Did the migrant workers expect support from the armchair intellectuals?

Bhaskar Majumder

First of all, the migrant workers destination-locked did not seek any support from the Apex Court. Second, these workers did not seek any support from the armchair intellectuals or public intellectuals or urban Naxals and all that. They did not seek any support from the instigators or senior citizens of the country. In fact, most of the land called India was happily home-locked obeying state Aadesh (mandate), and in many regions like West Bengal raw food reached home-door supplemented by long queue in front of Pathar Dokaan (Butcher’s shop) pre-Amphan. On Jamai Sashthi on 28th May, similar set of people were on queue in front of Meestir Dokaan (shops of sweets) post-Amphan. There was nothing for the state representatives to be afraid of – the middle section, the intellectuals and their disciples did not pose any intimidation to cause anxiety for the rulers so far. There was no public unrest since March 25, 2020 for next 40+ days.

I have been re-iterating first 40+ days for that was the period of Saborir Pratiksha as in the Great Epic Ramayana – that Rama would come to rescue Sabori. In Ramarajya, this Rama was the state and the migrant workers as Sabori expected the Sarkaar (Government) to come forward to rescue them. By that time, these workers had been abandoned by their thekedars/employers in the destination and they became foodless-jobless; they came to the road.

I am learning much these days from some wisdom-personified persons that the migrant workers were instigated locally, that they were misguided by the armchair intellectuals and all that. Neither can I swallow such comments not do I like to respond to such obnoxious phrases. Before I respond, let me tell my readers a simple painful story, among unnumbered in my life. After I migrated to the Heartland in 1997 I was openly accused as an armchair economist, though the fact was I had been neither an economist not I had any chair with armrest and I did not occupy any “Chair’’. Now that I pen some trash for public consumption, the other set of persons are accusing me as “UP ka burai karte hai’’. So these happen (Chalta hai) – I do not accuse the wisdom-personified for clubbing some as armchair intellectuals.

Let us remember that India is a land of less than 10.0 per cent Graduates and if intellect becomes the yardstick on the axis of G. B. Shaw, then the number may come down to less than 1.0 per cent. On the contrary, the non-intellect asset owners are top (sic) 1.0 per cent of India’s economy. Who the state is afraid of – the first 1.0 per cent or the second 1.0 per cent? The answer is with the readers – I shall not go into that.

But it is really painful to listen that the millions of migrant workers were instigated by the local few or some armchair intellectuals who speak or write mostly in English as a foreign language (though it is one of the two official languages in India, the other being Hindi) that they started Ghar Wapsi post-40+ days. It was hundreds to thousand km. away – the destination-root distance. If the state really believes it, what the wisdom-personified reported/opined in the Apex Court after the latter intervened after much delay than what was warranted, then really the state has reasons to be afraid of – political revolution or civil riots or whatever unwelcome. I agree with the wisdom-personified on this last, not the least, point – revolution “no, no’’.

But I disagree with the wisdom-personified on the point of existence and vibrancy of the armchair intellectuals – they are not capacitated yet to arouse the sleeping Bharat if that is their intention. Sitting at home that is part of my academic factory I observed men coming out from Shramik trains to the railway platforms grab bottles of water and some food packets in a manner that showed acute indiscipline. The state may be assured that these workers are unorganized – there is nothing to fear about them. I mean, the state has nothing to lose but some water bottles and some food packets. Otherwise, the state agencies or Corona warriors would have been engaged in doing more post-mortem or cleaning the dead bodies of the many of the migrant workers dead on road or under railway tracks – how irrational! No, not the state, it was the migrant workers who decided to sleep on the railway track. Who the armchair intellectual would have been who advised these migrant workers that included women and children to sleep at night on railway track – that too in impeccable Tharoovian English?

More than being engaged with the destination-locked migrant workers, some such intellectuals as identified by the competent authority were engaged with the Governments on the circle – both the Centre and the circumference – as well as instigating the Courts of Law – it was lawful. Any non-intellectual has the right to move the Court in India to seek justice – excluding me for I keep distance from doctors-police-lawyers! But it is not my personal philosophy of life – it was/is the life and death question of the destination-locked migrant workers. All were given Advisory to remain home-locked and the migrant workers were on public road that violated the Advisory. The migrant workers hence started to reach home to be home-locked in compliance. What was the big question on that?

The problem became a volcano for the reports from the Journalists with Cameras – otherwise how could armchair intellectuals even know about these. The other to be accused is technology or the electronic media that continued to supply sorrows. There were/are some sensitive persons still alive who responded – they are not to be branded as intellectuals – they had/have some morals learnt in life from the Shikshagurus. This is again a major question – why those Gurus taught wrong things like “Yatha Dharmo, Tatha Jayo’’ – first part is all right, but why Jayo? This urge to win defeats the disciples. Imagine Dharmaputra Yudhisthir in the Great Epic Mahabharata – he was hardly bothered about winning the game of Chess or the War. Some intellectuals are however incorrigible and distanced from Ramayana and Mahabharata – so these possibilities of obnoxious comments that were allegedly mentioned before the esteemed Apex Court came. I believe the intellectuals will rectify them.

Each solution has a question. If the intellectuals wither away, who remains to be identified as enemy – the enemy has to be capacitated as viewed by the state for power needs to be activated not on the helpless sections. Let the intellectuals live – to provide food-for-thought also. Most of them will be ruling intellectual class – only a few may be aberrations. The state has nothing to lose but a few incorrigible intellectuals with chair or without chair. If the table is a circle, the position of the chair will also disappear – the problem is with the shape of the table and not armed or unarmed chair.                

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

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May 31, 2020

Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

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