It's the economy, stupid!
While the nation gets high on an actor’s death case, the Indian economy wallows in its worst phase yet
India's GDP contracted by an alarming 23.9 per cent; these numbers are likely to worsen further. Our unemployment rate is at a 9-week high of 9.1 per cent. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) states that COVID-19 cases in the country may have actually reached 6.4 million cases in May; so, you can well fathom the current numbers. The standoff with China over border issues has not been resolved either. Despite such pressing challenges that face the nation, the opium of the masses today is the yet-to-be solved Sushant Singh Rajput death case. What does it say about a nation that is 'drugged' on the news of a Bollywood actor's unfortunate demise rather than several more crucial matters of national importance? The masses that get high on the screams of television anchors while remaining ignorant of the downer that ails the country.
As you would have noticed, my words are chosen because of the shocking turn of events in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, where alleged drug charges are being used to make arrests. I find it bizarre given the fact that marijuana is widely used in India, albeit illegally. As per the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment's 'Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019', 2.83 per cent of Indians are current users of cannabis. If arrests had to be made for the personal use of weed, Indian jails would spill over! From well-known actors and artists to journalists and writers, many have publicly accepted smoking 'ganja'. Our sadhus love their bongs and 'bhang' (a variant of cannabis or marijuana plant) is freely available on Holi. The Mouneshwar temple in Karnataka's Yadgir district apparently distributes small packets of 'ganja' as prasad.
The debate that we should have is not over the choices of an adult man such as Sushant but rather the larger debate of legalising marijuana in India and harnessing the potential of a growing international industry. Not to mention the medical benefits of cannabis in relieving pain, fighting cancer, treating depression, among others. US, Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, and Australia are among the prominent nations that have legalised pot. There is also the growing (and very much legal) international industry surrounding it, with companies associated with sale for medical and recreational purposes, distribution, research and development of cannabis, trading at foreign stock exchanges. Indian states such as Madhya Pradesh and Manipur are contemplating allowing the production of the hemp crop for industrial and medical purposes while Uttarakhand has given the green light in 2018.
But that is not what we are discussing. Neither are we focusing on the current economic quagmire that we are sinking into. If you have not noticed the lacklustre state of the economy by now; then you are definitely one of the lucky ones. Give thanks to all your gods, and be eternally grateful, because the rest of us are feeling the pinch like a slap on the face as we enter the last four months of a challenging year. Millions of Indians have been handed the pink slip since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scores of businesses have shut shop and industries wiped out in the fallout of the Coronavirus. The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing at a worrying pace and there is no clear action plan in sight. States are suffering the apparent 'act of God' and awaiting GST dues. Businesses have no liquidity, the common man is poorer today, his savings wiped out with investments giving little return. But does that bother us? No, we are on an investigative expedition to solve the death of an actor. Let the country drown in other miseries; we will feed our voyeuristic souls with salacious news stories that frankly do not matter.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal