A new chapter
It is time now for a new India to emerge, born of politically active youth who are willing to put aside petty party politics and truly work for those in urgent need of guidance
The prolonged plight of migrant labour, daily wagers and artisans hurts the heart of every sensitive human being. It would be impossible to forget the tragic death of sixteen of them on the railway tracks between Jalna and Aurangabad in Maharashtra. As I watch certain media clippings indicating how desolate returnees walk along railway tracks, hungry, tired and weak, I recall what Gandhiji had written in 'Young India' on October 6, 1921: "We should be ashamed of resting or having a square meal so long as there is one able-bodied or woman without work of food." Today, millions are hungry and crores without job and means of livelihood, awaiting a dark uncertain future ahead of them! These numbers would grow unless a total attitudinal and strategic transformation takes place in policy in the very ideology of progress and development. It would be a tough task that requires inputs of those organically linked to Indian ethos, culture, strengths and resources. India; like most other countries around the globe, is facing an unprecedented crisis that has dislocated the lives of practically everyone, the worst suffers being the migrants. They all want to go back home. They have suffered a loss of jobs, shelter and denial of means to return home. Despite hectic efforts by Union and state governments and voluntary agencies, we are now witnessing the consequences of growing restlessness and simmering anguish amongst them. The biggest challenge in the months ahead would be to manage means of livelihood for these returnees and ensure that no one sleeps hungry. The last five years have seen considerable inputs being pumped in rural India in the sectors of village sanitation, fuel, housing, bank accounts, direct benefit transfers and several others. Rural India realised that it was now on the priority list that the farmer and all those who run the agriculture system are in for better times. The Coronavirus outbreak has upset all such hopes.
Opposition parties were expected to be supportive. Instead, all that comes from them and their leaders is the criticism of the present government. It is their right but this is not time to feast only on allegations and ridicule. They put up 'demands'; people expect them to come up with solutions, innovative, pragmatic and convincing. How many of our political leaders, who are not burdened with major responsibilities went to their constituencies, worked hand-in-hand with district administration and guided their dear voters? Why are they and their Karyakartas — who mushroom during election times — not seen with their voters who are in serious distress?
The leader of the top political party of the yesteryears and the longest awaiting aspirant for the Prime Ministerial berth, Rahul Gandhi is 'interviewing' Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerji to probably seek guidance on the economic upliftment of India! He is an MP from Kozhikode and ex-MP of Amethi. If he had visited these places to assist the administration, he would have gained greater insight of India and Indians and also comprehended why Mahatma Gandhi was so particular in giving priority to agriculture, farmer, artisans and craftsmen! Congress party offers to pay for the railway fare of the returnees, knowing full well that such a situation would just not arise, as governments would pay for it, despite initial inefficiency and hiccups. I would love to learn where the Congress Sewa Dal volunteers are; how much assistance they are providing to the needy! Young and ambitious leaders like Akhilesh Yadav, Tejaswi Yadav and Bahen Mayawati could have deputed their Karyakartas to the field and assisted millions. They find a mention in media only for ridiculing whatever is being attempted by the governments in New Delhi and State. It does not help the nation or the people.
This is the time to recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi that the 'Swaraj of his dream' is a 'poor man's Swaraj.' He did not wish for isolated independence but healthy and dignified independence. What he wrote in 'Young India' on February 11, 1920, exactly hundred years ago reverberates afresh, enlightening the path for future; "A time has come now when attempts will be made to use labour as a pawn in more ways than one. The occasion demands consideration at the hands of those that would take part in politics. What will they choose? Their interest or the service of the labour and the nation? Labour stands in sore need of friends. It cannot proceed without a lead. What sort of men give this lead will decide the condition of labour?" Let scores of young persons emerge, become friends of the needy, lead them and put the party politics on the back burner for some time. A new India would emerge, and that would surprise the world.
The writer works in education and social cohesion. Views expressed are strictly personal