In the none-too-distant past it was easy to identify the bourgeois in Kerala. They travelled by car. They alone did. The proletariat relied on their legs. Sometimes they also used the bicycle or the bus. But neither they nor their leaders used automobiles. The class enemy could, therefore, be recognized without much difficulty. That made class war easy. If the car hit a pedestrian, the driver could be pulled out immediately and beaten up. What if he is not a bourgeois? Isn’t he an agent of bourgeois?
When leaders of the working class started using motor cycles and cars, the situation changed. Today even the guy in an air-conditioned car need not be a bourgeois. So there is no class war on the national highways. In the circumstances, it is necessary to find other ways to distinguish the bourgeois from the adopted sons of the proletariat who travel by car. Here lies the relevance of golf.
Marx, Lenin, Mao and Ho did not play golf. One can’t be too sure of Jyoti Basu. After all, he studied in England. Although he ruled West Bengal for 30 years without the help of any Congressman, he did not close down the gold course in Kolkata. The China Line may have influenced him. In the 20 years since Deng opened China to foreign investors, 200 golf courses were built there. In the whole of Asia there are only about 500 of them.
Just as Krishna needs Kamsa and Bhima needs Keechaka to kill, the proletariat needs the bourgeois to exterminate. By and large, Kerala is a middle class society. The middle class cannot take the place of the bourgeois. Especially so when the proletariat looks to it for adopted sons. A recent study by the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad revealed that a new rich class is emerging here. How can this section, which contributes liberally for the success of all enterprises from party channel and newspapers to football competitions, be put in the enemy camp?
Whatever may be the situation in West Bengal and China, it is possible to divide the classes on the basis of golf in Kerala. EMS and AKG did not play golf. Pinarayi Vijayan and Veliyam Bhargavan do not play golf. Research by Dr. TM Thomas Isaac or G. Sudharakan can be expected to establish that cricket and golf were introduced by Imperialism to destroy our traditional games. Cricket has been able to produce a brilliant player like Shreesant and earn the support of some cultural personalities like Sukumar Azhikode. Golf has no such achievements to its credit. So the party can certainly decide that businessmen and bureaucrats who play golf are the new reactionaries. But it cannot be said that such ideological calculations are behind the government takeover of the Golf Club at Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
The legal validity of the government action is under the consideration of the High Court. Let us not go onto that issue here. Even if the action was valid, the question whether it was necessary is relevant. That the land belongs to the government is not in dispute. The government says the lease amount is in arrears. The club claims it is holding the land not on lease but under a licence. In either case, if the club owes the government money, the proper course is to collect the dues. There is no need for the club to lock up the place and take the keys away. The government has also alleged that the place given to the club for playing golf is being used for other purposes. The basis of the allegation is that a bar functioned there. In a State where bar licences are granted most liberally, it is ridiculous to treat the running of a bar in a club as a crime.
Former club secretary EM Najeeb was heard saying in channel discussions that six officers from the Chief Secretary downwards are on the 11-member executive committee of the club. If this is correct, the government can easily correct the club when it does something wrong. The Chief Minister has said facilities for playing golf will be provided.
But he has not said facilities will be provided at the same place. In the circumstances, one may infer that the government proposes to turn out the club and use the premises for some other purpose. It certainly has the right to do so. But it must act in a transparent manner.
Land is needed urgently for developmental purposes and to meet the needs of weaker sections like Dalits and Adivasis. But what Kerala, which has placed hopes in tourism, needs is not development which will turn the land into a concrete jungle. The State is witnessing large-scale urbanization. We must take particular care to retain open spaces which can serve as lungs of the cities. Leaders who have set their eyes on the land held by clubs must understand this.
Golf is a sport with economic significance. Scotland’s 550 golf courses attract a lot of foreign tourists. China, too, has built golf courses as tourist attractions. But there have been allegations that the huge building complexes have been built under cover of golf. There have been agitations in the United States against the building of new golf courses because of the environmental problems they pose. It is the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers and exploitation of water resources that create problems. The experience of the US, which has about 18,000 golf courses, need not scare us, but we must learn appropriate lessons from it. New methods permit the creation of golf courses without causing much damage to the environment.
How is it that the eyes of the rulers who are looking all around for land that can be seized have not caught the Mavoor property in the hands of the Birlas? Industries Minister Elamaram Karim recently said that the Birlas have submitted to the government a proposal which envisages employment of about 100,000 people. It is a real estate project similar to that of the Mumbai firm which got some land with Karin’s help. All this creates doubts about the government’s intentions.
Based on column ‘Nerkkazhcha’ appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated June 5, 2008.