Mamata, the spoiler

Last Updated : 12 September 2011, 15:51 IST

Follow Us :


The prime minister’s historic visit to Bangladesh achieved a long-sought boundary settlement but would have accomplished more and won greater goodwill but for the immature, parochial petulance of Mamata Banerjee.

Agreement on an interim 15-year sharing of Teesta waters, until agreed hydrological data is jointly established, had been patiently negotiated. Then, suddenly, the applecart was upset by Mamata’s crude ‘snub’ to both the prime ministers by pulling out of the Dhaka visit, though she had been kept fully in the loop until the very end.

Mamata obviously has some other political fish to fry and so got her priorities wrong. West Bengal’s Teesta interest had been safeguarded. An earlier formulation was that of the discharge, 39 per cent should go to India, 36 per cent to Bangladesh, leaving 25 per cent unallocated. What was now proposed was that the unallocated 25 per cent should be equally split giving the two countries a roughly equal overall share, with Bangladesh’s quota made up by regeneration and free flows between the Indian barrage at Gazaldoba and Bangladesh’s Dalia barrage, 100 km downstream.

With this understanding scuttled by Mamata, agreement on sharing Feni waters and mutual transit rights have been stayed, hopefully only temporarily. Nevertheless, the land boundary settlement that was signed has cured a huge human and political irritant and ended the daily anxieties and miseries of those hitherto condemned to live in a no-man’s land. However, there has been mindless agitation by some Assamese groups and the BJP about giving away’ Indian territory.

All that has been done is finally to define the actual boundary by settling the ambiguities left behind by Radcliffe’s demarcation while partitioning the country in 1947. Spoilers should be given no quarter.

We need a new and more harmonious relationship with Bangladesh, which nature, culture and geo-strategic factors have joined to us at the hip. The future of the North East is dependent on cooperation with and transit through Bangladesh which, in turn, could find a valuable market and energy source in that region. Such mutual benefits need to be exploited, not shunned.

The knee-jerk political and part-popular response to the tragic Delhi high court bombing last week is equally disconcerting. Instead of standing united in the face of a common and constant danger, there was instant condemnation of the government and security agencies for their ‘failure,’ lack of intelligence, callousness, sloth and unpreparedness, trashing every agency, with the BJP and media leading the charge. Read the crawlers run by two leading TV channels: Terror outsmarts cops, Is terror a step ahead? Intelligence agencies left behind, security full of loopholes, Clueless on terror, Who blundered on intelligence? Have we let Pakistan off the hook? Where are the tough measures?  NIA is no use.

Stern measures           
All this from some of the same groups that had passionately pleaded for clemency to terrorists on death row just a few days earlier! Stern measures are routinely resisted – even hiking oil prices or, at a different level, arresting Anna Hazare on August 16 when he was pledged to defy the law and due process on a patently wrong plea of muzzling public protest.

Of course, concern at the series of terror strikes and our inability to catch the perpetrators in many recent cases thus far is understandable. But to compare India with the US post-9/11 is farfetched. As the home minister said, the edifice of the new anti-terror architecture is being put together brick by brick. But what is ignored is strengthening the basic police force in terms of numbers, equipment, training, and autonomous command and control. But whatever has happened to police reform? 

Now, with revived interest in the cash-for-vote scam, we have the impatient would-be prime minister, Advani, grandiloquently boasting in the Lok Sabha of masterminding that sting operation and springing to the defence of the BJP ‘whistle blowers,’ either charged or in detention, and asking to be arrested with them. This is an admission of criminal conspiracy which, if repeated outside the House, could lead to consequences that he would assuredly protest. Heads, I win. Tails, you lose!

Not satisfied with accepting responsibility for the cash-for-vote farce, Advani then went on to announce another of his Yatras later this year to focus on corruption and in the expectation, as he said elsewhere, of the possibility of early national elections. The BJP was caught unawares and squirmed at this attempt by the Loh Purush to assume titular leadership as the party’s putative prime minister. Advani should know that his rathyatras, Ayodhya onwards, were divisive and provocative and left behind a trail of blood and communal mistrust, giving rise to thought of communal revenge.

Sections of the media also betray the arrogance of immaturity in criticising official moves to examine the need for media regulation in the wake of a series of developments including the phenomenon of paid news and private treaties. The Press Council needs comprehensive reform while an unprecedentedly unregulated broadcast media is a menace to itself and to the public.

Everybody seems happy to watch successive governments destroy public service broadcasting which could have set standards. Maybe the time has come for a truly independent commission to review the unfolding media scene, including the new media, and make appropriate recommendations.  

Published 12 September 2011, 15:51 IST

Follow us on :

Follow Us