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Why hunger, poverty do not infuriate us?




Vijay Darda : We are passing through a strange phase where there is no such thing as sensitivity. There are tall talks. Figures of millions and billions are being bandied about. Tall claims are being made about the swifter and greater development of the country. It is being bragged that India would become a world guru. Many claims may be true but how can you deny the ground reality? A person with even little intelligence too will say that first of all this country needs to fight hunger and poverty.
How embarrassing it is that a girl child in Jharkhand does not get enough food for several days and dies. Even more shameful is the fact that in a matter of barely few months the system has forgotten that incident! The question is not of the death of a child but of death by hunger. Even after 70 years of independence if we die for want of food, then this is a serious matter. This incident should have triggered a storm of debate across the country. Thousands of people should have taken to the streets and questioned the government over the death of that girl, but nothing like that happened and are unlikely to happen because our sensitivities have died!
We do not even want to know how many poor people are still there in our country? The government continues to tamper with the poverty data conveniently. One committee says that a person who earns ` 33 a day is poor, while another committee conveniently refutes it and says, no no… a person who earns less than ` 47 a day is poor! What an irony! Can a person get two square meals a day for ` 47 or get treatment if he falls ill? The government may keep juggling with the data, but the reality is that nearly 30 crore people live below the poverty line in India. There are millions of people who just get one square meal a day. Have you ever met such people? Felt their agony?
Should hunger and poverty not be debated in this country? Is the issue of any film or a place of worship more important than this? With hunger and poverty, the image and reputation of the country suffers and our first priority should be freedom from hunger and poverty!
Second most important issue is health of the people. Is government even aware of this? It is easier to say that branches of AIIMS are spreading across the country now, but the point of the matter is what is the state of affairs at our government health centres and government hospitals? Even hospitals in New Delhi are in dire straits. Health facilities in cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are poor, leave aside the primary health centres.
There are less than 20,000 government hospitals across the country for a population of 125 crore. If the total number of beds in these hospital are added, the figure does not even reach 8 lakh. Apart from this, there are 1.60 lakh health sub-centres, 25,000 primary health centres and 5,500 community health centres. Judged against the requirement, this number is too less but the government does not care nor does any common man raise his voice on this issue. The result is before us. The legion of private hospitals has mushroomed where treatment is beyond the reach of the poor people. I have always been saying that a law should be framed so that officers and officials occupying government posts should be treated only in government hospitals. Public representatives and their family members should also be treated in government hospital and their wards should study in government schools.
Just try it once and I am sure the condition of government hospitals will improve. My question is, when AIIMS can be known for its quality, why not other government hospitals can be so? Do you know that according to the Global Nutrition Report, the weight and height of 4 crore children in this country is not in accordance with their age! In this case, India is 120th among 130 countries of the world. We are looking to steer ourselves into the developed nations’ category. However, we should be ashamed of our position on these underdeveloped children! But who is concerned?
According to the report of the United Nations International Labour Organisation, there are 1.77 crore people in this country who do not have any means of employment. This year, this figure will go up to 1.78 crore people. It seems that the number of real young unemployed is more than that! These youngsters had pinned great hopes on Modiji. Are expectations being fulfilled? In fact, the discussion should be on all these issues. It should be on what can bring glory to the country and make us feel proud, but unfortunately, the nation was made to indulge in issues which have nothing to do with the lives of the people, only to avoid debate on main issues like hunger, health and drinking water supply. We are engaged in raking up the ghosts of history, while the underprivileged tribals in remote areas are dying a silent death. We are not paying any attention on how to make our future bright...! 
Before I conclude
The first phase of polling in Gujarat is over. The second phase will also be over this week. The victory and defeat will depend on voters' decision. But the bitter personal attacks that the country has been witness to in this election does not suit our politics at all and is against our tradition. I hope the personal bitterness will end with the conclusion of elections. Big people should have a big heart.




Do not turn India into an arena of hatred





Vijay Darda :Had the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi imagined the kind of politics in independent India as we are seeing these days? Would Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Babasaheb Ambedkar and other top leaders ever have thought that Indian politics will get mired in caste and religion over time and pollute the entire society? Surely they would not have imagined it. They would have envisaged an India with humanity as the largest religion, and caste and religion as purely personal affair not influencing the society at all. But unfortunately, this is what is happening today. Now the seeds of hatred against each other are being sown in such a way that future looks very scary.

