“Nobody has said nonsense yet. But nonsense it is.”
The entire episode of gold rush at Unnao began after “sage” Shobhan Sarkar dreamt of tons of gold under a fort that belonged to former king Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh in Daudia Kheda (Unnao) village. Sadhu Shobhan Sarkar wrote to the prime minister narrating how the king had come in his dreams and asked him to get the treasure dug up and hand it over to the government of India to tide over the economic crisis.
It is surprising that an illustrated economist like our Prime Minister did not nip this “dream” project in the bud and remained silent as the project was taken ahead.
Kashinath Tewari alias “Sadhu” Shobhan Sarkar’s well-placed disciple and minister of state for agriculture and food processing Charandas Mahant urged the Geological Survery of India (GSI) to hold an express search on the site.
After a field visit to the place, GSI submitted a report which said that there was a chance for finding gold, silver or alloy under the mound.
Promptly Archaeological Survey of India took to the job of excavating in the designated site.
The location of the prophesied riches is itself not without irony. Unnao is among the 100 worst districts. It figures among the poorest districts in my study, India’s Socio-economic Fault-lines, and has been on the list of worst districts impacted by deprivation since 1960. It has a high under-five mortality rate, with 85 of 1,000 children dying before they turn five. Daudia Kheda—the site of the dig—is among those villages of rural India where an electricity connection is a valued aspiration. Neither the comparisons with Peepli Live nor the dark humour enveloping the saga is, therefore, surprising.
--- Shankkar Aiyar, Noted Columnist
Turning a dream into golden reality
In equal proportion of awe, shock and amusement India read and watched the excavations the government machinery undertook to convert a Godman’s dream into a golden reality.
A few days into the digging and criticism of ASI relying on dreams rather than scientific findings only grew louder. With firmness ASI retorted back that the excavation project undertaken at Unnao was based on GSI report to the Ministry of Mines on October 8, 2013 mentioning "prominent non-magnetic anomalous zone occurring at 5-20 m depth indicative of possible non conducting, metallic contents and/or some alloys, etc. may be tested by excavation for further interest at the specified site".
It said ASI was told to excavate the site on the basis of the GSI report "to unearth and determine the nature of the reported deposits".
The government issued a statement that excavation is based on GSI report and not on “sadhu’s” dreams.
Another Peepli live
Entire national and global media descended swooped down on the excavation site and many television networks gave round the clock reporting from ground zero.
Along with curious onlookers came the treasure hunters who tried some “digging” in the vicinity but soon realized it is better to queue up quickly in the ever burgeoning “claimants” line which threatened to touch Lucknow. In short it had all the ingredients of a great Indian circus.
With chants and pujas, ASI began digging for gold.
Some prominent voices of dissent were heard even from the political milieu.
“Those in office should not lose their sense of proportion. They need to tell people in no uncertain terms that there is no alternative to hard work. Those in power should be the first to follow this principle. There is no short-cut to wealth and prosperity. Politicians should do well to remember this, and political parties too. People will follow them,” Sharad Pawar said.
With 12 days of gold digging in a village in Uttar Pradesh on the basis of a seer's dream yielding no results, Congress was quick to wash its hands off the matter saying the party and the government have nothing to do with it as such decisions are taken by agencies concerned on technical ground.
So as abruptly as the digging began it ended too.
So what was this all about and what is the residue of this act?
That India has not progressed beyond the land of snake charmers and elephants was once again proven to the world. In a country that is pursuing a mission to Mars it is laughable if not obnoxious to undertake excavation based on the dream of a “sadhu”. Of course his disciples in government position used their power to lead the country into this absurd chase.
Shankkar Aiyar writes: India is struggling to make sense. In an age when young app-crazy Indians yearn for smart governance, the government of India is subscribing for a lottery, basis a dream-tip-off from a sage about the existence of a cache of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried somewhere between superstition and speculation.
The entire exercise has been stamped futile and perhaps closed but many unanswered questions remain.
1. Did GSI “concoct” the report of heavy metal deposition in the area? Since not more than a few artifacts were found after digging deep and wide. If not gold other metal depositions should have been found.
2. This major project by ASI must have got government nod at some level, who are these officials who colluded to allow this theatre of the absurd?
3. What about the cost? Who paid for this futile exercise and how much?
4. Did those at the helm even for a moment believe that the economic woes of India would get a quick relief if gold was indeed found?
5. Lastly, every act has a motive. What exactly was the motive here? It is too naïve to think it was a just a dream and the entire Indian machinery conspiring towards fulfillment of it.
Perhaps it would take a few years for the scam to be unearthed or the real “invisible hand” as per economic parlance to show up.