It seems like the fifth day of August has carved a niche for itself in Indian history by successive landmark actions undertaken by the “Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic” of India. With a whopping budget of approximately 300 crore rupees for the construction of the long-debated Ram Mandir in the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi v/s Babri Masjid dispute, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the gigantic monument, exactly a year after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by its bifurcation into two union territories.
With the Union Home Minister Amit Shah claiming it to be “a proud and historic day” for India, the context of this action dissolves into oblivion by the extravagance of the event. The decision comes at a time when India witnessed its worst week with the highest number of COVID-19 deaths and the surge in fresh cases.
At this juncture, when this developing Asian country is stressed by the paucity of its health infrastructure and economic stability, the allocation of such an unimaginable fund for the construction of a temple tarnishes the image of democracy in the young and rational minds of India.
While the entire world is confronting the ramifications of the pandemic, the crisis is further compounded by the mass influx of migrant labourers in India with mounting losses of livelihood. This thereby drowns this imbroglio with another splash of despair. We’re seeing chronically ill patients being neglected due to the strain from the pandemic, costing their lives in many cases, and the surging death toll due to COVID-19, and mounting school drop out rates due to lack of access to digital education. Also, with India’s vulnerable borders with China and Pakistan, a slumping economy with decreasing exports and surging public debt, it seems absolutely ridiculous for the government to indulge in the apparent show of communal unity and Hindutva rhetoric. It has been rightly said that “The eyes are useless when the mind cannot see.”
As a common man and a citizen of India, our appeals and questions are justified and not overrated. But unfortunately, they are not raucous enough. When will the government realize that the extension of the height of the temple, from 141 to 161 feet, cannot masquerade its absolute failure to provide public health and security in this pandemonium?
When will the unheard cries of the unemployed labour become the parliament’s priority? When will the thrashing economy not be foolish enough to think that it has effectively veiled its slump with the apparent prosperity of a religious shrine?
Voices are silenced, claims are dispersed, just like our attention. We, as citizens and as a nation, need to prioritize our priorities. India needs security in all spheres—social, economic, political, communal. For achieving it, what is needed is a holistic and concerted approach of both the citizens and masses to work for issues that truly matter—employment, economy, education, public health, enrolment ratio, and above all, a developing GDP. This veil of the largest Ram Mandir has, unfortunately, deepened the malice of communal rhetoric instead of promoting communal harmony, especially when the world order has gone topsy-turvy.
Also, as India marks its first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, it is of utmost necessity to address the purpose for which it was undertaken—to integrate Kashmir into the national mainstream.
It was probably done so the common masses don’t harp on the geographical boundaries, but on their bread, shelter and hope… a hope to live a better and secure future.
Thus, to conclude, with the Ram Mandir, Article 370, and the pandemic ‘hung’ in the balance, it’s of vital importance for India to refocus its priorities and truly work on its aim of an “Atmanirbhar India” (self-reliant India). As obviously, a decade from now, we would surely prefer to live in an ‘aware society’ with the security of quality education and public health insurance rather than admiring a sky scrapping shrine from the window of a dilapidated hospital as we wreak the havoc with the fear of losing our dear ones. So, let’s work for it. TOGETHER, WE CAN!!!!