By: Satyakam Bharti
This photograph tells an age-old story. A story we all missed to hear from our parents and grandparents while growing up. But we anyway very well understand the underlining message – that this earth is an unequal place to live in and would stay so, at least in this part of the world. Or how else can one explain the dialectics of this frame. Perhaps, there can be many interpretations to it, and the one applied by the public relations department officials in Himachal Pradesh, who very gleefully forwarded it to the media, too may not be unfounded. But the one that is sure to prick the conscience of many is about our disgusting indifference towards basic human values.
Even if egalitarianism is something too much to expect from ourselves, pity itself cannot be said to be absent completely from an elitist mindset. And let me not sound sympathetic towards disability, as is often preached, in a way to hurt the self-respect of the disadvantaged lot (at least with physical disability), because the question here is that of systemic failure whereby each one of us not in the power loop is handicapped.
Coming back to the picture, imagine a human being, a bipedal primate by definition, limping on four limbs (a deformity ok), almost galloping with great effort, just to reach a certain place where he expects to be heard. This despite the fact that he could easily have been heard near to his own house. Now just go through the organisational chart the state Social Justice and Empowerment Department has very proudly put up on its website – minister, chief secretary, additional secretary, under secretary, director, additional director, deputy director, deputy director (SCP), additional controller, GKAM, RO(SCP); joint director(ICDS), programme officer 1, programme officer 2, special nutrition officer; every district too has a welfare officer, tehsil welfare officer, superintendent; ICDS, programme officer, child welfare programme officer and supervisor besides the clerical staff. Some of these officers have been specially designated public grievance redressal officers.
So, despite having the services of so many officials, why does a majorly handicapped person, or for that matter anybody, has to line up at the Chief Minister’s office. The Chief Minister should realise that it is because these many officials have failed to perform their duty and they should be held accountable for that.
Perhaps, the everyday crowd at the CM’s office or residence, or for that matter at every legislator’s, appears to be manifestation of the age-old disease of feudalism, under which the ‘raja’ cannot exist without the ‘runk’. Now, it is for all of us to redefine our proletarian identity, …each one of us, including the chief minister and whosever carries the baggage of power.