Let their India, too, Shine by Mohammed Ataur Rahman (SEPTEMBER 16, 2008)

Children are dying from malnutrition and farmers are committing suicide as prosperous people in cities live in the bliss of denial, writes Mohammed Ataur Rahman.

We must thank BJP for giving the country the beautiful slogan, "India Shinning". The only problem is that the India of nearly 50 percent Indians is not shining at all, did never shine. And if the ruling elite of different political persuasions continues to have its way, the India of the less fortunate Indians will take years to shine.

Newspapers and TV, which thrive on advertisements that assume universal prosperity, have a vested interest in ignoring the other half of India that is not shining. Companies that advertise flashy cars, designer watches, pricey clothes, furniture of international brands and exclusive holiday packages would never advertise in slots where you debate or report starvation, poverty and joblessness.

The editor of one of the leading newspapers of the country has admitted that the nearly 4,000 annual suicides of farmers does not get the coverage or play it deserves because it would somehow dilute the India Shinning message. Such cold-hearted, cruel stance is justified in the interest of a favourable foreign direct investment (FDI) climate. Naturally, people would hesitate before deciding to invest their money in a country where so may people are eking out a miserable existence.

Such state of denial is all pervasive. For instance, if your mobile phone is stolen, you have to go and report it at the nearest police station. You have also to inform the service providers. You do all this to ensure that the thief does not use the equipment for some criminal activity. However, the police would invariably refuse to write a theft report. They would insist that you lodge a "loss" report (you "lost" it somewhere) rather than a "theft" report. They don't want to let the world see that cell phone thefts are going on within their jurisdiction. Such denial makes it easy for them to claim efficient policing.

Denial is also standard government response to unpleasant realities. Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik would sit pretty for days and weeks as anti-Christian riots ravage his state. He would take note only when a cacophony of protests rises all over India. Even then he would prefer not to do anything about it. In 1992 and 1993 Prime Minister Narasimha Rao looked smug and unaffected while the country was set on fire by BJP-VHP Bajrang Dal-Shiv Sena combine. That was denial at its height. However, Mr Rao got alert and acted promptly when Mumbai blasts awoke him rudely. That showed the state was concerned about the sorrow of only one group of citizens.

For a few months we have been getting heart rending reports of deaths of children from malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh. The administration has been consistently denying such reports saying the children were dying from sun stroke, cholera and assorted ailments. Parents of such children told reporters that the administration had told them (the parents) to tell outsiders that their children died from heat stroke, cholera or malaria.

In some cases the administration may be technically true. However, the fact remains that the children were weakened by malnutrition, which made it easier for them to contract diseases. Malnutrition saps the body's immune and they fall easy prey to heat stroke and infections of all kinds.

According to the latest count 125 children have died from malnutrition is tribal Madhya Pradesh over the last five months. Can anybody convince the parents of such children that India is shinning? Do they not belong to India? Does India not belong to them? Whose India is shining? Can't we ensure that their India, too, shines?


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