Saturday, 21 September 2013

The blank page forces me to write my thoughts, thoughts which have been churning in my mind for a while now, at other times I could have penned, no, typed them down, easily said and the excuses to not write them even more easily made. This time I MUST for time between posts has been too long.

Just a few days back, I was telling Nivedita about the experience I had during the serial bomb blasts way back in the '90s and about the police riots in the '80s which was the first time I actually came almost face to face with violence when it erupted on the streets. She told me to write about both the incidents, that they would make for good reading, but this is not what I really intended to write about.

Of late we have been reading of all sorts of crimes against women, just recently I signed a petition to be given to the chief minister to make the city safer for women. I have signed it , but I do not really think that by such an act any kind of change can come about either soon or over a period of time.

The new "in thing " is women's empowerment. Get associated with such a cause and feel you have done something to bring about some change. How does change really come about? When I witnessed aftermath of the police riots in the '80s  a day later in the early morning when returning home from the then South Bombay where we had to wait overnight, I was stunned by the scene that I saw. Smouldering buses, some still in flames, and platoons of armed forces with their guns pointed towards the roads. One had read of riots in newspapers and heard about in on the TV news but to be facing it was another matter.  The character of the riots that day had changed from some issue into something else completely. Looting and rioting had taken over a busy commercial area. There were miscreants who then wanted only to loot and destroy. There may have been some political angle involved , but lets not get into that for I do not know about it. What struck me at that time was the swiftness with which it all happened. Where did these people come from? From my lofty middle class mind I viewed it as the anger of the masses who had no jobs, who in Mumbai terms are called 'vela' and who given even the least bit of an opportunity could come out on the streets and create mayhem. I have since seen many small incidents happening where a huge crowd collects, it can be a fight on a street, a motor accident, an argument between a shopkeeper and a client. Each time I wondered where the crowd erupted from.

We are well on the way to almost completing twenty five years of the 21st century. What has changed? We talk about holistic change, about changing ourselves, about bringing about change so that the those who govern us can facilitate in making our lives better. We have talked for years about the growing population, about the unemployment, about our education system, our poverty. We have archaic laws, some of which are changing now very slowly, we follow the policy of our earlier rulers of dividing and ruling the country, vote banks are very necessary to the people who want to be in power to "rule" the country. All political parties have their hit men who do jobs and are protected by their masters. The police has its hands tied , khaki is ruled by khadi .... a police officer told me about 25 years back. So what really had changed? The way I see it, nothing really, except now in cities more women are joining the workforce and becoming financially independent and perhaps this has led to crimes against them. This may be wrong too, because crimes were and will always be a part of any given social system. This time around the awareness is more and where even ten years back it may have been kept under covers for fear of social stigma, today it is out in the open.

I question the rights of the people we chose to govern us. If we as citizens have the right to vote for good governance, as citizens we have the right to expect good governance. If this had happened from the very beginning the picture could have been different. If each and every village and district had some self governance which allowed for progress of that area under the vigilant eye of the administration and the elected representative, could things not be different? What we have is local panchayats elected and then ruled by corrupt individuals so that what has not changed in years will continue to remain the same. We see leaders being garlanded with money, we hear and read of  people who actually work diligently and honestly being transferred, is this how a country is governed? Honesty is of no value, what is important is the running of big businesses by whatever dishonest means under the aegis of even more dishonest political bosses.

I ask again, what has changed? NOTHING REALLY.........and I know that like me there will be thousands who will sign petitions but change will happen ONLY when there will be the political WILL to make it happen. When those in power can willfully give up the power to be in power, when that power which they have been entrusted with can make each and every individual of this country walk with their head held high, when those that sit in high seats can be just other individuals doing a job which they are paid for and not think of the common people as those they have to dole out their largesse on, maybe just maybe some change may come about. Until then food grains will rot while people starve, there will be child trafficking, the police will turn a blind eye to legitimate complaints, and the our political masters will continue to slurp the cream.

I have not even started about the parallel economy. Bless their black souls.