I am from a political family myself. For 18 years, I have been part of the parliamentary politics but for the situation that is prevailing today, I blame the political parties and their leaders directly. I am also connected to the newspaper and assess the situation closely. I have felt this and you must have also felt that as soon as the elections come, the atmosphere hots up. Things start with development and do not know when they boil down to caste and religion. There is no discussion as to the background of the candidates and what are their plans for development? What has the sitting public representative done to bring about development? There is absolutely no discussion! The discussion invariably revolves around the person’s party affiliation, which religion he belongs to and what is his caste. Even the political parties give tickets to those who have the power to garner votes in the name of caste and religion or who have the power to attract votes in their favour by virtue of their money power. Have you seen any social worker, for whom all the castes and religions are one, getting the ticket? If such a person gets a ticket then he can not win because polarisation has become the biggest weapon in politics.
Unfortunately, our politicians never think that this polarisation is affecting the society! Although people may not accept it openly, the present day reality is that our society is already being divided more on the basis of caste and religion. Leaders who won freedom for India must have hoped that caste system will weaken over time and religious fanaticism will end, but the prevailing politics itself has defied the balance. Today, caste is dominating the politics and religious fanaticism is in its prime.
I do not blame anyone for this. In my view, every political party is responsible for it. The latest example being the Assembly elections in Gujarat where the first phase of voting will be held later this week. Our colleagues from the Lokmat Media visited Gujarat and found that religious fanaticism has overshadowed the all-important issue of development. In Gujarat, such messages are circulating on the social media that I can not even mention them because they are but spreading hatred. Are the politicians not aware that such messages are being circulated? Everyone knows but there is no attempt to stop it. Rather, the politicians are slinging mud at each other no holds barred!
That Indian politics is getting so tainted is worrisome for the country. Politicians will keep coming and going, parties will come and go but democracy will weaken. Leaders must understand that those who foment hatred at the time of elections will tarnish the image of the country in the longer run. Politicians must understand that this country has never been of any one class or one religion or one caste nor will it ever be. All should understand one thing for sure that whosoever is there in this country, be Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist or Christian, it is their country. The number can be less or more but they have equal rights. Nobody can be underestimated. Actually this diversity is our power. The society here has always been inspired by the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. Our society will develop through love and affection for each other and coexistence. If our society is weak then the country will weaken. I just want to tell the politicians, please do not turn India into an arena of hatred! Secularism is our greatest strength. This strength should not diminish. And preservation of our greatest strength -- secularism -- is the biggest challenge before the new generation.


Before I conclude

The latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is extremely alarming. There is a shameful increase of 12.4% in rape incidents in the country. The three big states of the country -- Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra -- are on the top three positions. I do not understand what has happened to our society? Why are the incidents of rape on the rise? Are our values on the wane? This is a serious issue. While the laws need to be made even more stringent, the society too needs to play a proactive role in instilling values among the people.




Such fanaticism will destroy our country!


