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The other India we forget

Posted by Indian Vanguard on February 10, 2007

Debt, drought, killer police and lack of basic facilities

Indians proud of their nuclear arm, third largest army, fourth largest air force and the eighth strongest economy–and hoping to join the top four in the near future–now see every thing through the golden lens of hope and confidence. With the streets of our towns chocked with cars and the hoi polloi owning TV sets and moving around on scooters with mobiles ringing in their pockets Union Finance Minister talks of even catching up with the Chinese Dragon in terms of prosperity.

We are told that the bad old days of acute poverty and distress have been left behind in the pages of history. Now we are to only work, aspire and go forward to the Eldorado of our dream. But, then suddenly, our dream is disturbed by the discordant note emanating from the villages of Vidarbha. Since the year 2002 the number of farmers, mostly cotton-growers there, committing suicide has crossed the two digit figure and their number is increasing every year.

If, in 2002, only 102 had committed suicide, the number rose to 156 in 2003, to 324 in 2004, to 412 in 2005 and to a whopping 1050 in the year 2006 we have just left behind. Even in January 2007 sixty-two farmers there have taken their own lives and some of us proud to announce that, for the first time in six months, the monthly death toll has fallen below the three digit figure.

Surely, the people there are not well off, or else so many would not have taken their own lives. Last July even the prime minister had to rush to Nagpur to announce a special relief package of Rs. 3750 crores. But, the locals claim that it has so far brought little relief to the affected poor. The Maharashtra government claims that over 3000 have died in the last three years and over 12 lakhs have been cruelly crushed by debt and drought.

Unfortunately, what is so terribly true of Vidarbha is partially so in many other parts of India including prosperous Punjab. Or else, why should in the last five years the number of districts affected by the Naxalite menace rise from 52 to 175, forcing the prime minister call for a meeting of the CMs of the 13 Naxalite affected states and to admit that many more had died of violence in those states than in J&K and the bloody north-east, put together.

But, whom to look up to for security. What had been long rumoured is now cruelly staring at our face as bodies after bodies are being exhumed in Kashmir and skeletons after skeletons are tumbling out of the cup-boards of the army and the police. Now, after protectors have been proved to be our killers in search of easy recognition, awards and rewards, sending the signal that the innocent poor is no longer safe even in their homes.

One may be hunted down if he fails to humour or satisfy the security officials. They are now a law unto themselves, but as the incident at Jehanabad near Patna underlined they failed to put up a resistance when the Naxalites attacked the police station. The killing field of Nithari also reveals either with the complicity of the local police or their unpardonable inactivity in the face of the maniac murderes, like Pandher and Kohli. Now the locals have reasons to suspect that the local police officials are being shifted to cover up the crime and to protect the criminals. So, where do we turn to for our security?

While many in our police force are busy protecting the powerful and terrorising the weak as many as 1054 children, between the ages of six months and 18 years, have gone missing, as per police record, in the prosperous states of Gujarat, between the years 2001 and 2005. In almost all cases the parents of victims accuse the local police of extreme apathy in registering the FIR and in following up the investigation.

The police in Gujarat has proved in 2002–in varying degrees it is true of other states too–that the state police can be the oppressing arm of the state authorities. And, when people in distress and disgust seek relief in the hands of the judiciary they are often confronted with the frustrating reality of corrupt judges handling the balance of justice. People pay taxes and obey laws, mainly, in search of security and opportunity. If the police, the judiciary and hospitals assure us security, the education system provides us with the opportunity to better our future.

But, a visit to government hospitals and schools all over India is, indeed, an abominable experience. Medicare and school education system have virtually collapsed leaving the average Indian worried and uncertain about his own future and that of their children, if he cannot afford an expensive school. This is the life that our villagers and slum-dwellers live and their face, that of the other India, we cannot afford to forget.


One Response to “The other India we forget”

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