An international car rally enthusiast who has participated in several car rallies across countries while recounting his experience otherwise filled with adventure also narrated sordid details of ill treatment meted out at border check posts by petty officials. Customs and immigration officials or in general enforcement officials all over the world seem to have similar DNA. What is more disturbing is the ‘special’ ill treatment towards Indian passport holders who are generally subjected to a whole body search. But he says that we are the ones to blame as there have been many cases where Indians do not comply with rules, try to carry across things which are prohibited or smuggle contraband hiding it cleverly in body parts and so on. Though one cannot generalise, there is a tendency among many of us to try and get around the system.
There are some who even proudly narrate their escapades, how they hoodwinked the police or any other enforcement authority. We do have a plethora of laws rules and regulations which look perfect on paper but are not enforced in spirit. We have the famous problem of ‘show me the man I will show you the rule’ syndrome – there is always a way to escape from the long arm of the law.
Why are we the way we are? What is it that drives us to break the law and not be bothered about the consequences? Simple issue of obeying traffic signal we see many who jump the signal. Contrast this with what happens in advanced countries where irrespective of whether there is intersecting traffic, when there is a red light cars halt and wait for it to go green. Pedestrians are shown respect and the traffic will stop to let even one odd pedestrian cross the road. But in India it is absolute chaos on the roads with people merrily disobeying traffic rules with impunity. Cars trying to make their make way through busy roads with continuous honks. There is sense of entitlement all around. Our political representatives, high ranking officials are hardly an example. The ‘VIP culture’ is all pervasive.
Obedience to certain order and respecting fellow citizens is a reflection on the culture of the society. Strength of Indian society is the honesty and simplicity of the common man but these values are slowly eroding out of existence. Election spending is a classic example where greasing the palm of the voter with promises and gifts appears to have come to stay notwithstanding unprecedented checks and surveillance during electioneering by the Election commission.
Another disturbing trend is the growth of pressure groups in the name of caste, religion, domicile profession and so on. Political parties vie with each other to placate these pressure groups to the point of even encouraging their illegal conduct. This is vote bank politics at its worst. Openly demand is made in the Assembly within a week of gory violence in Thoothukudi to withdraw criminal cases registered against the flash mob. Any decision of the Government is opposed without even going into the merits. An actor of sorts openly challenges that he will murder minimum eight people if an industrial corridor project is implemented. Media highlights it and he feels elated as if he had accomplished some extraordinary feat!
Social media has become a potent weapon for fringe elements those intent on fomenting trouble. Some of the politicos who were written off and irrelevant are trying to occupy public space through social media just to stoke fire where there is none.
Vigilantism, where self-styled activists take law into their own hands, is another despicable feature which unfortunately is getting a lot of public attention. After the beef ban legislation many such individuals took up cudgels to maintain vigil against cow slaughter in their locality. Some north Indian states faced this problem which even resulted in murder followed by communal violence particularly in sensitive states like UP and Bihar. Recently there was an unfortunate incident in Assam where two harmless tourists were mistaken for child lifters by the villagers who lynched them resulting in their death. This is another extreme form of activism and a dangerous trend.
People resorting to ending their life allegedly over a public cause is a curse on our society. Whenever a political leader dies we see news of suicides supposedly in grief over the death of their leader. Mostly in such cases the cause for suicide could be something personal but conveniently channelled towards the death just to get some political mileage. The family also plays ball as they get some monetary assistance from the party.
But the most traumatic is the suicide by youth due to failure in exam or failing to qualify in competitive exam. Even such cases are politicised and political leaders promptly visit the grieving family in the glare of media announce some paltry sum as solatium demanding the government to pay a handsome compensation. The High Court, in a recent observation, has rightly condemned such misadventure by public figures and has advised that such deaths should not be glorified instead action should be taken to prevent such suicide.
The court pulled up politicians, irrespective of their party affiliation, for giving political colour to NEET suicides. “Government alone can’t be blamed. Other stakeholders, particularly parents, who put enormous pressure on children to score high marks, are also to be blamed,” observed the court.
It is time for introspection, to pause and ponder on what ails our society. In an attempt to be politically correct we fail to condemn what is not right. Let us not hesitate to raise voice against contradictions and attempt by disparate elements to fuel trouble. Individual conscientious conduct will alone lead to collective good.
— The writer is an MLA from Mylapore and former DGP