Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mining and construction good for us

When you write as much self-righteous stuff as I have, you tend to get very high in the in-step and then if you are lucky, someone pulls you down to earth. As did happen just the other day… I met the friendly neighbourhood MLA who did not look too friendly.
“You do not look too friendly,” I observed.
“Friendly? Why should I look friendly? Why should I look friendlily at you of all people when you write such libel about me and my colleagues,” he said.
“It isn’t against you per se,” I said carefully since he used a hi-funda word like friendlily, “I write against the entire government.”
“As I am part of the government it is against me,” he said.
“Very well, you’re right,” I said, “it is against you too. So what do you have to say for yourself?”
“I have come to teach you some things,” he said.
“Okay, I’ll just get a crash helmet and some body armour,” I said.
“Not that kind of lesson, though it is an idea,” he said. “I have to educate you. I may have a poor academic record, but I am a politician and you are a mere hack.”
“That is true. I am learning more everyday and I do have a lot to learn,” I said.
“First you complain about illegal mining,” he said. “Do you know it is only a signature and rubber stamp on a silly paper that makes the mining legal or illegal? Is not all mining destroying forests and agricultural land? Why pick on poor illegal miners then? Don’t they have to eat?”
“I ____,” I began but he cut me off rudely.
“Just shut your mouth and let me speak,” he said, “You talk of prices going through the roof. How are the middlemen going to earn a living? They have no land to grow anything, at least the farmer can plant enough food for himself and his family, what does the middle man have? Nothing. Of course he will hike up the prices,” he said.
“And give you and your jolly boys a cut of the profits?” I said, though interjected would be a better word.
“How are we to live? You think we have come into politics to do good deeds for people who couldn’t care less whether we live or die? No,” he thundered, “We have to look out for ourselves. What kind of a salary do we MLAs get? Peanuts! Then you go and call us monkeys. Of course we are monkeys if we work for peanuts.”
“You are earning a fat salary and you are guaranteed a fat pension too for just a few years of self-service in politics,” I interjected.
“We make the wheels move,” he said. “We build lots of infrastructure, roads, bridges, subways and all. Of course we do it for the kickbacks and commissions, but just think if there were no kickbacks would you have two bridges over the Mandovi and three Patto bridges in Panjim and a bunch of bridges all over the place? See the bus stand at Cuncolim. It even won an award for Best Recreational Design in New Delhi in 2007.”
“Yes but it is not being used,” I said, “So how can it even be recreational?”
“That is the beauty,” he said, “It can be used for anything even a theatre, or community hall, or cultural centre. We benefit from the commissions, yes, but the people benefit for at least 20 years, when the structures are expected to fall down. We ARE doing service for the people!”
“And drowning villages in mega projects, how do those end up with service for the people after you get the kickbacks?” I asked.
“How truly foolish you are,” he marvelled. “Don’t you know these are the rich and famous people who want to have property in Goa? How could it not be advantageous for naive Goans to have these kind great people around them? Goans can learn so much, copy their lifestyle. They can get jobs with them to clean their houses and work in their offices. And is this not one country, one world? Why should we stop other Indians and foreigners from coming here? What you think, your name is written on Goa?”
“Actually yes,” I said. “I am a Goan, therefore, of Goa.”
“Pah,” he said. “Then SEZs and big industries. We need them. All our children are running outside for jobs. Now they need not. We will bring industries here. Yes salaries are much lower here, but then you don’t have to rent or buy a house since you will be living with your own family.”
“But then you are using up all the land for building fancy houses for the wealthy and slums for poor migrants,” I said, “Where will our underpaid children live?”
“Aarey that is why we are here nah?” he said. “We will build low cost housing for them in different parts of Goa and then put in good roads and good transport for them to commute to work easily. More kickbacks for us and more development for locals. I don’t know why you people worry for nothing. We will have mining and mega projects and SEZs and houses for the rich and also place for poor locals to work and live. It’s all planned. Only you trouble makers must learn the truth.”
“What truth?” I asked.
“That mining and construction are the best things for Goa. Not just for us MLAs,” he said. “Now finally do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said, “come to my house for a meal.”
“What’s on the menu,” he asked.
“I’ll go futuristic today,” I said. “Main dish, mining reject, removed with a side dish of garbage and concrete, washed down with a liqueur of mineral water laced with sewage from a gated community. It’s a special for you. This is what your grandchildren will be dining on.”

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