Friday, May 22, 2020

Are we Human?

Apart from the debilitating impact of the pandemic, globally, and in India, there is a larger crisis that is unfolding, here at home. One that so many of us are comfortably unaware of, as we whine and groan about the discomforts caused to us during the lockdown - even as we are comfortably holed up in our homes, treated to good fare and privileges.

Perhaps, never before, in our history, have we considered, acknowledged, or actually cared for the economically backward of our populace. Today, as an emergency unfolds, we are faced with a grim reality of the haves and the have-nots - of us and them.

So, as scores of us purportedly turn advisors, healthcare experts, newsmakers, and whatnot, on Facebook and other social media platforms, millions of migrant workers across the nation are grappling with what is a catastrophe of unparalleled scale and proportion - loss of income, food shortages, locked down in unfamiliar lands far from home, and a very grim and uncertain future concerning their livelihoods. As if those were not already enough, there is an exodus of migrants seeking to go back to their hometowns - almost often through extreme hardships - by foot, bicycles, and so on. Sadly, many of them do not make it to the end of their journeys.

If the stark images of a weeping Ram Pukar Pandit (the man from Begusarai, Bihar, who lost his son and was unable to make it for his funeral) and those of a mother dragging her child on a wheeled bag do not move you, I don't know what else will.

We are once again presented with stark realities of how unequal and divided we are as a nation. While a lot of us are enjoying our privileges and ensconced in a comfortable life, whiling away time to weather this storm, there is, evidently, a much larger section of people who cannot afford even the very basic necessities that you and I are so commonly and casually entreated to. Should this be a cause for concern? Well, it should be much more than that.

Such is the utilitarian demand for this body of people that our infrastructure, housing, sanitation, transportation, and a whole slew of other services that have and continue to benefit us have been due to the tiresome labour of these folks. I wouldn't be mistaken, therefore, to say that our economy is significantly supported by this echelon of people. It is estimated that a staggering 150 million people are migrant workers, far from the place they call home - only so that they can afford a square meal and seek hope in harshly painful uncertainty.

Now to explain to some hallowed souls why this rant of a post - Over the last few days images and videos of people scrambling about, scuffling and fighting to steal biscuits, wafers, and the likes have gone viral. Several armchair activists have been quick to guffaw and lambaste "the pathetic and immoral lot" and seek to educate them about values and decency. Twitter and Facebook are awash with advice and opinions on how these people, "these looters", should be treated and appropriately punished. Educated, erudite, and supposedly evolved people being volubly critical about the actions of a people who have been desperate, pushed to the edge, suffering in untold ways, and robbed of dignity. And, here were are, preaching morality and decency from the comforts of our homes, unaffected or unmoved by any measure of a tragedy that continues to unfold all around us. Our only concern, it seems, is to ride the moral high horses, as if were are a virtuous lot, free from blemish, of any sort. What a shame!

We may never experience anything close to the difficulties that some people are put through in life. And, mercifully so. But, how has our sense of empathy been so hard to find? Or did we ever have any compassion in us, at all? Or is it that we think that it is the burden of a certain section of people to slave-labour for the rest of us to thrive?

Image Courtesy: The Hindu


  1. We are a morally dead nation. I know I am using someone's words but it's totally true. I am speechless to the extent, I don't know what to say. ����