We are witnessing history being created in India. Those who have not experienced the tribal lives in the Eastern ghat mountains of Odisha or chose to ignore the stark reality with a sigh that, “Thank God, I escaped this wretched life, at least in this birth”, will not be able to fathom the momentous occasion of the day.
I can trace my ancestry to the Kalahandi District of Odisha. My parents managed to escape the naked dance of abject poverty in these God forsaken perched lands. Those places are inhabitated with the tribals from Kandha, Santhal tribes and ruled by very wealthy landlords having complete sway over lands, men, women and cattle, more often than not, treating human beings not better than cattle. I have heard too many stories of poverty from my parents and witnessed in the first hand in our rare sojourn to the country where Gods feel ashamed to travel. I can vouch that even in the late seventies, bonded labour, transcending from generation to generation, was more of a norm. Nobody raised their eyebrows when both cattle and those labourers shared the same left over starchy remnants after filtering rice. The meaning of independence took a few decades to reach. Politicians, well meaning people, authors, evangelists all came, showered pious platitudes, promised pittance and then disowned. In the words of Sunil Gangopadhyaya, “Keu Katha Rakheni (Nobody kept the word)”.
The rise of Shrimati Draupadi Murmu to the highest echelon of Indian state has to be viewed from the background she came from those hinterlands of Odisha. It must have been a humongous struggle to come free from the shackles of generations of neglect, human apathy and all pervasive poverty and closed alleys in the path of any semblance of dream. An inspiration, which will beckon to the crores of minds for whom hope is the other name of mirage. A true Nelson Mandela moment for India.
The author, Tapan Misra, is a distinguished scientist now heading the startup Sisir Radar Private Limited (Sisir). He was Director Space Applications Centre and is recognised globally as father of Indian SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radars).