When the nation burns, the government remains absent

But, nothing seems to change. No one from the Central government seems to be really bothered.

Kashmir is on the boil where women and children have taken to violent protests, in a sense of desperation, defying curfew and defying even shoot-at-sight orders. Protests on this scale had never been seen earlier.

There is some eerie calm now. Nobody from the Centre has gone there and tried to touch the hearts of the Kashmiris and find the anguish of the people. Our government seems to believe in only two things: Police force and political level talks with separatists and the government of Pakistan.

The common Kashmiri and hisher real problems and aspirations have never been the concern. Why is the common manwoman in Kashmir feeling so alienated? Is heshe alienated or is it our government that is alienated from its own people?

Similar is the case with the violent incidents in the north-central belt of India. Call them what you may — Maoists, Naxalites or just plain disgruntled tribal folk— the problem of violence has been escalating over the years and particularly over the past several months. There has never been at attempt by the Centre to understand the core of the problem.

Why do poor simple tribal people living in and upon the forests take up arms against the mighty government machinery? Isn’t there a problem deeper than the manifest violent means taken up by these impoverished people? For every incidence of violence from that tribal belt, the response from the Centre has been to send some more police-force to suppress the ‘Maoists.’

The whole problem is one of alienation of the government from the people. If the Centre thought that the agitating folks were its own citizens — even if it styles itself as ‘maa-baap’ government it is fine — the government’s approach would have been different. It would have reached out to the people, discussed with the common folk in those places, understood their problems, and touched their hearts to know their feelings rather than contemplating military action on the aggrieved people. These issues require sensitive handling.

They require a real concern for the common person and an active desire to make a change in his life. Unfortunately, the prolonged lack of action from the government at the Centre betrays lack of concern and a real sense of leadership.

Third issue — not necessarily in terms of priority — has been that of continuing inflation in the economy. The government, as usual, has been in the denial mode. Some patchwork will be done so as not to have the issue raised in parliament by the opposition benches. Inflation hurts the poor people the most. But, the elections are still a long time away and so for our government, the price rise is no issue to bother much about. Inflation is not seen as a people-issue; rather, it is seen as a political issue.

Fourth issue has been that of the utter callousness of the ministry of food. Tens of thousands of tonnes of food stored in government godowns is rotting. It is a criminal waste in a country where, in some parts, people have to resort to eating red ants for food. The point is not just about one incidence of waste, but about the laissez faire attitude of the government and the lack of inclination to prevent the continued occurrence of such utterly preventable wastefulness.

Another issue to rock us citizens was that of a spate of railway accidents. The minister in charge of railways has hardly bothered to look into the deeper causes of these accidents. She simply dismissed these as ‘sabotage.’ We have not heard any more from the minister or that ministry. We have not seen any action or any reaction coming from the Cabinet either. “Such things keep happening. So what?’ - seems to be the attitude of the government.

Next is that of the Commonwealth Games. The corruption charges and the carelessness of the CWG organising committee, the Delhi government and the sports ministry are all shocking. It is clearly a ‘chalta hai’ attitude in an event that is to showcase our ‘Incredible India’ to the world.

With all these burning issues crying for immediate attention, where is the prime minister?
After one railway accident, during the early 1960s, the then railways minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned. Mahatma Gandhi, after he returned from South Africa, went on a long tour of the rural India and touched the soul of India before he undertook all his satyagrahas. But, such leaders and leadership obviously do not exist any more.

But, surely the Central government can reach out to the people of Kashmir, go to the tribal areas and read their anguish, check the plight of the poor on the streets of India and see that heshe is not further burdened by unchecked price rise, and take responsibility for its own actions or the lack of it.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)

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