Reversal of hope
India has always been beset with problems. while once there was hope that Indians would not have to worry about basic services, events of the recent past suggest we may be hurtling towards further darkness. ~ seema mustafa
There is something sad and tragic going on. And no, one is not referring to the attack by the Pakistani militants/soldiers, call them what you will, but to what Indians are doing to Indians. The news, not always headlines, brings in depression for all those who are still concerned about India and her future. For those making money, living on black money, practicing discrimination, preaching hatred, it probably does not make much of a difference until and unless it comes in the way of their priorities. Mulayam Singh and his lot suspended the young IAS officer because she came in the way of organised, state-supported looting of India&’s natural resources. Many activists and Right to Information enthusiasts have met with worse fate, and been killed and murdered by hired goons at the instance of those who feel threatened with exposure. Scams have eaten into the heart of India as corruption grows and destroys unchecked. From bribes to municipal officers to ‘commissions’ taken by the rich and powerful for defence deals, India is steeped in black dirt that is now acting like quick sand for her people.
Nation building as a task has been abandoned long ago, with privatisation of education overtaking concerns of building a country and a people with a vision and a mission. State education has been made synonymous with stale midday meals, broken buildings, absence of teachers, and neglect. In the states, money is taken for recruiting even primary school teachers who then exist to serve their political masters, and certainly not to impart education to students. Girls remain on the receiving end, killed before they are born, raped after they are born, attacked and assaulted by stalkers, helpless and unable to get help from an indifferent and brutal society and a lethargic and politicised police force. India remains nasty to her women, with outrage limited and rarely affecting the conscience of the nation.
New problems and ‘evils’ are being added without the old issues being even marginally tackled. Caste and religion remain divisive, exploited by conservatives and politicians for the vote. Hundreds and thousands have been killed in communal and caste violence with not even a handful brought to justice. The courts remain overworked, with the backlog building up as innocents remain in jail for decades without their cases even coming up for a hearing. Custodial deaths, fake encounters by state security agencies, torture and illegal confinement are all an integral part of what masquerades as law and order in India. Those guilty of killing, or presiding over the murder of their fellow citizens, run for elections and such is the state of affairs and the paucity of choice that they actually win.
One might say that some of this has been with India for decades. Perhaps, but never without hope. There was always hope that the situation would change, that the roads would spread from Delhi to the villages, that the infrastructure would improve to a point where Indians would not have to worry about electricity and drinking water on a minute to minute basis, that the poor would become less poor and that the gains of democracy would be shared amongst all. Now, not only are the roads not reaching the villages, they are being withdrawn from Delhi that struggles with waterlogging and potholes; as well as irregular water and power supply. There is no point talking about the villages, particularly of north India that have never really been able to move out of the Dark Ages.
There was also hope that the political leadership, of one or the other combination, would pull up its socks and respond to the plight of the people. With each election, the voter carried his ballot with levels of hope for change, and for betterment. The tragedy now is that this hope has died. It has been snuffed out by the cynical, terrible political class — regardless of parties — that has destroyed institutions when in power, that has worked only for itself and not for the poor, and that has demonstrated over and over again its complete indifference to India and her people.
In the big cities, there is this elite club of the very rich and the influential who come together to rub each others backs, as they loot the country of all her resources and drive the poor into ghettos where the avenues of escape are closing rapidly.
This is the stark truth. Of course we can all bury our heads in the sand, and scream “exaggeration”, but at some point, the sands will sift and reality will dawn. It is imperative for India and Indians to look inwards, to realise how far we have gone from the ideals that fashioned our freedom struggle and determined our Independence. But this is easier said than done, and this is where there is a certain hopelessness as the political class that should have taken the lead is mired in corruption and communalism.
There is this strange thinking in the middle class in particular that seeks to separate development from all other issues, as if it is an isolated entity that will not be impacted upon by the major socio-political problems that continue to confound India. The poor villagers, in fact, are more savvy as they do link development to security, and realise that the second is in many ways more important as it ensures the success of the first. And security is manifold in its dimensions, ranging from food security to physical and mental security. It is therefore even more depressing to watch the hysteria in Parliament matched only by the hysteria on news television channels every evening, as the issues become smaller and smaller and the debate louder.
The Idea of India seems to have been lost in the ensuing din.
The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman