I remember a tragic incident from the time when I was in school. There was a narrow two lane bridge on Yamuna close to my house. One fine day, a school bus plunged into the river from that bridge. Reason? The driver lost control because of his rash driving. The children could have been saved if the bridge had a strong concrete railing instead of a feeble iron one, similar to the one used in the balcony of houses. I still remember the face of a mother whose son was never found. The water was too muddy – the divers said. They searched for five days.
Do you know how many children were there in the bus? 120.
One of my British colleagues once made a very interesting observation. He said that we do not treasure life because we believe it is cyclical. We believe that anyone who dies will be reborn and thus don’t care about anyone dying.
But look around you. 4,97,686 road accidents were reported in 2011. 1,42,484 people died in road accidents in 2011 [link]. The statistics are easily available. A lot of us know about them. Still we see people incessantly breaking traffic rules. I have seen school buses jump traffic lights and ply in the wrong direction.
I remember a particular flyover that was constructed in Delhi. It was faulty with a very dangerous curve. It took the sacrifice of 8 human lives on that stretch before the administration woke up. Yes, DDA waited for 8 people to die before they installed safety measures.
How many pilots have died in the faulty MIG airplane crashes? Of the 872 MiG series fighter aircraft purchased by the government till 1980, a total of 482 planes have crashed till now, killing 171 pilots and 39 civilians [link]. Well, we have 390 more airplanes to go.
What happened in Uttarakhand was a mass murder of the first degree. More than 10000 people massacred in cold blood. Warnings were ignored and there was no disaster management plan in place, hotels made on soft riverbed crashed into the river, food didn’t reach the needy on time even though the whole country chipped in to provide supplies.
There are so many buildings that are deemed unfit in case of an earthquake but people still live in them, work in them.
There are buses and trains that run over capacity as people hang dangerously from the doors. They don’t have an option. They have to go to work, put food on the table. I knew a boy who fell off a train, went into coma and died after 10 days. He was in college.
In 2010, 8391 dowry death cases were reported across India. It means that a bride was burned every 90 minutes [link]
It is estimated that more than 10 million female foetuses have been illegally aborted in India. That is 6 million less than the number of people who died in World War I. In 2011, 15,000 Indian women were bought and sold as brides in areas where foeticide has led to a lack of women. [link]
India contributes 25 percent of the world’s child deaths [link].
Grains rot and never reach the needy. 21 million tonnes of wheat is wasted every year. [link] That is equivalent to the wheat production of whole of Australia.
2,56,913 farmers have committed suicide since 1995. Maharashtra posts a dismal picture with over 50,000 farmers killing themselves. [link]
Don’t even try to count the number of riot victims. [link] Religion in this country is like a woman who was tied-up and hidden in a cowshed and was raped by a different man every night.
What is it if not an utter disregard of human life? What is it if not a country that has turned into a slaughterhouse?
No, I do not find the cyclical life argument laughable anymore. What makes us think that even a single life lost is Ok? It is not just a number. It is a dead human being. Who could have been saved.
And then I wonder if it has something to do with abundance of life? We deem life worthless because it is available in excess in our country? What is another man dead when we have crores of them?
Or is it the fact that we are never taught compassion. An outsider is not the same as your family. We have a shield firmly placed in front of our feelings when it comes to anyone who is not of our own blood. And I have seen this feeling grow over the last decade. We are more self-centered, more suspicious, more inhuman.
And of course, there is money to be made. We believe in compensations after tragedies. We believe in forming committees to probe deaths when we could have averted them in the first place. Committees about which the dead don’t care and neither the living after a while.
Some of us believe in repenting. Yes, we tend to do that after an accident. An accident that could have never happened.
Sometimes I wonder if we deserve each other. The politicians and citizens. Many of us have blood on our hands. We have wrapped our dead unborn daughters in newspaper and thrown them in dustbins, haven’t we? We have allowed our children to sit in a bus filled with 120 souls instead of objecting.
Yes, this slaughterhouse is a joint venture and a successful one. It is said that when the battle of Mahabharat ended, the soil in Kurukshetra was thick with blood. It is still red if you dig it a bit. But we don’t have to do it anymore. Just look at your hands. It will be invisible at first but you will see the red stains if you concentrate.
A handful of us who can still maintain our sanity have to believe that there is always hope. What else can be there after so much bloodshed?