Thursday, March 10, 2011

It Takes Guts to Stand Up: Outrage at Radhika’s Murder

The media, the police and the people at large are protesting at how no one is coming forth to offer some leads on the culprit.

Radhika Tanwar, all of 20 years of age was shot dead on a foot over bridge near her college in broad day light on March 8, 2011, at point blank range. She was with her friends when the culprit came from behind, shot at her and then ran away. As per the news paper reports, her friends who were walking with her fled away and no one even dared to take her to the hospital till a police constable did the needful.

A day later, students of her college and the other colleges are protesting on the streets demanding justice. The Chief Minister visits the family and voices her concerns over the security of women in the city. The ACP of Delhi Police is shouting out loud asking people to come forward and help. The headlines in news papers and television, the facebook updates and the tweets all seem to be blaming the public at large for not coming in front to help the cause of Radhika.

The students who are protesting and blocking the roads in all probability do not include with them the few who were with Radhika when she was on the foot over bridge. The reason is very clear. It’s easier to march to India Gate and light candles, initiate a Facebook cause but it really takes guts to stand up against the system, the goons and the mighty that have the power of money and the bullets with them. The police really cannot ensure fool proof protection to any such person who stands up. Not because the police cannot, but because the goons in such case are mightier then the constable who is guarding the house of the witness. It has been proven many a times and quite often true that many of the people in the system are bought over by the mighty and then all pleas for justice fall on deaf ear.

I write this today because I wonder what I would have done in this situation. My head and heart tells me that I would have come out and spoken. But what if I get a phone call in the middle of the night, “your parents live in Bhiwadi, they are old and alone……” or “we know what time your sister leaves the house and where she goes exactly…” This may sound dramatic, but I guess that’s how the threats are. Would I still have the guts? Can I afford to risk my parent’s life and security? These questions will definitely come to my mind. I really do not know what kind of courage it takes to still stand against all odds. But I do know only one in a thousand have that courage.

The two examples of what I am saying are from two cases that were in news recently. Jessica Lal and Ruchika Ghirhotra. While in Jessica’s case the witness all backed off due to the fear of the bullet. I remember a dialogue from the recent movie, “No one killed Jessica”, where one of the witness (Shyan Munshi) who turned hostile said, “I did not want Rs 1 crore but I also did not want a bullet”. In Ruchika’s case on the other hand, her friend Aradhna Prakash showed exemplary courage in standing against the mighty and powerful, Rathore. As per the reports in her case, one can see the harassment Ruchika and her family faced for complaining and how upon her suicide, her friend Aradhana and her family relentlessly kept at it to see that the guilty be punished. How many ARADHANA’s are there today?

The failure therefore is not in people’s mindset. The failure is largely on account of the law-order and justice system. A person who has a gun in his hand has the confidence that he will get away. It will be ages before he is caught, if he is he will get bail. Even after being charged, he has the money to hire big lawyers and who knows maybe influence the judges too. So the mindset is that if one has a Godfather, a gun and loads of money power, he/she can get away with murder. The mindset of the people who do not have money and power is different. Most of them are honest and want to fight injustice but lack the courage to fight against the mighty. They know that tomorrow it could be their daughter in Radhika’s situation, but they still fear that if they stand up today, tomorrow they will surely be in a situation similar.

So till the time somehow the police and judiciary come out clean and give the mighty the message that despite of your gun and money, you can still be hanged, they will continue on their criminal spree. The public at large will continue to face the dilemma: To stand up or not; To think of your loved ones or to think of the larger issues; To think of your life ahead or to risk it being wasted in coutrs.

We definitely need more Aradhnas and we need no Shayan Munshis but till then let us take a heart.

© shubhra chaturvedi, March 10, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do we have a Choice?

Do we give up because life is unaffordable now?

Mukesh and Reena stay at the dairy near the Vasant Kunj block B-11. For their living they iron clothes. In addition Mukesh cleans the cars early morning. They have two children, a daughter and a son and an ailing mother to look after.

I had a chance to interact with Mukesh at length and figured out his journey from village to Delhi. He has taken two rooms in the nearby dairy, for himself and his mother, paying Rs 3000/- pm as rent. He uses almost 3-4 kgs of coal for his ironing. The cost of coal these days is Rs 40/kg. He charges Rs 3 per cloth from the households and clothes like saris and bed sheets are charged at Rs 7 and Rs 10 respectively. Reena and Mukesh got their daughter admission in a renowned south delhi school, DPS, Vasant Kunj. They got through under the category of economically weaker section. They are not paying as much fees but the monetary pressure of teaching children in a good school is always there.

Having all of the above expenses and their limited means of earning, life for them is indeed tough as it is for everyone. However they do not crib, Mukesh says, “jiske pass hai wo dabayega, jisko chaihiye wo dabega” very profound statement. Mukesh and Reena are just examples. There are several such couples who have come from their villages and are surviving in the city. Each of these people has done their cost analysis. On the basis of their expenses, they charge for their services, whether it is cleaning cars, doing domestic work, ironing clothes or whatever. Whether onions come at Rs 65/kg or Rs 15/kg they have found a way to survive and so is the case for the other classes of society. The local vegetable vendor tells me that he gets up at 1 am to get his stock from the “Azadpur Mandi” and therefore whatever price he gets there he hikes it up by at least Rs 5/kg and sometimes more sells it. Though it pinches my pocket but can I blame him for his strategy? The spirit is to survive; no one can just give up because life is unaffordable.

So when Mr. Montek Singh Alhuwalia says that the rising prices show economic growth and indicate people’s buying power, I wish to ask him if he really thinks it is true. Does the common man or the not so common man have a choice? On the pretext of inflation, everyone is hiking prices and those with power are negotiating prices. It’s a war of wits, whose need is more, who will crack first.

We maybe a democracy, but it almost seems like a monarchy. Billions of rupees have been siphoned away by the ministers, corporate, bureaucrats etc on account of their corrupt deeds. Neither have the guilty been punished nor has the money been recovered. The food prices have been rising, so have the petrol prices and the government say it really cannot do much to control inflation. Mr. Prime Minister, was the one to bail the country out when the worst economic crisis had gripped us and yet he has no solutions now. I am totally amazed at the helplessness displayed by the government. Even in a country like the US, the food prices are subsidized.

I was shocked and angry and still am when I read a few days back that Rahul Gandhi thinks it’s the coalition alliance which is holding the govt back from being able to control prices, and Mr Ahluwalia says that rising prices show prosperity. These are our leaders and our policy makers and who are so far away from the ground reality.

So Mr. Ahluwalia, please check your data again, maybe you can walk to your own kitchen and find out the difference. How much was being spent on cooking a meal for you earlier and how much is being spent now. Your salary is constant (I assume) but you are in a league where you may not feel the pinch at all. Maybe you could ask your cook if he thinks that the rising prices indicate prosperity.

© Shubhra Chaturvedi, January 20, 2011