Death of the Innocent

Right in the heart of India’s capital Delhi, three children aged eight, four and two died of hunger. The Bengali family had migrated from Medinipur to New Delhi in search of livelihood. The father was a rickshaw puller. His rickshaw was stolen, taking away the family’s sole source of earning. The father left in search of a new job. The mother with her three children was left alone. Then began the days of starvation and slow, excruciatingly painful death – death by inches. All the three children died. Their shrivelled up bodies were brought to a hospital. Post mortem examination revealed they did not have a grain of food for seven days. To them death came as deliverance, putting an end to their insufferable agony. It made a news item in the inside pages of newspapers, to be read and forgotten the next moment in the din and bustle of the busy metropolis.  Nobody, not even their immediate neighbours, felt like giving the children a morsel of food.
If this could happen in the national capital, many more such deaths are likely happening in remote and distant villages without even being reported. All the animated discussion and debate about India progressing, GDP growth, rise in per capita income, employment generated, the number of Indian billionaires making it to the pages of Forbes magazine, Make in India, sound like cruel jokes and expose our hypocrisy and moral degeneration. Infants and children dying slowly for want of food does not disturb our conscience – if there is a conscience still left in us.
No Member of Parliament will raise this issue in the House, no inquiry will be either demanded or held. More than a century ago, when India was groaning under subjugation, Tagore had in a poem talked about those who do not know whom to turn to when their morsel of food is snatched away from their hungry mouths or they are treated heartlessly. They do not know which god to turn to for justice. They die silently. More than seventy years after India attained her freedom, things have not changed much. The poor still die silently without complaining to anyone. They just blame their fate and die. In Delhi – or for that matter in any big city – huge quantities of uneaten food are thrown away onto the streets after festivities like marriage or birthday celebration held in families who have never known hunger or thirst. Tagore had warned them that those they have left behind are constantly dragging them back.

Friday, 27 July, 2018