Friday, February 5, 2016
An Open Letter to PM and CM: Promote realistic development, not poster wars!
An Open Letter to Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Odisha
Dear PM of India and CM of Odisha,
How about making Paradeep a place for positive platform, for promoting an alternative politics and alternative energy; instead of engaging in a poster war?
At the outset I congratulate you both and the people of India for achieving a new milestone in the form of an Oil Refinery at Paradeep. I am sure tomorrow’s function will bring hopes to many in the country and also prosperity to the Oil Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) IOCL. More public sector involvement in nation building is actually better for the country. Congratulations to IOCL as well!
As both of you prepare to dedicate the Refinery to the nation, I write this letter raising some concerns and giving away some suggestions for your consideration. Hope you will take positive note of the issues raised and lead your respective party members and government organisations under you to change the type of political activism and developmental agenda respectively.
The small yet significant port city of Paradeep is now witness to a huge poster war between BJP and BJD. Ever since the date of 'dedication to nation' of the Oil Refinery has been declared, IOCL started a very proactive propaganda drive throughout the state. The function has been named 'Urja Utsav' (Energy Festival). Perhaps with purpose of inviting people in large numbers, IOCL planted many big size banners, in Paradeep and throughout the state, that carried pictures of the PM and the Oil Minister. The IOCL also sent out vehicles – in Paradeep - with such posters pasted all around with big television advertisements like the ones we see during election campaigns. Such TV advertisements came with the PM’s speeches. Such 'prachar raths' (propaganda cars) were then seized by the Jagatsinghpur police on complaint of violation of the SC ruling that does not allow any govt. or public sector undertakings/organisations to put photographs of anyone except the PM, President and CJI.
After the Jagatsinghpur police action, when perhaps IOCL realized its mistakes, it struck down the posters of the Oil Minister. However, perhaps that only happened in Paradeep. In many other places of Odisha, the posters are still there hanging high in retail fuel outlets. In Paradeep, the posters have now been modified a bit and have come up with BJP being the host organization. In the new posters, that has exactly the same publicity materials that used to be in the previous IOCL posters – still seen in other places of Odisha, there are now three photographs – the PM, BJP National President and the Oil Minister.
In the meantime, BJD also started planting its own posters with the CM’s photographs. Situation has come to such a pass that, people of the state witness a poster war between BJP and BJD on the streets of Paradeep and Bhubaneswar. No one knows who pays for all these poster wars, but the message is clear that two political parties are trying to establish their claims over the establishment of the Oil Refinery of IOCL at Paradeep. In reality, the Refinery has been done with tax payers' money and local peoples' sacrifice and contribution.
If the Refinery benefits the common people, they will definitely give credit to the governments. And if the people feel the 'dedication to nation' ceremony is so important, people will definitely attend the function on their own. We hear that both BJP and BJD are driving lakhs of people from across the state to show their strength before their leaders. Is it really necessary?
Indian politics, to my opinion, really needs to change from such mindsets to a new era altogether. The people need more progressive ideas and alternative politics. In this regard, keeping in mind the landmark day for Paradeep, may I request you to please look into the following suggestions?
1. If the IOCL has so much money for such a massive propaganda for this event, they should have invested in their CSR initiatives with investment in mangrove protection, wind energy and solar energy promotion, irrigation assurance to farmers, etc.
2. Many IOCL retail outlets have poor facilities for customers such as sheds, drinking water and good toilets. They could have prioritized to invest in improving all these.
3. If the political parties can save on the fuel and pollution from the vehicles that would drive lakhs of party workers to Paradeep, that can be invested in better works like supporting the farmers in distress, so on and so forth. I am sure that would fetch more votes than showing strength before party leaders.
4. Each street light pillar in Paradeep now has posters of BJP or BJD or both. It would have been so beautiful had they invested the same amount of rupees in giving solar street lights.
We really expect a modern era of politics from both of you, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Chief Minister, to promote realistic and alternative politics that promotes people centric development, including alternative energy, and limited expenses on propaganda.
Hope these words reach you and reasons prevail!
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two and half decades now.