Change attitudes!

Indifference and callousness abound our nation. But, how long can we be “like this only?”

About 180 km is not a very long way off. Especially from a state capital. And yet, the collage conveys much more than what a million words could. The photographs in this newspaper on Tuesday, strategically positioned near the headline hit the senses like a boxers punch. 

A cluster of villages at this distance from Ahmedabad have to contend with a swollen Hiran river in the monsoons as they there is no bridge to cross over to the other side. The picture of students standing on the banks and stuffing their clothes and books into brass pitchers before fording the chilly waters with the containers on their heads and again putting on their clothes on the other side before continuing for another 5 km to school is a sad, pathetic reminder of the state of affairs that is prevalent in most of India. 

What’s new about all this, did you say? There are so many places in this country that are completely cut off from the rest of the world for most of the year. Are we not used to seeing this and much more daily and do we not callously turn our eyes away and proceed, or at the best, sigh and say “ we are like this only”? 

True. But the nagging question persists. Over all these years, did it not occur to any of the elected representatives of this area that a bridge was a dire necessity? Election after election, surely they must have promised better roads, accessibility, healthcare, electricity and all the other signposts of civilization to these people? What happened to all that? Is the place so remote that it requires a superhuman effort to build a bridge? How much does it cost to build a medium sized bridge? When crores can be earmarked to erect a statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, why not funds for a bridge? All questions that have only one answer. Indifference and callousness! 

Once the elections are over, the credulous villagers are forgotten, until the next election. What will the ‘Iron man of India’ be thinking of this? Will he be happy that the children of his state are learning about his sacrifices for the nation while they wade their way to school? When foreign dignitaries come to India, a must on their itinerary is a visit to a school in a backward area in states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Orissa. We smile indulgently as they struggle to pronounce Indian names and serve food to the poor children in schools that have been painted afresh and festooned with flowers.

 But we hide the stark, cruel reality from the world. Of schools with no roofs, no toilets, no teachers, no blackboards, no benches, a single room for multiple classes and much, much more. And then, we talk of school dropout figures. Then, we give them freebies like bicycles and laptops. Day after day, year after year, it is the same old story. How long will we be ‘like this only’?

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