” poems, songs and the like. Big influencers on social media. All crying like the five year old who doesn’t understand why they can’t have their cake and eat it too.
You know the themes. The government was accused of using the lockdown to ram these projects down the throats of the public. There was the usual backbiting of how this or that expert was not properly consulted or their opinions not properly recorded. NGOs mobilized writers, poets, intellectuals, experts and as is the new fashion on environmental matters: minor school children.
You know how it is. I’m surprised they didn’t have their patron saint tweeting from Sweden.
Everyone wants GDP growth. And they are ready with taunts and tweets if that isn’t achieved. Even in the face of a pandemic. They just want to achieve it with a single track railway line, two lane highway and no power transmission cables.
Why so unreasonable?
But no matter how unreasonable, the fundamental argument is solid. India is a democracy. If people don’t want something, you can’t make them.
But yesterday, Goa had an election. The ruling BJP secured a thumping win, picking up 33 of the 49 Zila panchayats. The opposition Congress trailed far behind, winning just 4. In a tiny state where everyone knows their elected representative, that’s pretty much as close as you can get to direct democracy.
So what happened to this storm of discontent allegedly brewing across Goa in the last one month?
This disconnect between “mahaul” and “data” is everywhere in India these days. They say “farmers” are angry with BJP. They say hundreds of thousands of farmers from Rajasthan are marching to Delhi to get the three new farm laws repealed. But BJP wins big in rural polls across Rajasthan.
They say migrant laborers are angry with BJP. But BJP wins Bihar, the heart of migrant labor nationwide. The BJP not only wins Bihar, but has by far the highest strike rate among all parties. They say that UP is angry because of bad law and order situation. But BJP sweeps the bypolls. Madhya Pradesh is a large agrarian state. But BJP sweeps the bypolls there too. The BJP makes unprecedented gains in Telangana, where it was only a bit player just a year ago.
The same disconnect stretches into the economic sphere. They say India’s economy has plunged into a deep dark hole. But FDI is up, foreign portfolio investments are up, the GDP is rebounding faster than anyone expected, the Rupee is stable, the market and forex reserves are at historic levels.
The same with Coronavirus. They said India has mismanaged the pandemic. But India’s deaths per million figure is anywhere from 5 to 8 times less than America or Western Europe. When daily case counts declined, they said India would be soon crippled by a deadly second wave. Where is it?
On the streets, farmers are angry. Workers are angry. Students are angry. But BJP sweeps elections. In newspaper columns, we read that investors have lost all hope. But FDI is up 140% in the last quarter. How?
This suggests that there is someone out there, trying to create the image of a nation in crisis. Who could it be? The protests around Delhi have shut down 1800 factories in the Greater Noida industrial area. In just the last two weeks, production at Toyota and Wistron facilities in Karnataka came to a halt due to labor unrest. Just a coincidence that getting Apple’s contract manufacturers like Wistron to set up shop here was a flagship success for “Make in India.”
India is fast becoming a smartphone hub. And just then, with perfectly bad timing, India faces a huge PR disaster on this front.
Who benefits from this? Who loses a little bit every time India builds a new railway line or highway?
How did even the smallest, most mundane details about India get so spectacularly international? Remember the NEET/JEE exam and how they said the world was going to end because of it? Back then, activists from Sweden were “standing” with students of India. Just like how Canada “stands” with farmers of India today.
World media creates a fever pitch that India is now an authoritarian state. That’s when a real authoritarian state makes its move in Ladakh. All coincidences, working out perfectly for India’s enemies, 100% of the time.
China announces plans for a dam on the Brahmaputra river. India hits back by announcing its own. Within 3 days, a top liberal portal finds a bunch of experts to say that India’s dam would cause massive ecological damage. Coincidence.
A database gets leaked and it is found that 20 lakh Chinese Communist Party agents have infiltrated corporates, universities and even consulates worldwide. The very next day, India’s best known liberal portal has an article that says India should not worry about a red scare. That Communists couldn’t possibly have infiltrated anything. There is nothing to worry. Again, coincidence.
Is this a conspiracy theory? Maybe. But they never announce conspiracies, do they? Tell me what a real conspiracy would look like. Or do you think there has never been or can never be an actual conspiracy? Except the one where all the crony capitalists in India conspired with BJP instead of the party which has ruled for 60 years. That one is totally real, OK?
Look. It is impossible to know the intentions of any specific person or organization. Maybe they are all acting out of genuine conscience. Maybe they are getting paid. And maybe they are just useful idiots. But you can’t possibly fail to see who benefits here.
Again, look. It is true that governments in the past have spoken of a “foreign hand” to cover up their failures. But does that mean there can never be a conspiracy against India? We have just uncovered 20 lakh Communist agents infiltrating power centers worldwide. This is reality. Tell me how these agents would operate, except to sow confusion among people everywhere.
A day after the Galwan valley clash, the New York Times wrote that the conflict happened because of Amit Shah’s speech. You’re telling me you didn’t find that weird?
How about this? Some NGO called “EU Disinformation Lab” uncovers a massive secret Indian program to defame Pakistan worldwide! Apparently, this has been going on since 2005. Did you know that all these years, India was the bad guy all along, defaming innocent Pakistan?
You know in your bones that it isn’t true.
When they told you Modi is fascist, perhaps you didn’t speak up because you are not a Modi supporter.
When they told you India is the occupier in Kashmir, perhaps you didn’t speak up because you are drunk with the myth of how it is all about “Kashmiriyat”
But now they are saying India made up all those charges against Pakistan. Can you still keep your eyes closed? Can you still deny that there is a well funded campaign to take India down?
Everyone knows the story of the boy who cried wolf. Not everyone notices that there are actually two lessons in that story. Don’t cry wolf for no reason. We all realized that one. The second lesson? Sometimes, there really is a wolf. So, watch out.