Vijay DardaThe hue and cry raised over the film Padmavati and the use of intemperate language by some outfits and their leaders in opposing the film has astonished me. What an irony that the film which has not yet been released, which people have not seen yet, nor any remark has been passed by the censor board regarding the content of the film, yet the extremists have become active and started raising furore over the movie. Is raising furore over the grapevine and issuing fatwas, culture of India? We should not forget that we are living in a democratic country. Here, people who respect all religions, languages and history live in harmony. It is not the country of fools who start creating uproar unknowingly, without thinking.
Seeing the ugly action of these extremist elements and the government’s indifference, many times I feel like asking the government what country are we living in? Are we living in the country of terrorists? Are we taking to the ways of Taliban or living in the sultanate of IS where any Tom, Dick and Harry can issue fatwa? This is not the first case of issuing fatwa. Earlier too, such acts have taken place, but unfortunately, our governments have continued to ignore them.  Political parties and politicians are vying with one another so intensely to woo voters in the name of religion, caste or community that nobody even thinks about reining in such elements! I want to say in no uncertain terms that this will never be acceptable in a country like India. The government will have to deal firmly with those who speak the language of terror irrespective of their religion and caste affiliation! Otherwise, such elements will hold sway and ultimately the country will suffer. The government must understand that none is bigger than the country, neither the government nor the leader, neither any religion nor any caste! The country is paramount. I consider such fanaticism as an attack on the country and such elements as the enemy of the country.
We live in a democratic country and, of course, there should be respect for the views of either side. As far as Padmavati is concerned, if after watching the picture, it seems that there is some distortion then surely it should be removed from the film. The Queen of Bundi too has said that let people watch the movie first and then comment. I believe that if there is an insulting scene and sentiments have been hurt the matter of protest can be understood. It is the culture of India that we should not hurt anyone’s feelings.
But we should not forget the fact that this is a movie, and not a historical documentary. The film Padmavati should be looked upon only as a drama. I am surprised that certain organisations took to streets in protest even when the film was under production and no one knew anything about it! Ghoomar dance was being shot in Jaipur Palace when the entire set was demolished, causing loss to property worth lakhs of rupees. Sanjay Leela Bhansali accepted it as a challenge and put up the set in Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio. After 45 days of continuous shooting, the film got ready. A total of Rs 160 crore has been spent on the movie. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a person who does not create any noise; never goes to the party; does not indulge in any politics. He keeps doing his job. He has produced and directed a number of good films so far. He has made films on every culture: ‘Bajirao Mastani’ on Maharashtrian culture, ‘Devdas’ on Bengali culture, ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ on Gujarati culture, and now ‘Padmavati’ on Rajasthani culture. Prior to this, he had made ‘Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela’. He has worked to unify every religion and community through his cinematic productions. He made the film ‘Black’ on Alzheimer’s. He is a creative person and has a creative mind. Therefore, it  is not proper to play politics with such a person.
For Padmavati, Deepika Padukone has executed the Ghoomar dance by wearing a 30-kg jewellery and 30-kg costume. Is it easy to dance carrying a weight of 60 kilograms? In fact, we should encourage an artist. But unfortunately, it is sad that some fundamentalist forces take to such cruel way of protest simply to serve their own interests. These are the people who can do anything to get cheap publicity. And yes, the media should also think how much importance such people should be given. Once again I would like to point out that the government as also all the political parties will have to deal with such fundamentalist forces extremely harshly, lest they will destroy the country!
Change condition, not name!
Here is another newsbreak. The news is that efforts are being made to rename Indore, the historical and commercial city of Madhya Pradesh, as Indur. The proposal is about to reach the Madhya Pradesh government soon. Since the same party is ruling the municipal corporation as well as the state and the country, it is not surprising that after a few months we will be forced to call Indore as Indur. My question is, what will the renaming achieve? Calcutta became Kolkata, Bangalore became Bengaluru, Madras became Chennai, Bombay became Mumbai, Mangalore became Mengaluru and Poona became Pune, but what happened? The problems of these cities remain the same today as they were prior to the renaming. Is it easy to live there? Did these cities start getting purified water round the clock? Is there any reduction in pollution? Then what is the benefit of renaming? Changing the name, in my view, is nothing more than a political move. I am reminded of one song... Ye jo public hai ye sab jaanti hai..!




Where is our society headed?




