Subversion of civil rights is tantamount to homicide in any civilized society, but in a nation of swarming multitudes such violations are a common phenomenon. The most recent crisis involving the migrant workers in a society of acute economic and social disparity is a grim reflection of this belief.
While cross-border terrorism inflates our patriotic fervor and transforms us overnight into ardent nationalists, millions of indigant migrant workers negotiating thousands of miles on foot with hungry stomachs, bruised and barren feet fails to prick the rhino skin of our impenetrable conscience. At the most, the pathetic plight of these forgotten citizens boil over to newsrooms culminating into heated arguments until public interest dissipates and all the enthusiasm fades into nothingness. We go on again with TV commericals, inflation and the meteoric rise in the price of pulses, our favorite dramas and new arrivals on Netflix. After all, we prefer to isolate ourselves from issues that will challenge our myopic attitude towards life.
Recently an emminent leader of the people claimed,”Some people lost patience and started walking on the road…”. Indeed so, when people are left without food,water and above all hope and care, they submit to desperation for survival. Ofcourse, it is extremely difficult to perceive this harsh reality,especially when we lock ourselves in our ivory towers and peep at life through a golden telescope from the top. The predicament of evaluating life from such a high pedestral is enormous, these attempts place us in a precarious situation that is very similar to a human being trying to empathize with the sufferings of a mosquito or an ant.
In USA, a singular incident of racism sparks National outrage and gathering of people swell into waves of humanity inundating every street and sqaure in every major city to voice their dissent. In the world’s largest democracy by number, stories of deprivation,hunger and relentless exploitation causes no major upheavel excepting a few articles on newspaper, some thoughtful editorials and an outpour of grief on social media.
While I am penning this piece, who knows how many of my migrant brothers and sisters are walking over the barren landscape of central India, the ravines of Madhyapradesh or the arterial national highways towards their homes. Most of them live out of their bags and long pieces of cloths knotted and tied into bundles to hold some dried food. The returning diaspora tirelessly trudges through inhospitable roads with the scorching heat of a merciless Indian summer over their heads. Their throats dried like the desert sand, their sundried skin left withered by the relentless heat waves,their weeping infants on their back and without the hope of finding any shelter; they keep pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion and collapse. All this, to reach a place they know as their home tucked in the deep rural obscurity of India. Some of these people have only a set of clothes and nothing more in their possession. They are the abandoned foster children of a Democratic society that has failed them miserably, without compunction.
Recently some of them, “lost their patience” and boarded the train arranged by Indian Railways to reach their destinations. Many of them arrived hungry,exhausted and severely dehydrated at the end of an arduous journey without adequate supply of food or water. Some of them collapsed upon arrival and a few died. All because they were perhaps too eager to live in a world of vissisitudes. I am not here to cast aspersions or blame on any single person, organisation, political party or leader. A society inherits the system that it rightfully deserves.
Accusations and criticism of a single person cannot expunge the guilt of a society that creates a system to promote apathy and indifference. Unless we all strive to pulverise the barriers that keep us from empathising with all our fellow citizens, the idea of democracy will continue to witness many more debacles. We, the people are accorded this mighty responsibility to nurture our empathy,compassion and extend it towards those who have been deprived of the fundamental priviledges of life like voiceless orphans. A nation only rises to full consciousness when the light of enlightenment spreads across the entire spectrum of its moral compass. In this case, it is the collective sin of an entire nation that creates migrant workers and a world of pathos for them.
Some of them claimed before persuing journalists, in choked voices and with teary eyes that they will never come back to the cities for work.Though, we all know that their hungry stomachs, the wails of their infants, the dismal look in their wife’s doleful eyes and the failing health of their parents will compel them to return back to bondage and a world of pain.