Parties no longer happen on the temple lands. MGM has moved its circus to its own land now. Whether by coincidence or because of our experience with the rural police, jurisdiction of the Chennai Police Commissioner extends to our village now. We went and met the Commissioner Mr Nataraj as a delegation. He is a no nonsense man. So all night parties have ceased at MGM and several other resorts too. When it gets too noisy we call the police control room and there is usually quick action. In contrast though, you can imagine what goes on in deep rural pockets.
The ridiculous case against Chettiar continues, however. I turn up at the Court for most hearings. There is a new judge and we are hopeful of speedy disposal now. Section 78 B of the HR&CE Act-1959 enables the Department to summarily deal with encroachers without going through any legal process. But curiously that right has not been exercised to end the case and so the charade continues. Also we don't, but would like to, know what became of the small matter of Rs.70.71 lakhs HR&CE had levied on MGM. We await the new Right to Information law to set in place to pursue this enquiry.
So what have we achieved? We may have stopped land grab by stealth. A campaign like this leaves a trail of documents, petitions, court records, press reports and oral broadcasts. That makes collusion just a little harder. It raises the price of collateral bribes too. The high paper-wall may just about thwart the land grabber. I am not sanguine; I am hopeful.
What lessons might you—a small person faced with big odds—draw from our experience?
§ Form an association however small. If concerned people come together semi-formally, much can be achieved.It requires only very few committed people to make an impact. It's our lack of interest, time and togetherness that the oppressor thrives on
§Verify your legal position and persist with the demand for that law to be enforced. Do not give in to cynicism. Laws are enforced in this country - maybe, later than sooner. Do not exaggerate the case. Be strong on facts.
§ Stay off political parties.
§There are powerful tools in the Internet and the new Right to Information Act. Learn to marshall them for your cause.
§ There are fine individuals inside departments to feed you with counsel and information. Seek them out. We did and found a valuable one. We found aggrieved staff of our adversary also giving us insights.
§ Make the cost of illegal acts prohibitive- price demanded by collaborators rises as temperature heats up. Also when a game gets hot, the best political support the oppressor has paid for will begin to unravel.
§ Focus on support from the vernacular media more than the English one. The former is less driven by advertisement greed.
§ Do not expect poor people to remain immune to bribes from the oppressor. That will happen. Don't be severe in your judgment of them.They are more honourable than many rich educated people but their needs, hunger and fears are very real. But be wary of moles among them, though.
§ Fear is something your will face. It is not something you can dismiss lightly in this country. But the more you plan, consult, organise, strategise and publicise the greater is your security. Nothing is ever achieved without some attendant risk.
§ Finally, the greatest skill you will need is the one to precipitate a crisis within inches of the legal barrier. Strategise to get up the nose of your quarry. That will lead to an endgame.
Not that the likes of MGM can be shamed into better behaviour when shown what really works in life, but here is a try: this one article by me in GoodNewsIndia touched a chord worldwide and generated enormous amount of money for ECCO's tsunami relief work. Other ECCO members got into fund raising too. We carried out a transparent relief work worth Rs.44 lakhs in three villages. And MGM? Seeing a lack of any spontaneity, fishermen abjured all help from them.
But then MGM would consider that a good business victory.
- D V Sridharan - December 2005
You can write to D V Sridharan at this address: goodnewsindia-At-gmail-Dot-com
and if you wish to write to MGM you will find email addresses at lower end of this link.