Thursday, 5 November 2009

Urban Activists and Their Double Standards

A discussion group dedicated to one of the most elite neighborhoods in the country has been rife with discussion about a land grab. An order by the Supreme Court to preserve a piece of lung-space has been circumvented by the state government and the property has been transferred to the person who has the property titles to the land.

I appreciate and laud the efforts of these citizen activists who are democratically and legally waging a battle against the transfer of this lung space back to private hands.

These very same urban activists however call me a leftie or socialist when I say that the transfer of tribal land to the private sector is a similar issue. I find it amazing that some of the richest citizens in Bangalore could be so thick-skinned about how similar these issues are. When a land grab affects them directly it is an issue about environment. When a land grab does not impact them directly or indirectly it is encouraged as a necessary developmental sacrifice.

This very same discussion group recently had a thread related to how villagers near the Agra Lake area in Bangalore were forcing their way into a traditional burial ground and about how it was making life uncomfortable for the residents of nearby apartment blocks. Here again I was surprised with the tone in which the person who started the thread felt that the residents had a legal right to block the grave yard, construct on the grave yard and literally dance on graves. The lack of sensitivity to the rights of the villagers who are being displaced by the rapid development of Bangalore is embarrassing to citizens like myself.

Another discussion on the same list was related to how slums were coming up in the HSR layout area. The area is being developed rapidly and population levels are fairly high. On the one-hand, residents need the labor from these slums. They refuse to pay wages that would provide them with quality housing. On the other hand, they claim rights as tax payers to evict these slum dwellers. They fail to realize that the insanitary conditions in which they live is directly related to the level of wages that the people of HSR pay the residents of these very slums.

This divide between urban upper middle class India and the rest of India is worrying. The dichotomy in their perspectives is pure hypocrisy.

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