It is a big sickness (Maharog) among us Indians to rush in and make wild and questionable statements once a tragedy has occurred. One falls into a gaping pothole in a cosmopolitan city. A kid dies in a school washroom apparently sexually molested by a man who came from nowhere. A woman biker swerves to avoid a pothole and is run over by a speeding truck! A poor rickshaw puller dies in a police station under questionable circumstances. Such notorious tragedies happen there often. All know it. Children die in hospitals due to lack of oxygen. A poor tribal is denied ambulance service to take his dead wife home. He carries her on his shoulder. We have instant ambulance service for cows. A corrupt official is caught and a section of the public rush in to burn his effigy. A newly built bridge on national highway had shown cracks even as it was being inaugurated. People did not bother. Then, one fine day, it caved in with heavy loaded trucks going down along with the collapsing bridge. Then began accusations, counter accusations, cross-party affiliated statements, and political gimmicks!
Examples abound. One may get annoyed with the lethargy of the public when it comes to pointing out a public damage at its inception. But, one should get disgusted with the post tragedy accusations which the scatter-brained politicians blare out by passing the buck and blaming on the previous administration or government which had approved the project but implemented by the government now in power. Our politicians are adept in playing the blame game to hoodwink the public and to win a questionable score.
A Doordarshan announcer was killed by a decrepit coconut tree which fell on her while taking a morning stroll. It happened in Bombay. Reports say that the municipal administration was informed about the threatening posture of the tree but its justification for inaction was that the tree would live for another ten or twenty years. A doctor walks out of the hospital only to be sucked into a waiting manhole in Mumbai, the enlightened commercial capital of India.
Not just in Mumbai alone. All over India such tragedies occur. Trains derail and claim thousands of lives every year. A woman carrying her little child is hit by a vehicle because the road was damaged and death waited for them. Such incidents, such tragic events immediately become hotspots for our media vultures to rush in with lightning speed and to cash in on them by analysing, dissecting and discussing endlessly with panel discussions and intellectual gymnastics. Newspapers and magazines carry screeching headlines with hair-splitting analysis and Freudian speculations or Agatha Christie style dissections.
Where were these guys when the potholes have been gaping at them in season and out of season? Where were the media’s cameras pointed when impending tragedies were hanging over people like the Damocles’ sword? With whom were they supping when signs of lurking tragedies were seen and felt by one and all? Why is that the politician, Mr. Clean, plays the hypocritical game of garlanding the dead body of a rival politician gunned down by his goons?
It looks as if our investigative journalism has gone to the dogs. Even the few vocal and truth searching media channels have been muzzled and silenced by the powers that have much to hide. One daring freelance journalist went public to say that much of our media has fallen prey to lapping up the crumbs thrown by the administration or political dispensation. True enough. Then came a threat on his life by the very forces that gunned down Kalburgi, Pansare, Dhabolkar and Gauri Lankesh.
Can the public be blamed for not daring to point out the corrupt working system of the bureaucracy or the impending disaster in government sponsored projects or in the lack of care and attention to public services? When the voters are treated by fawning and pretentious politicians like VIPs at the time of election and thereafter treated like chattel, they lose heart and nurse their disgust with a feeling of numbness. Or their silence is bought by threat or money. Can we blame that silent majority because they are the general public who have their families to look after, girls to be married off, and home to be protected?
What about the Fourth Estate which is supposed to be the watchdog of society? Journalists and media personnel have a noble service role to play for society’s betterment. The Press is understood to be the nation’s conscience in ferreting out the truth and presenting it without embellishments, bias or malice. But, unfortunately, this role is downplayed and most often ignored for the sake of big bucks. Honest news media cannot survive because, in the present day media world of ‘man eats man,’ it is the cutthroat business dons with political clout and patronage who flourish and hold the centre stage. There are politicians who own and control media institutions. These business tycoons effectively control the media. Unscrupulous and spineless media persons lap up the crumbs thrown by these dons and wax eloquent on national TV with half-truths, blatant lies or mere buffoonery. Such media anchors or channels never perform the noble duty of presenting events factually or critically analyse events and facts to make the public aware of truth and falsehood, action and inaction.
Good media institutions do not wait for a tragedy to happen to conduct an intellectual post-mortem after the tragedy. Rather, they will have a hawk’s eye, an investigative sense, and a service commitment. They will demonstrate these by investigating society’s ulcers and tumours, cancerous growths and calamitous situations before these burst out in messy pus.
