Friday, July 13, 2012

In response to “People’s power for hydropower” published in Kuensel dated July 11, 2012.

It is with much joy that we live today to see the developments finally touching the margins of our far-flung villages. When we say development has come, I am sure, our forefathers who died longing for this must be watching restlessly from their tombs. We have waited for more than hundred years only to realize later that we wasted a great portion of our lives waiting. After much ‘yell and cry’, we see and feel a few reasons to be ‘happy’. I applaud the government who walks their words—‘Electricity for All’ by 2013—and salute them. We have reasons to be excited.

However, in contrast to this, we have reasons to be sad too. There are many words that I find it hard to digest in this report: not because they are hard like a stone but they hurt me every time I think of my village. The report says villagers were ‘coerced’ to carry electric poles ‘to reduce contractor’s overheads’. This statement—‘to reduce contractor’s overheads’—seems to be grandeur of madness. Who are we to reduce contractor’s overheads? It’s funny! We seem to be heading a joint-partnership with the contractor going by this line. Are we his partners in business? Will he share his profits, with us at the end, just like we pitied and helped him now?

I understand that the development is for us and we are going to benefit from it; not the contractor. I also understand that getting laborers to work is very difficult. But I am sure the contractor has accepted the work with all knowledge and wisdom of the locality. No one must have ever forced to take up the job if it was not his willingness. And no one thought after winning the bid he would come to people with all those grievances. Whether he is able to do or not is a question in concern, the greater part of the question is why has he opted for doing it if he had known that he would run in loss?

Making ‘compulsory’ for all the villagers to carry the electric pole (so as to help contractor maximize profit?) is unethical. It is just about making rich richer. As far as I know, contractors have the right to hire laborers who are ‘willing to work’ but not force (coerce) someone ‘compulsorily’. If people are to work under compulsion, it is far better that the work be given to the people and the profit be shared among them. The fruit of one man’s hard work cannot be reaped by another.

To add upon this, it is the peak season for agriculture in Lauri. And under the ‘compulsory regime’ many farmers have to leave their fields and run down to fetch the poles. People are agriculture-dependant and we very well know what consequences future would bring in case we missed (even a few days’) our farm work. The rivers are swollen; path slippery and rocks falling. But there is no choice. Many old and widowed are forced out of homes. And if they are not able to do it, they are asked to hire people and send in their substitute. One of the interviewees pointed out that it’s a ‘torture’. We cannot accept such tortures that come in the name of development. This is in contrast to GNH, the grand philosophy that is not only to be practiced in Thimphu but also in villages. There have been several cases where elites have taken advantage of our innocence. The Gup who represents us is too weak to defend the elites. He is our leader but their servant. As a head of the Gewog, who assumed the post through the graces of people’s thumb, he ought to work for the benefit of his people and not to bootlick elites.

On the other hand, the government seems to be pushing forward things illogically. Just taking its stand on to lighting all homes by 2013, it is not taking into consideration the farm work people have to do and the hardship they have to face in transporting the heavy electrical machines on their backs. We always talk about self reliance but our working days (farm) are broken days. We would rather have appreciated if such works were done in winter when farmers had no much work and the climate fine. We would have appreciated if electricity had come after the construction of road so that people need not have to burden their backs under heavy loads.

We have been in the darkness for more than a century. As a result we are forced to envy people who enjoy all modern facilities. But we have never hated or disliked to live in the villages despite poor facilities. What we hated was having to carry loads for days and months under scorching sun and heavy rains that we inherited from our forefathers. But Alas! What we hate bounds us again. Should we carry the poles? If we don’t, development would lag. If we do, our shoulders will have to wear the scar for the happy times to come.

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