Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Complacent scepticism : the Indian way of life?

"Mummy, Aaj school nahi Lagega - Bahut bada accident ho gaya hai. 1000 se jyada log mare hai" (Mom, Today there will be no school - there has been a big accident. More than 1000 people died)

Horrible but true. This was my first reaction to the news of "Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy", which reached us through the morning newspaper (you see there were no 24/7 News Channels & no inetrnet).

I was twelve then - a boy who was secretely happy that he wouldn't have to go to school. As the realisation of more than 15000 death that fateful tragic night sinked in - its real impact distilled deep down in my conscience. I grew up to feel ashamed of that first reaction of mine.

I feel more ashamed today when - 26 long years after - eight accused have been convincted. One would expect to feel cathartic on finally listening to the news of the convictions. But what in this world would explain that the tragedy was presented to the court by the CBI (no less) as "culpable homicide not amounting to murder", "Gross Negligence" and "Causing death by Negligence". Ok. You convicted them - yeah you did - and awarded them what? A two year sentence to each of them from which they recieved an immediate bail for a ludicrous 25000 rs. each. The company was fined a princely sum of - hold your breath - Rs. 5 lakhs.

Should there be some difference between a car accident which killed a couple of people and a poisonous gas leak that led to 15000+ deaths, a generation of children with congenital defects (which might run in their clan for all we know), polluted air, water & soil; people with damaged psyche which can possibly never be addressed properly?

Here is an idea - the kith and kin of victims should run a truck over these eight convicted and then should fight a 26 year long case with their families finally getting convicted for "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" punishable by a maximum of two years that too bailable for laugably low amounts of deposit.
No I am not going to blame this on our system, weak CBI, corrupt politicians or even not to the excruciatingly slow pace of justice delivery. That a lot of "analyst" will do. What is important for us to ponder upon is how does all these happen in our country so easily? How do we the citizens allow this to happen? My take - the culture of "Complacent Skepticism".

Look around yourself - dusty, poorly built roads, corruption scandals one after the other - be it beautification of city or be it a housing project for people, Forests being cut, encroachments increasing, IAS officers and politicians amassing disproportionate (the word is really modest) amount of wealth, goons becoming politicians, even ministers. Wealthy are mighty - they can get away with practically anything. The size and depth of rot increases horrendously with every new scandal being unearthed. Also those involved in the scandals become increasingly more brazen as they cruise through case after case, not even bruised - in some cases - actually stronger than ever before.

The formula is simple - become thick skinned (read "without any ethics"), drag the issue till the media gets bored of carrying it any further, possibly buy the investigating agency/officers, use shrewed lawyers to entangle the courts in dilatory tactics, either let the case continue for decades or better still simply buy your way out of the charges or at best to the simplest possible conviction which can then be appealed against further - till then you are out on bail on a miniscule part of your ill gotten crores.

And what do we do about it? Everytime one such accident, scandal, negligence, corruption is unearthed - what is the typical reaction? Well the one I hear most now a days is "Kuch Nahi Hoga - yeh India hai". Absolute and total - the scepticism. Then when actually nothing happens for some time the reaction is "See !! I told you." Yes - we are amazingly complacent - almost smug - in the knowledge that we had predicted the outcome accurately. And so the life goes on.

If all these is happening around us with such impunity - we are the ones who are responsible. We get the systems we deserve, we get the rulers we deserve and we get the life we deserve. Our inaction, quiet tolerance of everything wrong around us, big or small, is alone responsible.

So friends speak up. And make it a habit to speak up everytime. As always I am asking for too much. But it really is time to ask for every bit of that too much. Please.