The tea-garden workers of north Bengal have sought permission from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to kill themselves because they are unable to fight the financial woes any more. They have no income for the gardens have stopped working ten years ago and the people have been physically crippled owing to malnourishment. And not only this, these helpless people are also vulnerable to abuses by owners, human traffickers who help them by taking away their women and also attacks of wild animals.
The state's renowned tea industry has been crippled and no government, whether pre-parivartan (change) or post-parivartan have cared to improve the condition of the lot which flirt with risks for a paltry wage of Rs 40 a day!
And just compare this state of affairs with the programme in store for the citizens of Kolkata on April 2 when the the sixth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket carnival will kick off at an out-of-the-world event to be staged in the Salt Lake Stadium, the largest football ground in the city.
Flying drummer, Chinese percussionist, crackers and Bollywood icons will be the star attractions of the show. American singer Pitbull will present solo performance at the event. Shah Rukh Khan, one of the owners of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), the defending champions, will be the show-stopper at the event.
The IPL might be a corporate event but don't these paradoxes ring to our national leaders? Rajeev Shukla, the chairman of the IPL was ecstatic about the opening ceremony and the tamashaa cricket that will follow but why doesn't he don the mantle of a representative of a so-called welfare government (Shukla is also the minister of state for parliamentary affairs in the UPA government) once in a while also?
The same applies to Mamata Banerjee. The leader, who often declares herself to be a messiah of the poor and the downtrodden, hasn't done anything spectacular for those helpless tea workers although she has visited the Darjeeling hills and other parts of north Bengal a number of times since taking over.
On the other hand, she was seen taking the centre stage after the KKR returned with the winning cup and gave expensive gifts to the squad members, forgetting for a moment that her state is located on the verge of a economic collapse and there is no plan yet to bail it out from the impending tragedy.
Didn't she know that some husbands were selling their wives to human traders just to live another day at the tea gardens while handing over golden chains to cricketers and other individuals who are millionaires? Or is it that the agony of tea workers is outside her agenda for the poor and downtrodden since the woes of the tea industry in the state were allowed to worsen by the previous Left Front government?
Even the nation's elitist media will be more absorbed in covering insignificant cricket matches and gossips and scandals over the next seven weeks of the T-20 cricket carnival and think little about the dark homes of the marginalised.
The divide is gradually becoming unbridgeable. It is understood that as a fast-developing economy, we need to adapt to neo-liberal ways for they are the dominating rules in today's world but that doesn't mean we leave the marginalised out in the cold to die. We have forgotten that there is a big world outside the elite and urban India which also breathes in this same planet but do not have the minimum dignified life that a human being deserves. Why is there no mechanism to address those tearful eyes and empty stomachs?
Shame and more shame on us. IPLs have done little for the betterment of our cricket but for some souls who would have been otherwise non-existent. Just because the country's cricket board is a super-rich body that other cricket boards who are financially not sound but need to survive in the small and competitive world toe the line as we do in a on-way globe today. But amid all the money and glamour worship which goes on for more than a month every year, do we forget what the other India (or rather Bharat) stands for?
We still pat ourselves as a democracy, sorrowful indeed.
It is better if leaders like Banerjee shed some of their pro-poor pretension and take a stock of the real hardships that many of those who had voted her to power face everyday. What is the utility of a Shah Rukh Khan as the brand ambassador of the state which has no minimum brand identity in place?
People like Khans are seen appearing in TV commercials to promote places like Dooars in north Bengal where many tea gardens are located. Do they know what is the real picture there or do those who endorse Khan's glamour have any idea?
We don't need victories which are shallow achievements. And if indeed IPL is just a sporting activity, then please don't waste humongous amount of money for the entertainment of a few. It looks odd and exposes our double-standards.
Can we get our priorities right?