The poor in our country simmer with discontent
Cars burnt and stoned.
Buses set on fire.
Nanded. Ambernath. Nashik. Bhiwandi. Mumbai…what’s happening to you Maharashtra?
All this because a statue of B. R. Ambedkar (one of India’s freedom fighters and a leader of the Dalits) was damaged in a city as far away as Kanpur?
Some might believe this to be the reason for the violence, but I doubt it.
Ofcourse, I could talk of a political conspiracy and I would perhaps be right – partly at least.
But if I went a little deeper I would see the ugly facts. Whether or not a political party is exploiting the situation, the truth is that our country’s poor are simmering with discontent. It was fine when the majority of our people were dirt poor. But that’s not the case any more. We have 9% growth during the first half of the current fiscal year. The highest since the reforms started in 1991, according to P Chidambaram, finance minister. The surging economy has brought with it a burgeoning middle class. But a significant section of the population (the uneducated, the untrained) have been left out.
Jealousy and bitterness raise their heads
The poor see the advertisements of glossy products, they see fancy cars flashing by and they burn. From inside.
Is it really surprising then to hear what this commuter, whom TV news crews caught outside a burning train had to say? ‘Hundreds of people came. They first banged on the doors of the AC compartment and broke all the windows. They told us all to get out and then entered the Canteen next-door and stole everything inside…’
And this newspaper report: ‘Suddenly a mob of slum-dwellers on the Eastern Express Highway started pelting stones…’ It would be very interesting to find out how many of these young men who took part in the riots were gainfully employed.
Our country’s poor don’t know why they have no money to go to good schools and they don’t know why companies are not giving them permanent jobs. All they know is that they live in crowded, unhygienic surroundings, have an intermittent supply of water, and cannot afford even mithai (sweets) for Diwali. There is a general feeling of disillusionment and disheartenment. They believe the government owes them. The rich owe them.
This is not rocket science. It’s simple. It’s the response of human beings to injustice.
They desperately want to be part of India’s economic growth
Unlike in many developed countries, our country’s poor want a good education, because without it they are destined to misery and perhaps a destitute life. But the free municipal schools are unable to provide the poor with a decent education. It is a well known fact that teaching standards in municipal schools are pathetic and the teachers very lenient in passing their students…but these very same students come up against a roadblock in the tenth state board exams. The students who need the greatest help have to suffer the poorest quality of schools.
No hope for the future
Without a good education all that the poor foresee for themselves is hard labour and moving from one temporary job to another, with a time lag inbetween. They foresee a life where they will be lucky if they get Rs five thousand a month for 12 hours of work. No medicare. No nutritious food. No time to enjoy life. No education for their children. At least the poor in developed countries don’t live this life.
Ofcourse, violence has no justification
I am not justifying the violence. In fact it horrifies me so much that I am desperately trying to find reasons for it. I had a tense day today as I was in touch with my daughter on her cell the whole day, making sure she returned home safe from college. Local trains were burnt. She came away earlier. Thank God.
What do we need to do?
I think it’s time we all sat down and had heart to heart talks with the poor in India – all those without permanent jobs. See how they live – without hope, not only for themselves but even for their kids. What does a human being do when he loses hope? What would you do?
Well, what we can do now is to ensure that each child in India gets a good education. If each one of us sponsors just one child’s education, or even a group of say three or four people come together and sponsor one child’s education, our country will rise to glorious heights.
2nd Dec: All sorts of explanations are being provided by the newspapers as to why the Dalits in Maharashtra reacted so violently to an incident which took place in far-away Kanpur. Some newspaper reports claim it is because Ambedkar is from Maharashtra, that the Dalits in Maharashtra are the most socially and politically aware, that it is a political conspiracy to oust the present State government, and some claim that the Dalits in Maharashtra are the most ‘militant’.
None of these explanations seems right. It’s is important to find out why they are militant. Could it be because Maharashtra has seen prosperity in a big way and there is a big divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’?
If the Dalits in Maharashtra are indeed more socially aware, they would feel this divide most keenly. A news report today mentions how vandals at Ulhasnagar railway station broke into the lockers of railway staff and stole items like uniforms, books and small amounts of money. Just waiting to jump on to the rioting bandwagon – not just to vent their anger at the ‘haves’, but also to make a quick buck.
9th Dec: Yesterday and today the newspapers and the television have brought out the real reason for the riots…the simmering discontent amongst the poor. Well, when will the government wake up and realise that the only way to solve this problem is by improving the quality of primary and secondary education in this country?
Related Reading: Violent mobs should pay
Docs in India often have to face irate mobs
Comparision of violent crime in the world
Too many policemen on VIP duty in India
Poor people to Police ratio
Fake mob attack by political party