How our brethren live

An article appeared in a leading magazine this week. I am sure many have or will be reading it at some point of time, if not at home, then while waiting for your turn at the doctor's or dentist, while travelling in a plane or maybe at your beauty parlour. The article or rather photo essay isn simply entitled: Life below the poverty line! Poverty line is the news ad nauseum recently. What should the base figure be, 27 or 32? And endless and futile debates appear on the box, with people shouting and procrastinating. Anchors as masters at pushing invitees to answer uncomfortable questions with the inane phrase: India wants to know? After the debate everyone, including the anchors will go home, have a large one, eat and waste some food and go to sleep in a cool room.

Please read the article and look at the pictures. If you still have some heart you will be deeply disturbed. Not just by some moving photographs but by the resilience and quiet and dignified endurance of people who just like us are Citizens of this country and thus come under the ambit of our Constitution and its rights. The villages that are subject of this disturbing essay are invisible, even if one of them is in the Constitution once represented by our First Citizen!

Life is a constant struggle and no one ever sleeps with his bellyful. Though there main concern is getting enough to it, some want their children to learn and hence send them school in the hope that an educated child may change things for them. Till then they survive with rare dignity. In the answers they gave the journalist, I could not sense any anger. Just acceptance. And faith. Yes faith which here validates more than ever the marxist view that religion is the opium of the masses. For them 24 or 27 or even 39 are useless statistics. "Allah is looking out for us. There can be no other earthly reason that my children and I are still alive" says a young mother. Fatalism at its best and loudest.

On the other end of the spectrum the rants and raves of debates sound empty and false. No one cares about these people. They are so remote that they seem to belong to another celestial body altogether. The questions and answers that play with regularity the days on which poverty is the flavour of the moment are futile. India does not want to know, India does not care, India has lost its heart.

The Food Security Bill that is now being tabled and pushed by the ruling party is nothing but another election ploy. I would like to ask our First Citizen whether he even knows where Lalkoop and how its inhabitants live. I would also like to know if the MLA or any other elected leader has ever visited them and told them about their rights? I also would like to know how these families will ever get the benefits of this Bill? I know the answer: Never. They have fallen off the map. And yet they are the ones who should benefit from such legislatures? Did the malnourished 14 year old mother who delivered a 600 grams baby get the so called supplements and meals that existing programmes ensure? The answer is another deafening NO!

And the answers will continue to be louder NOs till the (ill)famous: India wants to know becomes a reality,