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   Shoes of the Dead
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Jun 2013
uicides have become such commonplace in India that if Salim-Javed were to script the 1975 blockbuster Sholay today they could skip the explanatory dialogue on suicide 'angrej log jab marte hain, toh usse suicide kehte hain' (when foreigners die it is termed suicide). Successive crop failures and the burden of debt have forced thousands of farmers to consume their lives. Just change the name and the place, the script can hold on to its own.

Sudhakar Bhadra kills himself under similar circumstances. The powerful district committee of Mityala routinely dismisses the suicide and refuses compensation to his widow. Gangiri, his brother, makes it his life's mission to bring justice to the dead by influencing the committee to validate similar farmer suicides. Gangiri's struggle for justice treads through unequal turf. 'It is an unequal fight, but we have the dead on our side.'

Using a familiar plot, Kota Neelima scripts a grippling tale wherein political capital is made out of a social misery. For the political class, farmers are worth the electoral ritual wherein promises are made, but not to be kept. Even political attention following farmers' suicide doesn't last long. No surprise, battlelines get drawn as the protagonist battles for justice against the arrogant politician who fights to hold onto his seat of power, a family legacy. And as is in every battle, there can only be one winner! No rewards for guessing the loser.

While nature has its own way of taming great forces of change, by containing them in mundane characters, destiny waits to choose its villians and victims amogst the warriors. A victory at times may turn out to be fascile for the winner but could easily help the loser climb a moral high ground from where it pricks conscience of the masses. Shoes of the Dead is an act of fiction, though not far from real life, which portrays the grim realities confronting the farming communities. It is a story that ought to be told every so often to stir the social and political conscience of people.

Shoes of the Dead
by Kota Neelima
Rainlight/Rupa, New Delhi
274 pages, Rs.495

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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