PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A very powerful chief minister of a very large State goes missing over a very dense forest reputedly infested with very vengeful Maoist elements. His very large party goes into a very large tizzy and pulls out all stops to trace his whereabouts.
The Indian Air Force is drafted. The Indian Satellite Research Oorganisation jumps in. Even the US defence department plunges in. Helicopters, fighter aircraft, low-flying reconnaisance aircraft, refuellers, river boats all join the hunt. Army men, CRPF personnel, anti-Naxal Greyhound cops and other security chaps come in.
Chenchu tribals on the ground work with spies in the sky. Night-vision goggles, thermal imaging devices are all used. Less than 24 hours later, Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy is revealed to have unwittingly fulfilled his promise of political retirement at the age of 60.
Seeing such electric inter-governmental efficiency and action directed to save one man (and his four co-passengers) from the thick of the jungles of Nallamalla, my mind raced back to the days of Koose Muniswamy Veerappan Gounder whose tragicomic show went on unhindered for all of 17 years.
Approximately 148,920 hours.
What if YSR-style force and might (and intent) had been used when Veerappan, to give the man his media moniker, was running riot in the forests of B.R. Hills and M.M. Hills, in Kollegal and Gundial, and challenging the might of three State governments—Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala—and of successive governments at the Centre?
What if the various governments and their home ministries, our netas and babus, had showed the same seriousness or purpose with a rampaging brigand as they did with a popular chief minister instead of allowing the “pursuit” and “hunt” look like a joke it had become till his death?
Would the lives of 184 people have been saved?
Would the policemen—Shakeel Ahmed, Harikrishna and countless others—and forest officers like P. Srinivas who walked into ambushes have been around? Would MLA H. Nagappa be alive today? Would the kidnapping of Dr Raj Kumar have been avoided? Would R.R. Gopal have become such a landmark figure in journalism?
Would the police forces of at least two States have been not reduced to caricatures?
Comparing 9/11 with the tsunami gets a world, which knew neither, all charged up.
Maybe we should get closer home and start comparing Veerappan and YSR, about both of whom we have seen, read and heard, to understand the difference.
The difference between action and inaction, between life and death, between comedy and tragedy, between VVIP and common citizenry. The difference, really, between 148,920 hours and 24, which, for the academically inclined, is 148,896 hours.
Graphic: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcuta