It is that time of the year when we witness thousands of children on the street selling flags, badges and tricolor bands. Every year, bloggers, writers, and journalists get their momentary fame by writing articles about these children and then disappear. In fact, I did not even have to invest time in wandering around capturing photos on the street. I just googled ‘children selling flags on street’ and found hundreds of pictures of poor children running amidst traffic trying to sell the tricolor flags.
Most of the corporations were busy on Tuesday ‘celebrating independence day’. They have the tricolor dress code, special menu, and celebrations. Everybody was seen dipped into the colors of ‘patriotism’ and clicking selfies at the workplace. I wonder if our nationality has come down to this. The flags are bought from whole sellers and are distributed amongst all the street sellers. Children, women, elderly as well as people with disability, dressed in worn-out clothes, carry these heavy flags, running from signal to signal, knocking on rolled up car windows in the hope that they can sell it to those privileged enough to feel patriotic for a day.
While Independence Day for us is just another Holiday, when we get to dress up and relax, for the poor and the street vendors, Independence Day is no more than an occasion to have better sales of their merchandise. Sadly, not all of them are lucky enough to sell all of their merchandise. According to research, there are about 51,000 street children on Delhi streets. They work for almost 12 hours every day. Their major occupation is selling some product or the other on the street with the average income of Rs. 20-30 per day. Yes! You just had a samosa worth the amount of their daily income. The reason so many children are out there on the streets is due to poverty, family disintegration, urbanization, an inadequacy of resources and growing population.
There are about 20 lakh homeless children in India who suffer from various issues such as malnutrition, child labor, poverty, and lack of access to education. These children end up doing hazardous jobs in factories, are illegally employed in canteens, restaurants, construction sites, indulge in rag picking and selling newspapers and flowers at traffic signals. Are they independent? Do they have any concept of the freedom that so many people suffered through hell and many lost their lives to achieve generations ago? Or are they enslaved under the heaviest burden our civilization has ever faced: Economy.
If not, then whose independence are we talking about? When it comes to hypocrisy, Indian liberals and secular people are the best. No one in the universe can beat them.
The other day I went to a movie theatre and as per the ‘mandate’ had to stand straight during the national anthem. I would not call myself a patriot but I am definitely someone who does not want to get beaten up. Half-heartedly, I stood there looking at people standing in unison for the love of their country. When the movie ended and people made their way to the exit, I noticed the entire auditorium was a mess. Popcorn, wrappers, plastic bags, tissues, and leftover food were littered everywhere. There were only two staff members running around to clean the entire place as they had only five minutes before the next show started. If we really love our country and its infrastructure, why can’t we respect and keep it clean? On my recent visit to Ladakh, it was heartbreaking to see all these country loving patriots throwing garbage, plastic bottles, polythene bags near the famous Pangong Lake and other tourist spots. One could easily spot garbage near every waterfall and river on the way. We do not have the right to enter into somebody else’s habitat area and throw garbage and come back to the city announcing a great trip. It is not only the responsibility of the government but of each and every individual to promote responsible and sustainable tourism. We do not have any right to call ourselves Desh-Bhakts if we cannot respect our country.
Not just in the name of nationality, we create a mess during every religious festival. One of many such events is the one where people claim to do ‘seva’ on the street by offering free beverages. The people make sure to stand right in the middle of a busy street, stop every car and force them to drink a beverage. Disturbing the traffic and blocking the road is not considered to be a problem anymore in India. As Indians, we are used to it: sometimes due to a wedding, kawad yatra, frequent accidents, wrong driving and parking skills or just random cow/buffaloes on the street. What usually annoys me is the huge amount of plastic glasses thrown on the street! These activities meant for a ‘good cause’ by serving water to people once a year, leave behind a huge amount of plastic waste on the street adding up to the existing issue that our country is facing.
Also, during many festivals where Idols are worshipped, we immerse huge idols into the rivers every year. So far the focus has been on who spends the most and builds the best idol and sets a record, rather than who will clean the pollution leftover afterward. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not just for the government to achieve. Every human being has to contribute. Cleanliness will have to come out of the churches or places of worship like temples, gurudwaras and come to streets, parks, roads and our neighbourhood. Roughly half of our country has been turned into garbage dumps. Constantly polluting the same country that we claim to love, is that what freedom is all about? The pollution caused to the environment is something that we can still monitor and resolve, but the extent of pollution in the human mind neither has any bounds nor ways to be curbed. Violence in the name of nationalism and religion is not new. Nobody is aware or willing to counter this abusive environment as well as those abusive individuals. In this invasive stench of hyper-nationalism, many of us are failing to identify the dull fragrance of common sense.
These are the basic and prevalent issues that we come across on a daily basis. Let us not forget the recent research reports :
In the year 2017, there were about 31 lakh NGO’s, 7,000 crore CSR budget and numerous government policies in place, yet do we see any substantial development? Something that I ponder over again and again! Huge budget, huge availability of human resources, yet no visible development as per the outcome of recent research!
Let me not even get started on ‘Freedom of Speech’!
We overlook all the persistent issues in the country because we have accepted the harsh reality that we cannot do anything to change the present scenario. We are comfortable with our own lives and monthly salaries. We are too busy surviving each day to bring about a change to the nation that is going towards impending doom.
Is this how it feels like to be a Nationalist citizen of an Independent country? We were under the bondage of the British, and now we are under the bondage of poverty, darkness, and helplessness.
‘Happy Independence’ Day!