Shirazi had recently posted a piece in his blog titled “What Makes Criminals”. That made interesting reading. Among the factors he highlighted was the sense of hopelessness in the labouring sections.
In my response to his piece, I wrote:
“Hopelessness - sadly, some people like to thrive on other people's despair and hopelessness. I have been working for 10 years in a workers' slum in Howrah, India. Here "crime" or "illegality" touches everyone's lives, whether they know it or not. (For instance, illegal electricity is the only electricity available to the ordinary slumdweller. And supplying illegal electricity is an important livelihood source for the people!) The "legal", the "good", is not an option available to people. They have also been socialised in the "illegal" from their infancy. The "legal" and "good" society around them does not want to embrace them, and they are unable to gain full access to this domain. Is not the society that countenances all this, the whole system of governance that perpetuates this, the chain of social and economic exploitation and double standards (in-humanity) - as criminal, if not more than the individual criminal??? But the individual petty criminals do get caught, jailed or even killed eventually. But the larger factors live on unabated.”
In April, while at the TARU office in Delhi, I came upon the March 2006 issue of the journal Seminar, on Calcutta. One of the articles in this issue was by the veteran writer Sumanta Banerjee, titled “The underside of a city divided”. I was really struck by the author’s brilliant insight into this city, and its changing mores. Today I remembered this article and was glad to find it on the net.
I reproduce below some extracts from Sumanta Banerjee’s article.