Saturday, January 3, 2009

Green bong intellectuals

Kolkata is a city full of intellectuals. You can find them of course in schools and colleges, but surprisingly you can spot a few even in the local chai-shop, in the evening gatherings in a park or even in an government office full of sorry-we-donot-work babus. A few of them, I suspect, are self-proclaimed antels. That is not the point.

I do not know if intellectuals are only supposed to use their so-called intellect to endlessly ramble about subjects of their liking, or disliking or of indifference. Or they have nothing else to talk about and so they create a subject from thin air. But historically the bengali intellectuals have caused many a changes to the society. Mainly through their voice, their writing, their support and in some cases, their actions. Even the politicians of east India knew how to think. If you do not think, you do not exist. This is not exactly what Cogito, ergo sum means, but I consider this a necessary survival guide. Bengalis as late as in 1970s knew this in one way or the other. No more now.

Statesman Gokhale once said What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. This statement is true even today in a sense ... we kind of think even today - because we do nothing else.

There have been two occassions which caused a furore among these thinkers. One was the infamous Nandigram incident and other the Rizwanur case. There were mass protests by well known individuals, young credit-card rich generation and have-nots all alike. Kudos to them, but in hindsight both of them had a political flavour; protest the oppressions and favour the helpless. Instant brownie points - makes you a hero overnight.

Those who are in Kolkata or somewhat updated about happenings there know about the Green Crusade going on these for last half a decade or so. Sadly it can be summarised as Subhas Dutta vs State. Kolkata, along with the national capital, has been branded as the two most polluted cities in the region. Delhi is taking stringest measures, and is quite successful in that. That means we are going to the retain the top post all by ourselves. Feels nice ?

After a lot of drama in and out of the courtroom, finally the government seemed to be cornered this time. They had to remove all two-stroke autos from the streets of Kolkata. Well... as expected, that did not quite happen. The government found way to circumnavigate the ban; opposition and other parties raised other objections. In short, the autos are all back on the streets.

What is happening with the auto-wallahs and the government (the police in Bengal is effectively a government department) is expected. What I find surprising is the absence of any so-called intellectual in this movement. Couldn't they simply promise not to ride two-stroke autos. Granted that will cause them a lot of inconvenience. They can settle for a compromise - do that on every alternate day for the next 1 month. Something in which they suffer a bit to make sure the auto-wallahs and the unions and the parties suffer a lot more.

I heard TMC called an auto and taxi strike today - apparently Ms Banerjee thinks that if the public faces inconvenience, then there will be a flood of sympathies for the ban protesters. I am scared that she might actually have a working strategy there. Instead of countering her style of inconvenience by boycotting autos and making their life hell, the evergreen bong intellectuals will silently use other means and return to riding auto to earn their daily cup of tea. And talk about other issues like why is Australia cricket team doing so bad.

Here is a strategy: every alternate day, for 2 weeks, do not ride 2 stroke autos. 2 stroke autos are easy to recognise, they are labelled "2 RE" at their back. And a sign of protest, wear a green patch, cloth or paper, somewhere in their body.

Make them realise that you think about your city. You can at least be selfish and think about your own personal health that is in danger due to the smoke belching three-wheeler beasts. Make them realise that they could own the vehicle but you are the customer and decide the market. Make them realise that public opinion just does not mean rambling over cups of tea in coffee house and then hopping on to a Belgachia-Lake town auto because it is convenient.

Thinkers of the city which never stops thinking ... for once, stop pretending and actually think.

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