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Home > India > News > Columnists > Mahesh Vijapurkar

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Raj Thackeray should revisit his past

October 21, 2008

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Raj Thackeray has two paths ahead of him.

One is to persist in his ways, have his men beat up North Indians just like the reprehensive manner in which his uncle dealt with South Indians in the late '60s, demand that locals alone should get the fruits of progress by way of employment just because they are locals.

The second choice is to prepare his men to take a positive, more constructive route of encouraging the locals to secure a future by fostering ability in ensuring that they do better than others and secure jobs by merit and not by demand, generate more enterprise among the people which would throw up more employment and thus let the tide rise. And with that, everyone.

Given the very purpose of his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which is enshrined with some thought with Navnirman (reconstruction) in its name, he could opt for the latter because he had set out to do something new, something nice and beneficial when he coined that name.

To do that, all that Raj Thackeray [Images] needs to do is to revisit his own plans when he launched in 1996, soon after his then party Shiv Sena came to power in Maharashtra in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party a year earlier, the Shiv Udyog Sena. It had a lofty purpose and I had welcomed it. That was a positive step, though others thought it was a Rotary Club / Lions Club kind of social service.

Raj Thackeray, I hope, recalls the SUS's 'social commitment' -- the organisation's own words -- which was 'to create jobs and develop entrepreneurial opportunities for the sons of the soil'. Nowhere was it said then or later that opportunities would be created by scaring away the outsiders who seek to aspire for a better life in Mumbai.

But when his men attacked at Kalyan station the batch of hopefuls who came from all over the country to write the Railway Recruitment Board's tests for clerical level jobs, he was in the Shiv Sena, just as he was when he started the Shiv Udyog Sena. The word 'udyog' means industry, enterprise, activity, business and/or trade. It does not mean jobs, not by a long shot. Enterprise was the key. Self-employment, not employment, was stressed

It had floundered because those who registered wanted jobs and not get involved in promoting and running enterprises, even modest ones. The SUS was willing to help with seed money as well. Apparently jobs were easier to keep.

The web site of the organisation has statistics only for the period May 1997 to June 1998 when 'as many as 95,896 candidates and have provided employment to over 2,500 candidates under various categories'. Nothing thereafter, I suppose. Or the web site has not been updated though it has been kept alive.

So, instead of scaring away people by letting loose musclemen on the candidates waiting for the examination centres to open, why doesn't Raj Thackeray give a momentum to the Shiv Udyog Sena's ambitions?

It was to create 27 lakh jobs and Lata Mangeshkar [Images] had even sung at a concert to provide it with a corpus of Rs 2.3 crore. Given the ambition and realisation, it was Raj Thackeray's failed enterprise. It had grand plans but Maharashtrian sons of the soil just foiled it by their reluctance towards enterprise.

Of course, Raj Thackeray has lost the proprietary right over the SUS by leaving the Sena, and by attacking the first batch in Kalyan a couple of years ago he has lost his proclaimed mission of promoting the entrepreneurial efforts of Marathis. He could reinvent the constructive plan.

But he has chosen the path of terror to keep migrants from coming to Mumbai in search of jobs. Now, he has gone a step further, consolidating that ideology with the weekend's attacks on another set of hopefuls who wanted to write the Railway Recruitment Board's examination.

I did describe Raj Thackeray as a six-pack politician who can call the shots on the streets, and many turned abusive. They called me a stooge -- several words were used, in fact -- but over the weekend he proved his might. It was thought I was supporting him. Far from the truth; I had said at the end of the column that it was not going to be beneficial to Mumbai at all.

By no means can this use of muscle power be countenanced. That is in no way politics, or the country can ever be run.

Yes, when the states were formed on a linguistic basis, it sowed the seeds of sub-nationalism in the country and pride in the mother tongue became a chauvinistic badge of honour. It led people to assume that if one's mother tongue was the same as the state's, then he or she has the first charge on the economic gains. Others are second class.

Mother tongue makes things -- commerce, social intercourse, people-authority interface etc -- easier. That does not make other languages inferior, and several languages are bound to be spoken in any state because of migrants who come aspiring for better things in life. Urbanisation is all about that. They can be intra-state or inter-state migrants, a fact that can be ignored.

Raj Thackeray has to understand -- and so should his men -- that urbanisation and its pace cannot be halted, that people cannot be prevented from coming to Maharashtra, especially Mumbai. Urbanisation implies migration because the poor from the rural areas migrate to urban arias and urbanise themselves as well.

If Maharashtrians have to ensure their share in the relatively better economic prosperity here, then they should compete with the migrants, not scare them off. I recall eminent journalist and litterateur Arun Sadhu writing in the Free Press Journal when he was its editor that no one ever asked Maharashtrians not to be entrepreneurial. That was the kind of plainspeak few directed at the Shiv Sena.

The poor-show, virtually abandoned SUS -- does anyone hear even a whimper about it now? -- indicates that Maharashtrians then were not ready to compete, show their enterprise and corner their share of the pie. Things have changed in the past one decade, when the country was infused with the can-do feeling and Raj Thackeray may like to choose the more constructive way of diverting people from a passion for jobs to businesses.

Driving a rickshaw, running vada pav stalls, vending wares, setting up small businesses and trades, aspiring if within the realm of the possible, to dream big is more honourable than hurling stones, brandishing sticks and blackening faces. Promoting enterprises and enterprise serves a better social purpose than does the kind of violent politics he is allowing to flourish under his tutelage.

Remember what you said on the SUS web site, Mr. Raj Thackeray? 'Shiv Udyog Sena has immense faith in the youth of Maharashtra. Their muscles of steel and brain of fine intellect can start a whole new era of prosperity. Shiv Udyog Sena wants to perform its social mission with utmost sincerity and integrity of purpose. We see every challenge as an opportunity and adversity as a boon to rise above all obstacles. We see the future in the shining eyes of youths which has millions of dreams. We stand committed to our promises made to youths of Maharashtra.'

He may be well advised to visit that site and refresh his memory and return to that noble intent.

I hope he thought about all this on his long drive from Ratnagiri circuit house in a police vehicle to the Mumbai court. Ponder he must, but will he?


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