Vijay Darda : The occasion was Diwali this year. Like every year, traditional pan supari programme was organised at Prithvivandan at Gandhi Chowk in Yavatmal where the Lokmat Group was founded. One of my childhood friends, who is a follower of Islam, came to attend the programme. We were meeting after almost 30 years. We hugged each other and suddenly wept inconsolably. During our childhood days, he used to stay close to our house in Yavatmal. I asked him, “You stay there only!” “No. I have shifted to the locality of Muslims now,” he said.
I was astonished. The city where people lived in harmony, had been divided on the basis of caste and creed. Telis, Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Punjabis and Kunbis now live in their localities. I asked him once again why he did not meet me for so many years. His reply was even more shocking. He said, “Vijay, you have become a wealthy person and that’s why I was hesitant to meet you.” I remember my childhood when there was no rich-poor divide; friendship meant friendship only.
At that time, Urdu and Marathi medium schools would be the same. We would celebrate 15th August and 26th January together, would make arrangements for flag hoisting together. Right from applying cow dung to lime, we would do it all together forgetting caste and religion. A Muslim trader would lend us a pipe to unfurl the flag. Once, we went to our English teacher Qureshi sir and asked him which colour is on the top of national tricolour, green or saffron? This left him absolutely incensed. He said you don’t know the colours of tricolour! Wait, I’ll punish you and make you stand under the Sun. That feeling of patriotism, devoid of even an iota of caste and religious consideration, was amazing.
On 15th August and 26th January, a Prabhat pheri of school students would be organised wherein students would raise the slogan ‘Bharat mata ki jai’. But caste or religion never caused any impediment then.
I am also reminded of Ganeshotsav during our childhood days. We all used to sweep the ground clean, decorate the pandal and worship together. There was no distinction on the basis of caste or religion. Be it Eid, Diwali or Christmas, we children would visit each other unhindered. We were children and childhood was our religion. My religion never became an obstacle in celebrating Eid. We celebrated Ganeshotsav with the same enthusiasm with which we commemorated Eid and Christmas. My mother would help me dress and prepare for Eid and Christmas. We would go to the mosque and church. I still go.
But where did that religion of childhood go? What exactly has gone wrong? I have been in the public life for quite long now and from experience I can say that our society has gone astray. Hatred has replaced harmony. It takes courage to admit publicly that the society today has been divided more than ever before. The difference of being a Hindu and a Muslim is more today than it was before! The religion interfered with the politics and created such an environment that the old bond of affection for each other was broken. The line of suspicion has been drawn so deep that it may take us generations to erase it. At the moment, there appears to be no hope. The way the organisations have been formed in the name of protecting religion and the way they are systematically nurtured, is even more dangerous.
This is not confined to religion only. Caste feelings have also started to unleash with alarming regularity in the past few years. Many times it seems like we are hell-bent on returning to the tribal era where people of one clan used to behead the people of another tribe! The flourishing business of casteist forces has become a source of easy money for some people. And for politicians, it is a kind of ‘vote farming’ which they promote to get good harvest.
In fact, the society has reached such a state where there is no such thing as role model! Had Gautam Buddha, Mahavir Swami, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ramkrishna Paramahansa, Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Vinoba Bhave or Sane Guruji ever envisaged such a society? Not at all. They wanted to create a society that would be ideal for humanity because this work can only be done by India, which gave the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to the whole world. But we have reduced to dust the thoughts and ideas of our own great men! The society has degenerated so much that we have lost respect for each other. The new measure of respect is position and wealth. Let alone some cultured people, you may have hardly seen a rich person respecting the poor. My Babuji and my mother believed in social harmony. They sent us both brothers to municipality school so that we should understand and experience the pain of the poor. In fact, today the parents themselves do not want their child to come in contact with the poor. Many of my friends were very poor but they got the same respect in our house which we got. Such an attachment has become scarce now. These values should be taught to the children by their families.
Another vice -- to denigrate each other -- is spreading fast in the society. You may have experienced it yourself that when a person is before us, we greatly appreciate him. But as soon as he is gone, we start speaking ill about him. This kind of behaviour is embarrassing and dangerous for society. Why do we not take into account all that is good in that person and try to imbibe that goodness in ourselves? If we keep looking for evil then how will we get good? Believe me, if we find good, then it will help remove another big evil of the society called fraud. Though fraud and deception have been part of human history, we should hope that we will overcome this vice while progressing on the path of development.
I am also pained by the fact that society is deviating from the golden tradition of respecting women. The rise in the incidents of molestation and rape is agonising. Where are our kids getting these dirty ideas from? Obviously, there is some disturbance in the family and society! Clearly it seems that we have become victims of the lack of cultural values.
In the past, children would be imparted cultural values. Apart from imparting bookish knowledge, the teachers in schools would also instill values among the students. They would also be aware of what the students are doing after school and whether they are deviating from their path. Our Sadiq sir and Halbe sir never differentiated between students on the basis of their caste and religion. They equally loved all their students. Where are such teachers today?
It is the absence of sanskars which fills us with malaise. A restless person breaks every law of life. People flout traffic rules. When the airplane lands, people open their seat belts as if they were in captivity. Even before the aircraft halts, people get up from their seats. We have to find a solution to do away with such restlessness! If we change, society will change!
Before I conclude
Bill Gates has correctly said that merely reading books is not study. Our Sant Kabirdas has also said that nobody becomes a pundit by reading scriptures only! My personal belief too is that knowledge is not acquired from books alone; it is around us. Refine your skills and you will go on acquiring knowledge automatically!




Why are our teenagers taking to crime?






