Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Public Health : Not a Standard in Bihar

With my association with Multi Hazard Vulnerability Mapping Project supported by the UNICEF in the state of Bihar, for the first time I am staying the longest in that state. My previous stays here have been mostly for training purposes, which meant I had some clean place to stay and a bit of calmer environment on many occasions. But, now my stay in the suburban community has changed all that. I see piles of garbage all around, and people throwing out garbage with no remorse. On the other hand, I am yet to see a garbage van picking up garbage on any of the streets.  The Exhibition Road and Bailey road seem to be the only exceptions, with some level of cleanliness. Most others are stinking, in all its forms and essence. You also notice children and adults shitting all around, once you are not on main thoroughfares. 

And when it rains, I have seen the water turning into black and flooding the roads. I also noticed some of the ground floors of the high rise buildings remaining flooded. So, one needs to wade through filth to reach one's home, or God forbid, if one's house is in a low lying area in the city.

Unless the corporation wakes up to the perils of modernity, and takes up remedial measures immediately, soon the city will be gone. Public health is not a standard here. It is just a garbage to be thrown out on the street. Once the capital of ancient India is really gasping for breath, literally. 

N.B: When I go to buy milk or noodles, which are already packed in plastic, the shopkeepers warmly extend an additional plastic packet to carry even if I do not need them!  I have learned to take a bag with me. But why do the shopkeepers give away so much of useless plastic that is less than 40 micron thick, anyway?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Victims of Darkness

As the new Government in India, which had been elected so that policy paralysis can be removed and decisive action can be taken on various fronts is going about its task in full gun. The problem however seem to be is that decisive verdict given to the government seem to have been construed as handing over of power to take any decision. What is visible is very little attention to issues that go beyond the acts of government: governance, participation and protection of the vulnerable. With rise in political and gender violence across the country there has not been any credible action on that front. Several commissions have been removed or members asked to resign; but not much of alternative has been suggested. And recently, the expected judicial reforms has been hit by a plan to create judicial commissions with judiciary powers, and to be placed under the law ministry (thus curtailing the fundamentals of independence of judiciary). As this has been called into question, the Chief Justice of India has questioned the intentions based on which such decisions are being taken, as there is no supervisory control over such bodies, and thereby the perpetrator is often the supervisor. As a Tamil saying goes, it is the story of the fence eating up the crop.

In that context, the Chief Justice has quoted William O'Douglas, the longest serving judge in the US Supreme Court, "As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness".

Vigilance to protect one's own freedom is essential, or we could soon have a honored form of the mid-seventies, when personal freedom was robbed of us from many fronts. This Prime Minister is for "less of government, more of governance". But the actions of the government seem to speak otherwise. The recent guidelines to the Secretaries (To Do List) is one step on the right direction.