Defeating Violence

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi submitted his own solution to all forms of violence. Inaugurating several development projects for Chhattisgarh worth thousands of crores of rupees, the Prime Minister said that development was the only and the best answer to every form of violence. He recalled how the very mention of Bastar used to invoke images of guns, bombs and violence, and said that today the region is known for the Jagdalpur airport. “I believe that to every form of violence there is only one reply and it is development,” the Prime Minister said, addressing a gathering after flagging off the first flight between Jagdalpur and Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. He added that in the region where the previous governments did not dare even to build roads, the BJP governments of the Centre and the State had built an airport. Modi said that an increasing number of youths from the Bastar region had shunned violence and were coming to the mainstream. He also pointed out that the commissioning of the Jagdalpur airport had cut the travel time between Raipur and Jagdalpur to just 40 minutes from the six to seven hours of train travel that had been needed earlier.

There is no denying that the Prime Minister raised the very pertinent issue of development vis-à-vis violence in a fast-growing economy. It is an accepted fact of life that development leads to a much higher level of employment, and that people who have work to do have neither the time nor the inclination for any kind of violence that gives rise to social unrest, hatred and much harm of all kinds. However, this is not the only equation that a society without development activity has to reckon with. It has to reckon with issues that stem from vast inequalities of wealth and income that sow the seeds of ill-will and violence among disparate groups. The real reasons behind the disparities are psychological ones that stem from economic ones. Unfortunately, there has rarely been a rational analysis of the reasons behind such disparities and the conflicts that they give rise to. And we cannot really dispute the fact that violence in society quite often stems from vastly unequal levels of development. We have regions in India that are very highly developed largely because of a long-standing and well sustained culture of development activities that are an integral part of the life-style of the people. There are other regions like ours that has no dearth of people who talk at length about development activities, but people who are totally averse to actual work of any kind. And where has anyone seen real development without purposeful and productive work?

It is high time we began to appreciate that development does not stem from what government agencies do to create infrastructure that the people of the region may not be in a position to make full use of. The building of an airport by the government in an area where very few people can afford to fly or in an area where there is no productive development activity that ensures the presence of a sufficient number of people whose jobs make it possible for them to always travel by air instead of having to use any other means of transportation is not real development for at least two good reasons. In the first place, the infrastructure that the government builds for promoting development is not development per se. If we start regarding such constructions as development, we shall only succeed in adding to the waste of public money that we see around us every day.

Infrastructure is only a means to achieve development. Secondly, it is the productive work of millions of people that makes for real development. For decades, we have been led to believe that anything that the government sets up as infrastructure with the work of well-paid contractors constitutes development. We must do everything in our power to debunk this myth, this pretence. Real development arises from productive work that millions of people do, and not from the infrastructure (often unused due to poor planning) that the government puts up and often abandons mindlessly.