When life is cheap, there is no time to weep
By Pushpesh Pant | Published: 16th September 2017 10:00 PM |
A seven-year-old boy gets killed in the Capital (in his school toilet) by a paedophile, a conductor in the school bus, who was soon arrested by the police. Skeletons kept tumbling out of this school’s closet since the incident. No background check was done before employing the accused, who allegedly had lost his job at another school a few months back for his ‘predatory’ behaviour towards children. A wine shop is discovered less than a stone’s throw away from the school’s premises. Obviously, the security lapses on the part of the school are grave, and suspending the principal falls far short of meeting the ends of justice.
Worse, the state government in Haryana that has repeatedly exposed itself to be incapable of maintaining law and order can do no better than ordering a lathicharge against the protesters—aggrieved and agitated parents and other residents in proximate colonies. This is the same Khattar Sarkar that had treated violent supporters of a depraved head of a cult with kid gloves, resulting in massive loss of life and damage to property. One could go back to the Jat reservation conflagration, but what is the point? Those who owe their positions to powerful patrons, don’t give a damn about public opinion, popular unrest etc.
Gauri Lankesh—a woman journalist known for her sharp criticism of ruling elites regardless of their political affiliation, a powerful voice against superstition and caste prejudice—was shot dead in cold blood on the porch of her house. Funeral rites were not even over when a vulgar spat broke out between her supporters and detractors. The Right and the Left pointed fingers at each other. What is sad is that this isn’t the first case of a gutsy journalist being killed to eliminate a painful irritant.
This time it happened in Bengaluru so it has made headlines. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, those who can’t be bought over or browbeaten are made victims of fatal stabbings, crude bomb blasts or uncanny accidents. Investigations are often botched up or witnesses turn hostile.It is not the journalists alone who are at risk. Honest IAS and IPS officers, too, have been dying under mysterious circumstances. Young and bright people have been found dead, leaving behind disturbing unanswered questions. In many such cases, the only common thread is the deceased having trod on sensitive toes in recent past.
A doctor drowning to death in an open manhole in Mumbai during the recent flood after heavy rains, exposed the totally unprepared civic authorities.
There have been other deaths of newborns totalling now to over a 100 in government hospitals—and not only in Gorakhpur. Japanese Encephalitis in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and dengue, Chikangunia, swine flu are adding to casualty figures in towns and cities at an alarming rate. Long-suffering people wait patiently for a change in season to rid of the mosquito menace and viruses. With our gaze fixed at inter-planetary space, exploration research in medical sciences seriously lags behind. Neither a vaccine nor a cure is in sight. Corruption in the realm of medical education is rampant and has inevitably resulted in the fall of professional and ethical standards. Doctors in government hospitals have become notorious for running illegal empires of private practice. This has been possible only with the connivance of supervising bureaucrats and politician protectors who are as good as partners in crime.
It needs to be remembered and underlined emphatically that the rot hasn’t set in overnight. It is not the past three years that mark a dangerous disruptive break from a happy past. Life of the common man has always been cheap in India. Farmers have committed suicide in thousands, but their plight hasn’t caused most of us much loss of sleep. Gorakhpur and Nashik, Singhbhum and Bastar are far removed from vibrant centres of resurgent India. Only when Jayanti Natrajan is raided by the CBI, we wake up to hectares of forest land being denotified and its land-use changed to benefit an industrialist. The hawk-eyed media keeping track of rising tide of fascism and communalism has certainly not been following the goof-ups in the hinterland in the UPA regime. Of course, the detractors of Narendra Modi would blame whatever is happening on political vendetta, but it is going to become increasingly difficult for Doc Manmohan to give clean chits to his former colleagues and distance himself from what they did. Let’s not forget that it was Lalu Prasad in his Cabinet who held the coveted Railways portfolio and his successors are now reaping what was sown then.
What is making people anxious is that while the Prime Minister has more than once lamented ‘loss of innocent lives’ and ‘lives lost due to criminal negligence or corruption’, there has been no reduction in shocking incidents, accidents and manmade calamities. What is stopping him from cracking the whip? One may talk of charting the course for the next decade, but the clock has started ticking for 2019.
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University