Dr Pravin Togadia
In one of the mini-metros, where we were staying after a meeting, I noticed a domestic help carrying a crate of 12 empty bottles of mineral water. She was over 60, frail and on her way home after a long day’s work. I asked her, “You are so tired, why are you carrying the empty bottles? Throw them in the recycling dust bean.” Her reply got me dumb struck. She said, “Bhai, for these 12 empty bottles, I get half garlic.” All around me looked at each other. I asked the family members of the house about her wages. She got over Rs 10,000 per month for her work there; her lunch, clothes extra. Her grand kids’ school fees and her medical expenses also were paid by the employer out of care. Yet, the situation is such that she had to barter 12 empty plastic bottles for half garlic. It was not ‘why waste things’, but sheer helplessness. She said, “Bhai, we would buy 1.5 liters of milk daily 2 years back as we have 3 kids at home. Now we buy only half liter of milk because it is costlier now.” If the host’s family would not have stopped her from further elaborating, she sure would have told us more details of prices of vegetables, food grains, etc, which we all know anyway. This was a mini-metro of a smart state.
Then we went to a southern state where on the way to a village, at the sun rise, we saw another family with 2 little kids. A girl with an old outsised frock and a younger boy of around 5 with just a torn short. Their young mother was sitting in front of the dilapidated shack and making Rangoli (Alpana – as they term it in Bengali). Her old sari may have had some bright colour few years back but it was totally faded and torn. Yet she was drawing that Rangoli with devotion and full concentration as a daily ritual! Her young frail husband was wearing a simple torn Lungi and was about to go somewhere out. We stopped there. They obviously were not expecting strangers so early in the morning. An old man amongst us who knew their language told them that none of us wanted any coffee or anything and not to worry. We gave them fruits and looked into their little shack. Just one rusted iron rack with 4-5 aluminum utensils, 1 copper water container and a clay stove. There was a clay pot covered and the couple invited us in! They offered us what they were to eat as their only meals before they set off for work. It was previous night’s cooked rice floating in water. They took out the water, added little salt to it and gave us to eat cum drink. Then they would carry that rice for lunch. Just a handful of it. As a doctor, I could notice black circles under the eyes of the kids. All had frail bony structures and dehydrated skins. There cannot be any more malnourishment than that.
These were not the visuals from any Art film. This was the stark reality of our Bharat (and some people’s India!) For our organisation’s work almost all of us travel at least 25 days a month in the remote areas of our country, we see such families almost everywhere. I am not trying to crib, “Oh! How poor is our nation”, or “See the contradiction: Some so rich and some so poor.” This is a fact which we all know.
The issue is that after 66 years in Independent ‘India’, there are such people. They are not outsiders. They are our own. Many organisations including RSS, VHP have been trying to do as much to help them through free schools, medical centres, self-help groups, Youth employment programmes and so on. But these are the remedial measures. We all should together treat the root cause of the problem. Is poverty the problem? No. Poverty is the effect. Is inflation the problem? Even inflation is an effect. These are all the effects of sheer mis-management since 1947 at all levels of 4 pillars of Democracy: Legislative, Executive, Judiciary and Media. Yes, basic. But we all are suffering now due to the state of inertia in which we are forced to live; not progress. It is easy to blame for which nobody takes responsibility. Blaming explosion of population, impact of global economy, caste system for this condition makes no sense. Even these are effects of short term populist but long term risky policies. Policies that sprung from greed of gaining the power or holding on to power. Appeasing pockets of the nation, ignoring the larger well-being of the nation has resulted into such state of affairs. From daily needs like water, food, shelter, education, health to industrial growth and national progress – all parameters show a sharp flaw. The flaw is not intrinsic to Bharat’s culture and civilisation; it is thrust upon us by the earlier rulers, their draconian/divisive laws and their creations of divides in our societal systems. Those who ruled India for 400 yrs and those who ruled for 150 years left many such ill designs here. Unfortunately, those who took charge since 1947 may have had good (!) intentions but mere intentions and euphoria are not good governance.
Where majority of the nation has to barter a 12 empty plastic bottles for half garlic or where a young family has to swallow rice water as their meal can never be good governance. The stark division of who gets all and who does not is the stark reality here. For minority welfare if the nation’ majority has to go through such ordeals, it is bad management. Forget minority – majority for a moment as many don’t like it that way! Those who speak of 125 crore Indians, have still not opened their eyes to the reality that the nation is in a state of inertia. A chariot pushed downhill abruptly and out of control for speed either jerks or suddently halt. No wonder then the newest political party can lure the starved voters with a promise of drinking water. Shame on 66 years of management.
Obviously, whenever we raise such issues, many pounce on us either with ‘You communal forces responsible for it”, or “Hey! Give solutions!” Right! Only one solution can never fit in a large nation like Bharat. Sloganeering or surveys for elections are ok for some time, but they do not solve bigger issues. The stark reality is that Bharat’s aam aadmi is angry, upset, hurt, deprived and feels betrayed. Betrayed by all. Significantly, the aam Hindu makes the majority of Bharat and therefore, those who get privileges based on religion – like reservations, subsidies, preferential treatment by the Legislative / Executive / Judiciary and Media – become Khaas ‘Special People’. Unless aam Hindu is taken care of with all his / her needs (daily needs, aspirations and religious psyche’), Bharat will not progress. Otherwise we all are one way or the other bartering 12 empty plastic bottles with half garlic! Let us not barter our vote for anything anarchic, sub-standard, showy or hypocritical that does not care for aam Hindu.
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