Should our politicians be far behind the Press in avoiding impending tragedies by taking prompt and timely action? India needs such men of mettle whose sole aim should be to address the needs of their voting public and the service of the nation as a whole. How many of such politicians can we count? Very, very few! Most of them are caught or named in ghotalas. Currency ghotala, Chara (animal feed) ghotala, Bofors ghotala, Contract ghotala, Medical admission ghotala, Gratification ghotala, Foreign tour ghotala, Lynching ghotala, Pinching ghotala and what have you! Name it and you have it! If this is our present political service sector scenario, where is India’s salvation? The clients and patrons of such ghotalas are pushing India into the limbo of their selfish private world. That is where they have no time to look at and look after the needs of the general public. Caught in the vicious circle of corruption and dishonest dealings, they need to spend their time and energy on disengaging themselves from the hook and the dragnet. When tragedies occur, the ‘honourable’ thing they do is to rush in with their fawning followers for a press statement to state that it is all opposition’s conspiracy. With the ‘prestitutes’ as entourage, they make a public demonstration of garlanding the dead with their crocodile tears. Can we expect these self-serving hordes to have any sense in forestalling tragedies?
One cannot write off avoidable tragedies as ‘inevitable calamities’ or ‘God’s will.’ Very often our fatalistic mentality throws reason and rationality out of the window. As a result, many of us consider an inhuman and avoidable tragedy as God’s will or inevitable occurrence. It is a pity that much of our religious orientation is to become fawning devotees of gods and goddesses with this fatalistic mentality. And there are religious vultures waiting eagerly to feed on this popular fatalism. It is reported that the nation is dotted with Sants, Mahants and Babas who din into the superstition-gulping public their hoodwinking messages couched in mesmerizing quibbles and tickling couplets.
A recent report speaks of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, apex body of Hindu Sadhus, listing 14 fake Babas who have been running their multi-million preaching empire with glossy media channel presentations. Those listed so far are: Asaram Bapu with whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen chanting the religious slogan ‘OM Shivay’ on the stage (the video went viral on social media), Radhe Ma, Sachinand Giri alias Sachi Datta, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh who is sentenced for a 20 year jail Sarvangasana, Ichadhari Bhimanand, Malkhan Singh, Narain Sai, Ramphal, Acharya Khusmuni, Swami Aseemanand, Brihaspasti Giri, Om Nama Shivay Baba, Nirmal Baba, and Om Baba. All have been patronised by politicians, intellectuals, high profile bureaucrats, and large numbers of mesmerized public.
The general public are intoxicated by religious fundamentalism or are terrorised into a submissive spirituality. Our politicians are mesmerized on a different level. Hunger for power, name, fame, and wealth entices them to become politicians. Once elected, there are drunk with power and serve one’s own interests. They have no time for looking at people’s needs or forestall tragedy-provoking situations. Moreover, most of these guys have least management sense. They never show any sense in organising work or performing their duty with efficacy and public satisfaction. That is where every politician needs training in good management skills and national service. Tragically, the only management sense most of our leaders have is crowd management which is leased out to stage-managing and crowd-pulling contractors and event managers!
Why no preventive action is taken even when we can afford? If tobacco- causing death is a preventable tragedy, why don’t we ban tobacco consumption and sale? But, then, there is big money involved. Business is tied up with politics. Instead of banning it, put out an ad: ‘Tobacco use causes cancer,’ or ‘Smoking is injurious to health.’ No surprise that there are waiting multi-star cancer hospitals for tobacco victims! The wheels of business have to roll on!
Why are people made to suffer due to poor roads, poor drainage system, illegal constructions causing floods, soil erosion due to forest felling, stampedes during religious festivals, lack of warning about manholes, damaged railway tracts causing rail accidents, displacement of large sections of people due to quarrying and mining or for real estate development and the like? These and many such situations with impending avoidable tragedies are a blur on the nation’s conscience. They question the integrity of our leaders and politicians. They speak of the inefficiency and rampant corruption of our bureaucracy. They expose the unholy nexus between corrupt leaders and anti-socials.
Our working system needs an overhauling. Strict enforcement of accountability is a must. Corrupt leaders, politicians and bureaucrats need to be shown the door. The electorate has its accountability too when it comes to exercise its ballot power. It will demonstrate that accountability when it boots out the non-performing and characterless politician.(Published on 18th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 38)