My Careless India
By Poonam I Kaushish
Circa 2 June, Aligarh UP: A two-and-a-half year old girl’s maggots infested mutilated body is found in a garbage dump three days after her murder. The cause for this barbaric act? The culprits were asked to repay a Rs 10,000 loan to her grandfather so they killed his granddaughter. Worse, the police failed to register a case resulting in five policemen being suspended after a huge national public outcry.
Circa 6 June, Latehar Jharkhand: A 65-year old man starves to death because he has not eaten for 4 days as his family did not receive ration for the last three months because the biometric machine was not working. In neighbouring Orissa a family of six have died of malnourishment and another family of eight in UP. Raising serious questions about the nature of India’s welfare state today.
Circa 7 June, Akola Maharashtra: Old and young people are forced to walk miles to dig pits and wait for three hours to fill one pot of clean drinking water. Whereby, their daily battle to quench their thirst is a losing one as H2O is scarcer than gold. In Madhya Pradesh the police are busy escorting water tankers to ensure riots do not break.
The anger and indignation coursing through the streets of India is palpable. Alas, nothing has changed in Mera Desh Mahan. Daily newspapers scream of abject poverty, starvation deaths, harassment by police, fights over water or bullied over morsels of food. The less said of our leaders, policemen and bureaucrats, the better. All stand mute testimony to a callous, heartless and selfish Administration bereft of cure and consolation. Collectively selling their souls for the magnificence of propaganda as the aam aadmi translates only into mere sterile statistics to be manipulated at will.
Raising a moot point: Where is my India going? Most important, where are our leaders taking it? To hell it seems. What worries one is that these brutalities have not stirred our netas conscious. Will they wish it away as a bad dream? An issue which will die its natural death within days? Does anyone really care?
Not at all, given brutality and bestiality, arrogance and ‘I-am-the-law’ attitude have become synonymous with the police. Any wonder they go by the acronym Policewala Goonda. Thanks to Government’s criminal casualness — kaam chalao and babudom’s choord yaar attitude. Arguably, do we still have rule of law? When did we become a morally corrupt and sick society that murders and rapes children and women?
Is Brand India aware that nearly 195.9 million Asli Bharat Indians go to sleep on empty stomachs, over 700 million living below the poverty line, 3,000 children die of malnutrition every day, 14.9% of our population is undernourished and nearly one million dying every year due to inadequate healthcare facilities despite economic growth, Right to Food For All Act and India being the world’s sixth-largest economy. So how does the Government intend ensuring basic food for all and building on human capital? How long will the political posturing continue instead of a serious debate on hunger? Which neta will take the lead to ensure that nobody else dies of hunger?
This is not all. Over 43.4% of the country is already reeling under drought. Twenty-one cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of ground water by 2020 affecting 60 crores people and 11 river basins including Ganga will be water deficit by 2025, threatening over a billion lives with the challenge getting graver by 2050 as demand rise to 1,180 million cubic metres, 1.65 times the current levels even as fresh water resources dwindle. A June 2018 Niti Ayog report grimly forecasts water demand will be twice the present supply and India could lose up to 6% of its GDP.
And yet our jan sevaks continue to live in 5 acres lush bungalows in Lutyens Delhi and grow wheat and vegetables to feast on. All at the tax payers’ expense. Questionably, does it make any sense that our Rashtrapati should live in a 350-bedroom mansion in luxuriant sprawling 300 acres Rashtrapati Bhawan boasting a 9-hole golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts etc even as the aam aadmi grovels for a tarpauline to keep his and his family’s body and soul together. Why do our leaders need these ersatz trappings when the world’s most powerful leader the US President resides in a one acre White House. Can our poor country justify this rich extravagant waste?
The Government’s answer? Create a monolith Jal Shakti Ministry which is the amalgamation of Ministries of Water Resources, River Development, Ganga Rejuvenation, Sanitation and Drinking water. Look skywards to ward off the crisis while the Tamil Nadu Government has ordered all temples to hold yagnas to appease the rain Gods to cope with the water shortage, Madhya Pradesh is mulling a ‘Right to Water’ legislation to ensure adequate water for every person and residents of Rajasthan’s Thar desert are forking out Rs 2,500 to buy 2,500 litres of water which they share with their cattle.
Add to this, water levels have fallen 21.5% in the last decade and by next year India will be categorized as “water stressed.” India has 18% of the world’s population but only 4% usable water, wastes more than it produces and spends billions on inane projects instead of focusing on water conservation. Alongside, air pollution causes 12.5% of all deaths and 1 lakh children below 5 years die from air pollution every year according to the State of India’s Environment Report.
For those who enjoy the ruinous events unfolding, there is some good news! The end of the tragedy is nowhere in sight. The bad news? It’s simply a system’s failure! They collectively coo. Who failed the system? Not the politician, bureaucrat or police. All point accusing fingers at each other. Nevertheless, everyone agrees there is something rotten in the State of Denmark! And we call ourselves a civilised society!
The worst thing is nobody seems to care. The middle class has too many problems of its own to be bothered about the poor. The poor are getting angrier and desperate; the rich, as always, don’t care. For a while now, ‘feel-good’ has been the holy grail of media and Establishment. It’s almost a national conspiracy, let’s ignore the warts and bad things, focus only on those glitzy speeches and idolise success.
However, these recent incidents make it imperative that we rethink how we want to shape New India. Tough times call for tough action. A revolutionary change is needed. Our leaders need to end their reckless drift offering pies in the sky. Pragmatic competence and out-of-the-box thinking is the need of the hour. Establish close links between policy, research and service with the aam aadmi at the centre of development.
One needs neither a bleeding heart nor blindness to know what should be done. It only holds out promises of more misery, more wrenching news bulletins and more cries for the Government to act. Zabaani jama khurch will not apply balm on scarred souls ravaged by malnourished stomachs. After all, life is not about collating numbers, but flesh and blood with beating hearts. The time is far gone to play the pied piper, just let them bleed and aver; its only life, stupid! —- INFA