Vijay Darda : Today, there are two serious issues facing society. The first is the rising crime towards children and the second concerns the growing numbers of children themselves taking to crime. India's history of thousands of years tells us that we never had these problems but the last fifty years have worsened the situation. Poverty has been one of the major reasons for this phenomenon, our growing alienation from cultural and moral values have exacerbated the situation.

Fascination with materialistic life leads many children to crime. They either take to crime of their own volition or are lured by others into a life of crime. Many of these children start with petty crimes and later graduate to becoming 'dons'. Even terrorists are using and involving children in their outfits. Today, India aspires to be one of the fastest growing economies in every field. We are hoping to educate all our citizens well and attempting to infuse exemplary values in them. But children taking to crime is one of the biggest impediments in the nation's development and pulling us backwards. Today not only are children being raped, many children are also indulging in such criminal activities. Children are also accused of murder. There are many children involved in the drug trade. Little girls are being kidnapped for prostitution. So whether they are victims or perpetrators of crime, children are being ruined either way.

According to statistics coming out of the National Crime Records Bureau, 89,423 cases of crimes against children were registered in 2014, but this figure increased to 94,172 in just one year in 2015. Most of these were cases of sexual violence. According to the data furnished by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, most of the people who sexually exploit children are their relatives or acquaintances. So it is time to ruminate on why this is happening in Indian society which is upheld as among the most evolved and civilized societies in the world.

Why are our children not safe amongst our own? Why are our mindsets so debased? Every citizen must mull this over and exercise caution, only then will we be able to find a way out of this crisis. So far as the issue of children taking to crime goes, we must take into consideration the statistics for a clear understanding of why this is happening so frequently these days. In February 2016, the government had informed the Rajya Sabha that 22,740 cases of juvenile crime were registered in 2010, whereas in 2014 this figure increased to 33,526. That means, in just five years, a 47 per cent increase in juvenile crime was reported. These are official figures, though the actual numbers are likely to be higher because not every case reaches the police station.

It is clear from NCRB data that 60 per cent of the juvenile crimes are committed by those between 16 and 18 years of age. These crimes also include heinous ones like murder and rape. The country has still not forgotten Delhi's 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder. A minor behaved like a monster towards Nirbhaya. 
Memories of the 2013 tragic gang rape in Mumbai’s Shakti Mill are still fresh in mind wherein a minor was among those involved. Now it is the Juvenile Justice Board that decides the punishment of minor offenders and these sentences are not more than three years. The offender is confined to the child remand home for the course of the punishment. The law of juvenile justice has been framed in terms of providing an opportunity to the offender to mend his ways. He is expected to repent, reform and become a good citizen when he returns to society. But surveys have shown that such juvenile offenders often almost never reform. It is a matter of concern and merits legal reconsideration.

To go back to the question of why our teenagers are increasingly becoming criminals, even psychologists are flummoxed and in constant search of an answer. The joint family tradition of our country once upon a time facilitated the monitoring of children and adolescents by both the family and society. Neighbours too were free to scold a child if he or she misbehaved and to teach them to distinguish between wrong and right. Parents and grandparents at home lived in close proximity to children and could detect any change in a child's behaviour or attitude instantly. Now with nuclear families gaining popularity and joint families breaking down rapidly, things are different. Not all parents have enough time to devote to their children in a nuclear family. Under the circumstances, children become victims of loneliness and undergo all kinds of emotional upheavals. They seek solace in bad company and nefarious activities, at times simply to gain the attention of their parents. In modern times the Internet is an added source of concern. The availability of porn on the Internet has spawned newer ways of crossing the line on norms of acceptable behaviour. Porn unduly excites teenagers and also infuses values of bestiality in them. Moral values go for a toss even before they have a chance to take root and materialism takes over. The teen then is ripe to commit any and every kind of crime. To restore traditional values, we will have to first restore family to the children, infuse them with good values and ethics and draw closer to them to understand them and make them understand. We will have to watch them like hawks while cooing at them like doves!

Before I conclude

Do readers remember Budhia? In 2006, at four years of age, he had just run a marathon. After that, coach Birchari Das was murdered and Budhia went into oblivion. The country also forgot him. Now it is a matter of joy that he has got a new coach in the form of Anand Chandra Das. The 15-year-old boy from Odisha is doing a lot of hard work and his dream is to run in the Olympics. My best wishes to Budhia!