People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 4

February 01, 2009

 

71 Diamond Workers Commit Suicide  In Modi’s ‘Vibrant Gujarat’

Babulal Likhure


THE corporate world was so elated over inflated investment figures reportedly inked at the Vibrant Gujarat summit that they immediately crowned chief minister Narendra Modi as a future prime minister of the country. But what the corporate honchos did not know is that all that investments, even if true, come to the state only over 71 dead bodies at the altar of the glittering diamond trade of the state.


It is a different matter that only about one-fifth of the investments promised at the earlier summits have actually fructified. On the other hand, even before the galaxy of corporate leaders declared Modi as their future prime minister, the chief minister had already cut the BJP’s official ‘PM-in-waiting’ to size by not inviting him to the summit of investors.
BJP’s pre-declared prime minister in waiting L K Advani, who had showered unending praises on Modi during all such events earlier, was not present at the summit held in the geographical area of the Lok Sabha constituency he represents. And there was no official explanation for Advani’s absence in the investors’ jamboree held in his constituency just three months before the parliamentary elections.


Notwithstanding Advani’s  absence in his constituency and beneficiaries of Modi’s largesse anointing him the future PM, the 71 deaths due to suicide of jobless diamond workers in Modi’s “Vibrant Gujarat” obviously exclude the nearly 2,000 killed in the anti-Muslim riots virtually presided over by the chief minister.


Even as Modi’s trumpeteers are jumping in joy over the investment figures, at least 71 diamond polishers have committed suicide in Gujarat over the last few months following their laying off due to the global meltdown severely hitting the industry. Modi, who loves to present himself as a ‘common man’, refused to bail out the diamond workers who remained at the mercy of the shrewd traders.


The plight of the diamond workers, numbering around ten lakhs in the state, did not deter Modi from day-dreaming of being the prime minister at the behest of the corporate honchos who are largely beneficiaries of the Gujarat government’s more than liberal policy of handing over large chunks of land at the slightest pretext of setting up industry in the state. While laying out the longest possible red carpet for the corporate world, Modi chose to ignore the level of destitution of at least five lakh diamond cutters and polishers who have been rendered jobless since Diwali as the owners “encouraged” them to go on a longer vacation as there was not enough work for all of them.
Even after the diamond workers, hailing from towns and villages in Saurashtra region, returned to work in Surat following the extended Diwali vacation, the owners were reluctant to reopen their units.


The diamond merchants, who pleaded helplessness in reopening their polishing units due to global recession, however, continued to enjoy a lavish style of living while diamond workers started pulling their children out of school as family rations went out of stock.


Apart from the 71 suicides across Gujarat, the situation among the diamond workers has become so grim that there was near stampede outside the Surat Diamond Association where forms for school fees exemption were being distributed.


The police actually baton charged the families of jobless diamond workers who queued up to collect forms that would exempt their children from paying school fees, almost around the time Modi and his camp followers were boasting of having signed up several thousand crores of investments in the higher education sector.


Thousands of families of diamond workers in areas like Kapodara and Varacha in Surat, Bapunagar in Ahmedabad and towns like Bhavnagar, Amreli, Palanpur and elsewhere are inching towards starvation even as last fortnight’s Income Tax raids on the textiles and diamond unit owners yielded several crores of unaccounted money.


Caste-based philanthropic organisations have already started distributing rations to the jobless diamond workers as reports of suicides continue to pour in from all over the state.