Celebrations for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi have kicked off on 2 October. As in every year, many gathered at the Gandhi Samadhi, offered rose petals, sat on the ground on spotlessly white cheddars and sang sonorously Mahatma’s favourite bhajan: Vaishnav jan te tene kahiye , pir parai jane re…
In other cities, towns, colleges and schools, they garlanded Gandhi’s statues/ busts and sang other bhajans too: Ishwar Allah tero Naam, Sabko Sanmati de Bhagwan!
Thus ended another annual ritual on Gandhi Jayanti, generating countless headlines and photographs for the next morning. Hotels, motels, pubs and restaurants weren’t happy; their business went down like the Indian rupee; 2 October is a dry day!
If Gandhi were looking at India from his heavenly abode, what would he be feeling? Delighted? Dejected? Disappointed? Pir parai Jane re..last month, five sanitary workers died while trying to unclog the old, rusty, dirty, poorly maintained sewerage arteries, with no safety equipment provided as laid down by the Supreme Court. They left behind families and young kids who depended on whatever little they could earn by doing the job which none else will do. None lit candles for them on their untimely and wholly avoidable deaths! None shed tears for those who risk their lives to keep our homes clean. None rushed to announce ex-gratia grants or jobs to their families. What future awaits their children? Do the so called Vaishnav Jans understand the plight and pir of these families?
A bright, young IT executive is abducted while returning from her work and mercilessly raped by four men for six hours. Most national dailies carry half a dozen news items about rapes of young girls aged 3-7 years every day. Delhi has acquired the notoriety of becoming the rape capital of India where women, irrespective of their age, run the risk of getting molested and raped in public places if alone. Does anyone appreciate and realise the pain, anguish and emotional and psychological trauma of the rape victims? While allegations of sexual harassment of a film star or starlet hog the headline in newspapers and TV channels for days, none can spare a minute for many Dalit girls who, according to a former Chief Justice of India, are raped routinely every day. Around 30 out of 42 girls at Balika Griha in Muzaffarpur in Bihar were reportedly raped! What have we become? A civilised nation or a country of sex predators!
Wiping the tears off the cheeks of the last man in the queue was the great Mahatma’s dream. His tears have dried but the last man is still standing there half clad and half fed 70 years after Independence! A recent report of the UN which credits India to have brought 271million people above the poverty line has given us something to thump our chests. Yes, all those who have made it possible should be complimented; any level of poverty alleviation is welcome. Economic experts tell the poor chap: Hello! Congratulations! Enjoy yourself! You aren’t poor anymore! Looking miserable as ever, he pulls his hair and asks himself; I am not poor now, but how am I going to feed four members of my family in Rs 40? Indian Daridra Narayan’s place on the Human Development Index and Hunger Index might be more reflective of his health than the UN certificate of having come above the poverty line.
The idea of “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” embraced by Emperor Ashok after winning the bloody battle of Kalinga fascinated Gandhi; he used it as a positive and potent weapon to fight the British colonial rule. He practiced and preached the significance of this moral and political force all his life; his message has inspired world leaders from Dr Martin Luther king to the Dalai Lama and from Mother Teresa to Nelson Mandela! Isn’t it ironic that this apostle of non-violence eventually fell to the bullets of a Hindu? Isn’t it surprising that Gujarat, the state where Gandhi was born, has witnessed some of the most violent and brutal incidents in independent India? All the positivity and buzz which Prime Minister Narendra Modi creates about India through his branding of India of 21st century at his mega events abroad is dented when millions of viewers world over watch four helpless Dalits being stripped to their waists and mercilessly thrashed with iron rods in Una and a rag picker killed on a flimsy ground in Rajkot. One wonders whether Gandhi must be elated to see the mobs/cow vigilantes taking law in to their hands and lynching suspects of beef eating or smuggling cows or poor women beaten with lathis in broad daylight by the upholders of law and order i.e., police personnel. Alas, none goes on fast unto death like the Mahatma to stop this madness.
Gandhi was a lifelong votary of the principle that noble goals must be achieved through noble means. Unfortunately, in today’s economically vibrant India, in the rat race to success, most Indians have embraced the philosophy of the Chinese helmsman, Deng Xiaoping for whom it didn’t matter whether the cat was black or white so long as it caught the rat! This mindset advocates blind pursuit of success by hook or crook. No wonder we have so many Vijay Mallyas, Nirav Modis and Mehul Choksis. It’s high time to revisit Gandhi’s seven deadly sins: wealth without work; pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice, politics without principle.
All political parties talk of zero tolerance of corruption but it still thrives. Everyone talks about the nexus between criminals and politics, but no party refuses to give ticket to a criminal who is a possible winner in election!
For Gandhi, cleanliness was next to Godliness. No PM has spent time, energy, efforts and missionary zeal like Modi to flag and promote Swachch Bharat Abhiyan in India abroad. It’s Brand Ambassadors, particularly Amitabh Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Sachin Tendulkar, Sonal Mansingh and others have generated huge awareness and deserve kudos. But the day when Modi and his Cabinet colleagues descended on the street with brooms in hands, East Delhi was stinking with piles of garbage all around. Poor Safai Karamcharis whom Gandhi loved have to resort to strike to press for the release of their salaries/wages every year. Why can’t the most vulnerable of the society be paid on time?
The full impact of the Swachch Bharat campaign warrants massive creations of infrastructure, regular and daily collections and disposal of garbage and imposition of deterrent level of fines on the violators, whether they are shops, temples or Arts centre.