Why India Needs Strong Public Opinion (But Not On ‘Saas-Bahu’ Soaps & Hrithik’s Emails)

Posted on July 28, 2016 in Society

By Sandeep Motwani:

It’s the last week of June. Schools are about to start the new session. At a humble two BHK at Nagpur, 10-year-old Saakshi is playing with her daadi. She wraps her mother’s dupatta around herself as a saree and they both have a good laugh. Grandchildren are always special. In old age, while your children are busy making a living through jobs, it’s their children who have all the time for you. That same afternoon, while others were having a nap at home, Saakshi was caught by the air cooler in an electric shock. She didn’t make it.

It was a cruel Sunday which is why no doctor except a junior one was present at the nearest government hospital. It did not take an expert to tell that he was not in a position to handle such emergencies.

Talk-of-the-town is how rampant betting has become in our society. If India is playing today, even a toddler knows the ‘bhaav’ thanks to apps on his mother’s smartphone. One can see a great business model in this situation. Wrap a thirsty youngster (desirably poor) in greed of easy money, wait for him till he bets big and loses (which everyone eventually does), convert the winnings into a loan with interest as high as 10% per month and sit on your back for the rest of your life.

It was just another day for Iqbal going to a house and wrecking everything, breaking the television set and threatening worse if he wasn’t paid soon. Except this time, Pankaj stood up for the poor and paid from his pocket. Soon, Pankaj, now a Robin Hood, was becoming a problem for Iqbal coming in his way of scaring and threatening poor people. Business is business. So, one night, Iqbal murders Pankaj in front of a crowd, crushes his brain out with a boulder. No one raises their voice. There is a collective public uproar for the following week; Iqbal is arrested because of this pressure.

Fast forward four months, I see Iqbal sitting on the next table in a renowned restaurant. How could he be convicted without any evidence or witness? Life goes on, right?
Where is our judicial system? Where does our public health care system stand?

We the public have a knack for bashing our own nation, blaming the system. Saying things like ‘It can happen only in India’ is perceived to be humorous and cool. The nation is waiting for its ‘Nayak’, unaware that we ourselves are one. Strong public opinion has time and again brought desired changes in the system.

  • The last central government’s tenure saw scams of lakhs of crores being exposed. The result: the Opposition makes tall promises of a ‘corruption free government’, wins and actively starts taking steps towards transparency.
  • People became aware of the black money situation, agitated and today we see the shadow economy shrinking by the day. Indian money in Swiss banks is reducing; it’s tougher than ever to take money out of India.
  • The Nirbhaya rape case happened. The whole nation erupted and we saw commissions being set-up, reports submitted, laws changed in record time.
  • A juvenile convict escapes harsh punishment and, tada! Laws change to lower the age for trial in a court of law for select cases!
  • The Right to Information, a revolutionary law, came into existence only after years and years of strong public opinion in favour of transparency.
  • The draconian law that was used in the Emergency during the 1970s was scrapped immediately after next Lok Sabha elections.
  • Telangana was recently formed after it was impossible to ignore the growing voice of the public for smaller states.

The examples can go on. The point is that no major changes in our society have come without the public taking interest, educating itself, and asking for change. It is often said that we think as a nation only during an India-Pakistan cricket match. Why do we laugh such things off? The saying is ‘Great people make great nations’ and not the reverse.

It’s time the youth takes an interest in things other than Page 3, saas-bahu daily soaps, Salman’s marriage, Hrithik’s emails and Virat’s relationship status. It’s time we move on to make this country a better place to live. It will be wise to not wait for the calamity to hit our homes.

Every time we have ‘had enough’, we have made it very clear and changed things. The question is how many Saakshis have to die, before we wake up to ask for a robust healthcare system guaranteed to everyone including the poor? How many more Pankajs have to lay their lives to goons who take advantage of the weak judicial system? The issues don’t stop at just healthcare and judiciary.

The vacuum of public opinion is taking lives, silently.

Featured image shows people protesting against rape laws and government inaction at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images.