If we are over with clapping and banging on thaalis and the other noise rendering sessions, its time to sit up and see the dark realities hitting millions amongst us. Lack or rather the near-absence of water is one of them. When we emphatically advise people to wash hands every twenty minutes with water and soap to keep off the Coronavirus, do we realize that millions do not have access to water nor soap? At times not even a drop of clean drinking water! Nor do they have access to the basic food grains and the connected bandobast. They sit awaiting death, with parched throats and empty stomachs.
A substantial percentage of our country’s population is near-dying under the near absence of the basics necessary for human survival, yet there seems no governmental schemes underway to reach out free cooked meals/ basic everyday food items and clean drinking water on a daily basis to the hundreds and thousands of the dis-advantaged and deprived families sitting all too shocked under these lockdowns and clampdowns and curfews.
Mind you, if the dreaded virus doesn’t infect and suffocate their system, hunger and malnutrition and thirst will sure do! Hunger related deaths will go up, that’s different matter altogether that they could get clubbed with the various diseases and disorders that hunger and malnutrition invariably drags along.
Last fortnight the auto -driver driving me from one end of the city to another, told me that he was thinking of selling his vehicle and going back to his village, as the number of passengers was dwindling and as a result he couldn’t pay his loans. What next for him and his family? Nothing but sheer disasters lined up! He said that after a few days he will be left with no money or ration. He wouldn’t be able to pay his house rent and nor his children’s tuition fees.
In this state of lockdown, this reality will hit millions yet we seem to have no emergency plans. The daily-wager is the worst hit in the present scenario. He earns enough for the day. What happens to him and his brood for the next three weeks? For him, it’s not a question of today or tomorrow but of the day- after- tomorrow!
Tragically, the sarkar of the day isn’t even thinking in terms of going back on its decision to implement the CAA- NRC- NPR! It has just potponed its plan! As it is, the masses sit under severe stress because of the current situation of death staring in the face. After this is over, and I wish to God that this is over soon, who will be left with the nerves to search for citizenship papers and proofs when they are not too sure of the next morn! If spared by the virus they would be pounced upon by the citizenship- inspectors coming in various hues and forms!
What are we doing for the upkeep of the alive? Its getting more than relevant to ask: Why do our citizens dread going to the sarkari medical centres and hospitals, often labelled ‘bucherkhanaas’ because of the large number of casualties in an atmosphere poisoned with infections and viruses of all kinds! There is something or everything so very amiss and lacking in the government’s focus on the entire health care machinery.
And its time to question and query what steps are being undertaken for the safety of the entire medical and paramedical teams. If the rulers of the day genuinely cared for the medical-healers, then instead of giving those suggestions to bang- on -thaalis and stainless steel plates, they would have been seen taking rounds of the various sarkari hospitals and hospices. Perhaps, furthering their rounds to the relief- camps in North East Delhi, where the people devastated by 2020 Delhi violence are trying to survive against all possible odds.
And, perhaps, the government machinery taking a few steps ahead, could tell us how to combat the horrifying communal virus unleashed on us every few months! We have been hit by not one but two viruses-Coronavirus and communal virus!
I have been thinking how the Kashmiris have managed to somehow survive months and months of clampdowns and curfews and lockdowns. Correct me if I’m wrong but they have built- up a community bonding and with that community service, they would reach out to the affected. I have seen in Srinagar how even the ordinary citizen would go out of his way to help volunteers in the hospitals. Even those from the lower middle class, who were all set to leave for the various religious or semi-religious pilgrimages, had shelved all those plans and instead donated their ‘saved…tucked away’ hard -earned money for patients’ treatment in the various hospitals of the Kashmir region. Also, seeing the urgent need for counselling, many volunteers started counselling those whose nerves couldn’t take the strain of the ongoing clampdowns and curfews amidst the State unleashed atrocities.
Kashmiris have suffered tremendously on account of severe lockdowns. The impact has been very severe but community bonding does provide the much needed cushioning and healing.
Today, in the present scenario, with more and more of us, sitting cut- off and cross, anxieties and apprehensions are sure to shoot up! Are we prepared for disasters on this front — the impact of lockdowns on the mental well- being of adults and the ageing and yes, also on the young? Summer heat will compound the levels of stress for thousands of Indians living in the different locales and regions of the country. Are we prepared for this?
Yes, its time to think in terms of helpline services where counselling can be rendered free! Also, its about time that we start thinking of roti and milk and vegetable and education banks! As there is that urgent need to reach out with the basics to daily survival.
There is also this deep fear of a police state upcoming. Our everyday life, rather whatever remains of our everyday lives, could be in the control of the cops, Going ...gone are the democratic spaces, overtaken by the huge policing bandobast.
What is happening to our imprisoned population in terms of this virus and the connected dos and don’ts that come along the prevention format? Yes, we the semi- imprisoned, have got to ask what is happening to the formally and fully imprisoned? Not to overlook the fact that almost seventy -five percent of the imprisoned population consists of the under-trials. That is, all those who are yet to be proven culprits and are not convicted, so technically innocent. Shouldn’t we free (at least temporarily) the imprisoned doctors and nurses from the prisons across the country, so that they can reach out to the ill and dying? Shouldn’t the likes of Dr Kafeel Khan been tending patients than siting languishing in a prison cell?
Its an extremely bleak situation. What, with the virus, rather the two viruses, hovering around. Together with that, perhaps, the biggest tragedy is that those handful amongst us who have been trying to reach out to the disadvantaged and deprived citizens of this country, are the ones getting hounded by the political lobbies seemingly out to silence the sane voice. It is tragic that activists and academics of the calibre of Harsh Mander, Professor Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha are being targeted.
And as the brave gutsy women of Shaheen Bagh and of other ‘Baghs’ in the country had to rather too reluctantly move from the anti- CAA- NPR- NCR protest sites, its time to salute their spirit and also to ask those manning this government of the day, to re-think in terms of their announcements for the implementation of these anti - citizen moves and decisions and threats....Please let the hapless citizen of this country of ours, survive in some sort of peace and sukoon.
Leaving you with these lines of Gulzar, perhaps relaying the fragility of it all...to life and everyday living!
“Nothing is permanent, nothing at all
Days and nights fall on the chausar board
Like kauri shells, some face up others down
The months and years dealt out to you
Slip through your fingers
Nothing is permanent, nothing at all
And what is permanent is me
I, who is changing at every instant.”
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own