Last week, someone who knew I’d been a journalist asked me, “Why do we make such a fuss about a five-buck increase in petrol prices, and not about education or infrastructure or health?” That “we” must necessarily be taken to refer to the Indian upper middle class—and the upper-middle-class media.
The clinical murder of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital on October 28 is a new cause celebre for us to take up (“us”, as with “we”). Certainly, the Irish law is an ass, but is its stupidity cause enough to summon the Irish ambassador and make a quiet diplomatic row? The Republic of Ireland is bound to resist any such pressure, just as India refuses to bow to Italy in the matter of the two marines who shot the Kerala fishermen without warrant.
What are we doing, though, about the tens of thousands of Indian women who die in childbirth for want of adequate medical attention, and the millions of children who are unlucky enough to survive their births to spend deprived and malnourished and therefore useless lives? Will the prime minister’s office issue a demarche to the home secretary and demand an explanation? Surely, it is our greatest shame that, 65 years after independence, our children are uneducated and ill-fed, and their lives are doomed to be nasty, brutish and often short.
Is this a conscious choice the upper-middle-class Indian makes, to forget her poorer sisters while she is willing, even eager, to light a candle for a Jessica or a Savita? To return to the opening question, of course infrastructure matters. The roads in Delhi and Bangalore do matter, and the toll charges on the highways are iniquitous. Health matters too, her own health and her children’s. Education matters: this damned rte causes her precious progeny to rub shoulders with the children of the riff-raff of the slums.
I’m afraid it is a conscious decision, now that 20 years of boom-and-bust have leached from us our once-vaunted socialism, and hamdardi, or sympathy, is as much a thing of the past as Hamdard’s Gripe Water. I’ve actually heard it said by an executive, “All these [expletive deleted] slum people should go back to their villages.” After, of course, they’ve built the city, laid its roads, cleaned the toilets, swept and mopped their rooms, washed their clothes and so on.
There is certainly a casteist element in this attitude. When K.R. Narayanan was the vice-president, he was also chairman of the Planning Commission. He is reported to have said of his years there, “I got the strong impression that many people did not want change.” Change for themselves, yes; but “uplift”, oh dear me, no. Indeed, how nostalgic our politicians must be for the votebanks of the 1960s and 1970s. Now, you have to deliver something.
But only to someone, or some someones. If we bemoan Dr Savita’s fate, it is because it could be our own. That this could happen to a young, upper-middle-class, professional woman in the white West—that is a dreadful thought. It should not happen again; next time it might be my daughter. It is happening every minute in my own country, or anyway in India—that other India which does not matter—but it is happening to another kind of person, hardly the same sort of citizen that I am.
Yes, of course this piece is reactionary, socialistic bunkum. Millions of Indians are more prosperous and happier today than they were in 1990. Is that not so? Let us not forget, though, that there are hundreds of millions more to be made happy; that Rs 1,000 today is not worth what Rs 100 was in 1990; and that the trickledown myth has been pretty well exploded. As for happier—are you really happier, freer from worry, your shoulders less bowed, than in 1990?
I’m sorry for Savita—not that there’s any point in being sorry for one who’s out of it. I’m sorry for her husband and family. But while I’m not doing anything about her million sisters living second-class lives in our country, don’t expect any outrage from me, at least not against the Irish government instead of my own. And at the vigil at India Gate, turn down an empty candlestick, for I won’t be there.
Apropos Vijay Nambisan’s column (Aborting the Real Issue, Dec 3), summoning the Irish ambassador and making a quiet diplomatic row may technically be an intrusion in Irish domestic affairs, but it still has symbolic value. A law that causes unnecessary deaths is inhuman and pressures to change it must come from all possible quarters, irrespective of the niceties of diplomatic protocol.
It’s true that even after 65 years of independence, we have millions of poorly fed, uneducated children. But I need to ask Nambisan why he shies from naming the political dynasty that has ruled us for 56 of those 65 years. As long as one makes plain sweeping statements about poverty and deprivation, without a sensible acknowledgement of the role of poor governance by the current ruling dispensation, the tax-paying, law-abiding resident aam aadmi in me is surely not going to buy Nambisan’s misplaced arguments.
It was the doctor's call, wasn't it? The lady was a doctor, and she was in hospital, as a patient. What if a person died in old age, of a cardiac arrest, which is the cause of all natural deaths? How responsible, or not is a doctor? Would you have trusted this lady if she was treating your wife? I would have, and I wouldn't have blamed her, if my wife had died, being her patient. The Hippocratic Oath does not say, that a doctor wants to make a person live, with no dignity. It seems, the oath says, that a person can live life normally, not that he justifies his life, after his illness, because of the earlier illness.
Summoning the Irish ambassador and making a quiet diplomatic row may technically be an intrusion in Irish domestic affairs, but still it has symbolic value. A law that causes unnecessary deaths is an inhuman law and pressures to change such a law must come from all possible quarters irrespective of the niceties of diplomatic protocols.
@AN Bannerjee:The author might very well know he is fundamentally wrong in what he says.
But the photograph here shows exactly why he writes what he does.
It is that mother of all evils-The BJP- protesting against an idea.
So in his caveman brain the author thinks-Ogga Booga,BJP Evil, hence Idea Good,hence protest bad,so me write against protest,Ooga Booga.
Supply side works a million times better than your Socialism.Capitalism is still the best economic system in the world & Hernando De Soto's "The mystery of capital", where he grits his teeth and accepts that it is indeed the best way forward, is comprehensive proof that people on the other side of the spectrum also agree.
Our economic freedom is still remarkable low.It is amusing to see educated people with access to the internet believeing that we are not socialist now.
Most economies around the world, except a few rotten ones, are mixed.Some services for example police, are socialised.Others, are not.
We are still one of the least free & most socialist nations in the world when it comes to the economy.
Our economic freedom is a joke.More economic freedom is required.Economic freedom index puts us in the last 1/3rd or sometimes in the last 10%, depending on which list you may look at.
We still have mad throw money out of the window socialism. And you are right, yours, is a reactionary lame piece.I can't believe you got an opportunity to write such bogus cant.You must know someone at Outlook HQ or maybe you were Vinod Mehta's dog's barber!!
Now, to the abortion issue.Caste? Really? I will again move on to the crux of the issue.
Our problems are social and infrastructure based.Ireland's problems are an example of social AND legal issues.Their laws are moth-balled and this can NOT be conveniently brushed under the carpet.
It is catholic paternalism whichi influences the state and society.We have any number of issues but this comparison is puerile and is like comparing apples to oranges.
You, my good sir are not the only one doing this either.There have been others who have written much better pieces than you making the same case recently & they have been refuted by any number of people in the media.So if you wish to exotify yourself, it ain't happening, champion!!
As I said, in Ireland it is ALSO a legal issue. In india, gender determination is banned.Fine, by me! But abortion is not & rightly so! Ultimately the decision rests with the mother since it is her body.Yours, is the typical leftist xenophilic,high on emotion low on logic, attitude.This is not an EITHER OR scenario.Protesting, loudly at that, against percieved or real injustice in a foreign land does not for a moment mean people here are making a choice between home tyranny and foreign tyranny.It doesn't mean we don't support steps taken by the government or private institutions to better our IMR & MMR figures & make them more tolerable.It doesn't mean some of us aren't doing it too.
What hope do the poor have, with laws like the ones that are in place in Ireland, where they make it to the upper middle classes and still die.
Even if we were to accept for a moment your silly conclusions, it is bizarre articles like yours that promote the ideology of the Shiv Sena.Every time they thrash a bihari, a sainik might rightly ask-But what about Bihar? Don't more people get thrashed there on a daily basis?So you have no moral right to complain you poor bihari, take this chappal and eat it!!
Even that example is not perfectly right to illustrate my point.There is no comparison here.If in India, in a hospital with adequate infrastructure,a doctor conveyed the same disgusting message to the father of the child, we would have reacted the same way.
Mr Vijay Nambisan,
With regard to your question "Surely, it is our greatest shame that, 65 years after independence, our children are uneducated and ill-fed, and their lives are doomed to be nasty, brutish and often short." shall i ask you a question?
Yes, 65 years after independence, we are having a nation with poorly fed poorly educated children with poor health indicators. But shall I ask you why are you refusing to point the political party, the political dynasty that has ruled us 56 out of the 65 years?
Ours is a democracy with extraordinary powers for Central government and given this, the onus lies primarily on the political party and dynasty that has ruled us decades since 1947. And yet, the entire MSM and the journalists and intellectuals including you refuse to even talk about this.
As long as you make plain sweeping statements like this without a sensible acknowlegement of the role of poor governance by the current ruling dispensation, a tax paying, law abiding aam admi resident indian in me is not going to buy your misplaced arguments that are typical of the elite pseudo intellectuals that get a disproportionate representation, voice and importance in the ruling elite sponsored Indian english Mainstream Media.
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