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Voicing concern against violence

SOUVIK CHOWDHURYSOUVIK CHOWDHURY

Successful businesswoman and social activist Anu Aga spoke of her visits to rehabilitation camps in Gujarat housing the riot-hit victims of communal clashes and of the Government apathy towards the victims.



HARD TALK : Anu Aga addresses the gathering.

A COMMITTED industrialist, a believer in a pluralistic society, a vocal social scientist, a concerned environmentalist and a champion of secularism, 59-year-old Anu Aga's slight frame belies her resolute and never-say-die spirit. Highly successful in her corporate career, the bespectacled Thermax Group Chairperson Aga joined the 520 crore Pune-based company as a human resource manager in 1985 and then deservingly rose to the coveted position by sheer grit and hard work.

Her protests against "insufficient" State Government measures in Gujarat to rehabilitate victims of the post-Godhra communal clashes invited media attention, as she was the first person from the corporate sector to visit Gujarat and voice concern at the raging violence.

Sharing her views on communal harmony after having visited minority rehabilitation centres in Gujarat, Aga gave a first-hand account, "Out of several camps that I visited, the Shah-e-Alam camp had 1,950 families living in the open with practically no shelter, except a few bamboo poles with torn clothes hanging over them. Almost all the relief camps I visited bore ample testimony to the Government's apathy."

"I was pained at the injustice meted out, or rather complete callousness showed by the Government and fellow Indians. When the Gujarat earthquake, a natural calamity could garner so much in terms of mobilising funds and support, how could they just turn a blind eye to the riot-hit victims - a disaster that could very well have been avoided?" she asks.

"If the reason for this is because the victims belong to a minority, then I will say the time-honoured Indian value system is a miserable failure," she says.

Aga spoke at a function organised by the Coalition for Peace and Harmony at the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) auditorium here recently.

"If there was governance, would the violence have continued for two months? While the official toll of the number of Muslims killed is 900, the unofficial death toll stands at 3,000 as against the 60 Hindus having lost their lives. The figures are self-explanatory," the social activist pointed out.

"I am not debating on the number of persons killed from the two faiths, the talking point is how educated people could fall prey to narrow communal feelings and either perpetrate or condone violence that resulted in the loss of over a thousand lives. Is it not a degradation of our basic humanness?" she asked.

She warns that as a fallout of the Government's "lackadaisical attitude" towards minority victims, mistrust and hatred may brew all the more and "a second Godhra" may not be very far away.

"The authorities should rectify their mistakes when there is time at hand," she suggests.

Condemning fundamentalism in every religion, she took a dig at the business world too. "To me, Godhra or the subsequent events are not a spontaneous one-time occurrence. It is a symptom of a society that is callous, indifferent, and is only concerned about individual selfishness, amassing wealth and acquiring positions."

Business today represents a powerful force as it has the best human talent, leadership skills, technical know-how and large capital at its command. It can be the most potent agent of social change provided we businessmen, choose to define human well being as the `business' of Business.

Only then would the purpose of business be served," said the successful businesswoman wrapping up the talk.

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