Nice to hear the noise over tobacco – Indian research or lack of it. The ministers, the decision makers and the Parliamentarians are busy defending the tobacco lobby, rather circuitously though. The most bizarre being its comparison with potato and sugar .. thank God not rice or other cereals! The statutory warning, the negative campaign and the health advisories have not been as successful as we expected to be. The position is not unique in India, campaigns are designed mainly to contain old users and discourage new ones. There is also the desire that people using tobacco would give up. This is in fact very hard to achieve. Mainly the addiction/dependency is so acute having both physical and emotional ramifications. What we need is a dispassionate political intervention (I said dispassionate which includes non-corrupt!) to create a cascading awareness in the form of both large visuals on the packet and other means of advertisement. The tobacco industry must share the cost of keeping rehab centers and health care institutions. An honest cost-profit analysis of revenue earned and spending for health care for tobacco related diseases be made.
The most important thing is to decide – do we want to do it?
The recent Delhi incident was the last straw on the camel’s back, ‘enough is enough’. Government probably realised that governance is no longer as easy as it used to be (or is it a fleeting reaction to a distress and time would eventually fill the pit yet again!). Perhaps after the 26/11 terror strike, for the first time people, who mandated the politicians to govern them, came on with a force of peaceful protest that reverberated the Raisina Hill. You like it or not the young generation was out angry and anguished, yet subdued in compassion identifying itself with the victim. The scale of the crime and the frequency of it has inundated the ever fragile lines of patience. The good thing about it is that the people came in without being led to a certain consequence. They had their own creativity and were also accommodating to listen, suggest and discuss, have their own slogans and own placards in their peculiar languages. This is a transformation of indian polity signifying power of the people, focusing their discontent about the system. It is not only about the criminal justice system, the failure of which simply acted as a catalyst.
The larger question is why – why do such ghastly things happen at all?
Is law week or the enforcement partisan?
Has the law lost its edge because of delay, distress of the victim?
Or is it the impact of consumerism and visual media that is leading the society ashtray?
May be all of it or may be something else entirely different….
Is it that the male society is threatened deep within that the females have assumed a stature in society or that they have the courage to wear jeans and T-shirt and are willing to take up jobs, which not very recently been thought as purely masculine. They have the capacity and mental make up to celebrate femininity which the male find difficult to digest and manifest in such brutal manner in an attempt to re-subjugate a class. I particularly liked the slogan ‘reclaiming nights’ in the protests, which indeed is all about.
How law can solve a social problem, how could it resolve a political question, when the politicians always search for a bye-lane in the issues to exploit it for vote politics?
The Mathura incident and the subsequent outrage modified the law, now let us see how far we are going.
Let us begin the year with hope.
This is a group of adolescents and children away from home, family and friends selling plastic toys to children, with which perhaps many would play with a glee. They have not gone to school or are not bothered about it. Their only wish to earn money for survival. The 10-12 member group is from one area and two-three groups work and live together. These groups are from different areas as wide as from Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu. No conflict as every group has its distinct product to put on sale – even there is no conflict in the group as to who sold how much. Every one is happy, enjoying and uncomplaining. I met them at Dhenkanal, Orissa during the 11 day Laxmi Puja festival there. They requested me to use my front veranda to sleep. They will go out to sale in batches in the evening and night till the small hours and sleep to get up around 6:30, sleep a little more during the day and prepare the toys during the day and are ready for the evening. There lunch rice and dal together in a polythene bag. What touched me most is their age and acceptance of life – they are not unhappy even in poverty – most of all they are uncomplaining of their circumstances, of the people around, do not discriminate among themselves on age, language,etc. They have not gone to school, yes but are a school themselves – they teach us to smile and survive.
The number of road accidents do not deter speed driving, perhaps the trill of whizzing past a shocked driver with the speed of wind is intoxication enough to ally the fears or even the thoughts about road accidents and its attendant worries. I asked a 20 year old what makes him drive dangerously, and the reply was amazing. He said it is the pleasure of going ahead and be the first one on the stretch. His comment that he drives a powerful bike with wide tires, so he should be ahead of all – sort of lead the lot. I realized that the obsession no longer is mileage, it is all about power. The young is restless as usual, and driving provide an opportunity to engage the energy even at the cost of the risks. Youth never recognize fears rather do not believe in the adult cautions it seem as a way of the grown-ups to control them through systematic mendacity. They are part of a fast growing consumer economy, and it is about availability of new opportunities to which they must rush…….
What should be done is discharging of social responsibility by the civil society itself. Let us not try to terrify them with statistics, that is less effective, let us understand them de-toxify their spirit and give them a dimensional view of life and living. It should begin from educational institutions. Let there be ‘safe driving’ discussions in educational institutions involving the NCC, Red Cross, the NSS, etc. first. It should be regarded as a part of co-curricular effort. The students under supervision should lead such efforts themselves. They should devise their ideas and communication strategies. It should begin initially in tech. institutions.
Ratha Yatra is a celebration of living. It ia also a philosophical compromise between barring of temple entry and the right of people to see/touch and pray. When Hinduism metamorphosed in to Symbolism and idolatry and the social transformation as to creating cast layers in the society basing upon various aspects more so upon land owning, it required that social compromise is imperative to keep it intact, while the division of labour could be kept intact. The division of labour petrified in to social classes based upon caste and social compromise became inevitable. This may be one of those. The symbolism of the Gajapati (divine representative of Jagannath) himself renders service on the Ratha to the God, thereby enhancing the dignity of labour (It is kind of cycle travel by ministers to conserve fuel!). The glorification of Rath Yatra came later to make a cohesive society to seemingly project it as classless.
This is a picture of ‘Suna Besa’ at Dhenkanal. Jagannath after his 9 day outing ia about to return back in to the temple and He sits resplendent with gold ornaments and fittings to meet the devotees and listen to them. It is been started at Dhenkanal recently and hopefully continue long years. There are a number of such ‘Besa’ inside the temple, but those who cannot pray inside the temple, this again is a religious (social!) compromise.
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