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A protest march against the recent incident of Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, in Patna on 5 August. Photo: PTI
A protest march against the recent incident of Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, in Patna on 5 August. Photo: PTI

Opinion | Have we provided our children true freedom?

We should introspect about what becomes of sentimental slogans such as 'today's children are the citizens of tomorrow'

As I write these lines, the anguished cries of innocent girls in Muzaffarpur and Deoria are weighing heavy on my heart and my mind.

Why don’t those eager to celebrate India’s Independence Day pause and think about this: In more than seven decades, what have we contributed to the nation’s childhood and adolescence? We should also introspect about what becomes of sentimental slogans such as “Today’s children are the citizens of tomorrow".

As an Indian, when I look back, I discover that in the name of progress, even as roads and infrastructure were being created and enormous modern aircraft began soaring over people’s heads, prosperity was just a mirage for those on the lowest ladder of society.

These people are not aware that their nation has become the sixth-largest economy of the world as their lives are spent worrying about three words: roti, kapda aur makan (food, clothing and housing).

To make these three words meaningful, what have politicians in our independent nation done? Just raised slogans election after election and then conveniently forgotten their promises.

Our politicians may agree or disagree on trivial matters, but they are one when it comes to policy and honesty of intent.

Indian politicians keep two masks handy. They keep changing them depending on whether they are in power or in the opposition. What doesn’t change is the destiny of ordinary people.

You may recall the outrage over the brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya. The nation stood up to defend women’s rights, it appeared. As a result, the already stringent laws were made even stronger. But criminals don’t carry out heinous crimes after reading the legal fine print. The repercussions are before us.

The Muzaffarpur and Deoria cases are unravelling and with every layer that is coming off, the ensuing stink has made the nation recoil. The opposition of that time is now in office. Yesterday’s office-bearers are today in the opposition camp. So they can claim a right over unleashing slogans and outrage.

They are exercising this right. Because of this, the nation is seething under a deluge of charges and counter-charges. All this may take a toll on a few officials, but just change of faces isn’t enough to fix a flawed system. Also, rapes and poverty don’t go away with enactment or amendments of laws.

Here, I would humbly like to bring up Delhi and the National Capital Region. According to government statistics, 54.57% people staying here can be classified as affluent.

In the same Delhi, three innocent girls became victims of hunger deaths and within a week, another such incident came to the light in Ghaziabad. We are a land of contradictions! How can the rich be so irresponsible and insensitive? Even if the people were callous, why did the political system stay oblivious to all this? Instead of helping these innocents get nutrition and dignity, the system merely tried to carry out a whitewash.

They have been doing this and they’ll continue to do it because our political system is not committed to finding a lasting solution to these problems. Our honourable politicians know that the outrage will last just a few days. The people’s attention can soon be diverted to something else.

This process of distracting and misleading the common man has turned our republic into a system of tumult.

Kautilya wrote in the Arthashastra that the ruler must stay sensitive towards the protection and progress of his subjects.

But the exact opposite is happening in our democracy. Some of our politicians display great commitment towards safety and welfare of animals, but how much do they value human beings? I would like to return to the incident in Mandawali. Mangal Singh, whose daughters died of hunger, didn’t have a ration card or any other proof of social security.

Unaware of the debate being carried out in Parliament on Aadhaar, on which millions were spent, when he headed out in search of employment, he was without any state identity.

Hunger took away the young ones in his family because it wasn’t part of any religion, community or group perceived as a vote bank.

What will be a greater misfortune for India than the fact that we are more sympathetic towards animals and intruders from other lands than our own children?

Questions are bound to be raised. Is being poor in India a sin? Don’t you feel that those dreaming of India becoming the world’s biggest economy should first worry about this? Till the country’s deprived get freedom from poverty, we have no right to celebrate the festival of freedom.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan.His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin

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