Every once in a while, you come across a story that takes hold of your gut and threatens to pull it right out. It kicks you awake and makes you think. Not, of this is happening that sucks- kind of think, but, I am questioning my own existence kind of think. I came across one such story today, while randomly checking out the website of the news magazine, Tehelka. And it is a depressing story.
For those of you who do not want to read the article (linked to above), the crux is that a journalist, Tarun Sehrawat, died in rural Chattisgarh recently from Malaria, while covering the desperate lives of the tribals, due to the non-existence of any healthcare facilities. While his photographs do tell us a grim story, as the Tehelka article points out, his death tells us an even more grim story. It is a story that is filled with questions and that reminds us of all those statistics that we hear once a year and then brush inside our carpet. 50% of India’s children are malnourished. Chattisgarh, that has 2% of India’s population, has 14% of India’s malarial cases. Public healthcare is all but non-existent in rural India. Even the clinic that Tarun was admitted in at the end, was run by an NGO. And never once over the last how many ever years, have we heard the Government of India mention ‘rural public healthcare’. The one time that we did hear anything remotely close was when the Prime Minister gave the above mentioned statistic on malnourished children and called it a ‘National shame’. Thats it. No one said anything more.
Admittedly, as the middle class, we are not jolted into action unless its against something that affects us directly (hence the ‘great’ anti-corruption movement) or someone we know. And admittedly, I am a part of this middle class too and though I did know that most of India is poor and there do exist numerous problems, my view of these problems remained restricted to what was shown on Satyamev Jayate or to what did actually make the major English language dailies. And this article, is being written after one of us, one of the great Indian middle class, died in the remote rural districts of Chattisgarh because there were no hospitals. Shamefully, this is what jolted me. Hopefully, it will jolt others. But I know there will be no street protests. No flag waving. No bandhs. No Anna Hazare is going to go on an indefinite hunger strike to try and force the government to pass a new law that guarantees safe, cheap and effective public healthcare. We need someone to stand up and take up this issue, and we will applaud that person, give some money in donations (after much thought) and then sit back. After all, it does not affect us. We have our AIIMS, Apollo and Fortis.
Looking at all this now, I realize that we are nowhere close to political maturity as a nation. We have next to no debates no national policies, we go on strikes and call for bandhs for the most superficial reasons and we are so worried about the rating a consultancy gives us that we forget to ask a majority of our own people how they are faring. We need someone to tell us that corruption is bad, and then we will turn out in large numbers without a question. If this nation is to truly change, then we need to start being more mature. And by this I do not mean that our politicians need to start being more mature. WE, the people of India, need to start being more mature. WE need to have more faith in our collective ability. But does it look like any such thing is going to happen anytime soon? No. So I do what I do. Sit back and write. And read about Tahrir Square.