Indian Law and Justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s shedding crocodile tears of joy at the successful ‘home coming’ of the poor little teen with her ailing and penniless father on bicycle, some 1200 kilometres away, was very melodramatic, to say the least! Some have pointed out that his performance bordered on sheer hypocrisy.
Prasad holds the prestigious portfolio of Law and Justice in the BJP-manned Central Government. Many are of the opinion that a man who presides over such an august position should have acted better in his response. His so-called balance of justice tilted towards a heartless low.
What did he do and what did he not? First of all, he showered praises on poor little teenaged Jyoti Kumari for carrying her ailing and penniless father on a bicycle from Gurugram, southwest of Delhi, to Bihar. When such horror scenes were unfolding on the national scene, he and his gang of ministerial colleagues with the Prime Head preferred to look the other way gagging themselves with corona-infested heart masks. When migrant labourers were unjustly thrown out into the street to face the heat of the Lock Down, the Law and Justice Ministry had a shut down.
Later, in order to show his government’s magnanimity, he lauded teenager Jyoti Kumari for cycling 1200 km while carrying her father as pillion passenger. Enthused by such a feat, Ravi asked Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to identity her talent for making her a Himalayan cyclist. In other words, the poor in this country have to do Himalayan tasks on empty stomach and in penniless situation to prove that they have the potential for achievement and recognition. Bereft of that, they live unknown and die unsung!
Ravi’s performance of reaching out was apparently meant to look great. But, Ravi and his ilk did not bother to question the injustice meted out to Jyoti Kumari and her ailing father by the house owner at Gurgram who cut off electricity from the room rented by her father and forced them to vacate for not paying the rent.
The plight of Jyoti and her father was not an isolated case during the Lock Down period. Lakhs of inter-state labourers suffered a knockout punch by Ravi’s ruling party when they were given marching orders to quit or face the consequences. Penniless and friendless, they ventured to attempt a marathon walk towards home hundreds of miles away. Some died out of exhaustion. Some were splintered into shreds by a speeding train of the Indian Railways. Some were beaten by the heartless police. Many were sprayed with disinfectant spray. A few died in accidents.
Stories of a Muslim village giving shelter to migrant workers, who included Hindus, did not cut much ice with the Muslim bashing gangs.
Union Minister Amit Shah bellowed with the heartless remark that ‘the migrant workers were in a hurry.’ That is where politicians do not understand the language of the poor and the underprivileged. They can understand and justify only the language of the karorpati (millionaires) bank loan defaulters who hurriedly scramble to the exit for cooling their heels on distant islands as fugitives. And to win their favour their default is erased by writing off the default loans. The politicians do not have to win the favour of the poor and the marginalised except at the time of election. Other times, the vote bank poor are left to fend for themselves.
In the crocodile tear shedding business Ravi is not alone. Politicians of all hues adopt such trick of the trade for convenience and connivance. The latest is the world famous animal lover and BJP Member of Parliament Maneka Gandhi whose maternal feelings ballooned with rumbling wails when she heard that an elephant was killed in Kerala.
Making baseless allegations and revealing her puny geographical knowledge, she went hammer and tongs at the populace of the Muslim dominated Malappuram district. While the elephant was killed by firecrackers in Kerala’s Palakkad district, she had to unleash her anti-Muslim arsenal by naming Malappuram, thereby revealing her substandard performance as people’s elected representative.
It is no surprise that Maneka and her parivar advocates showed absolutely no concern for the young woman fallen dead while travelling and her little one year old child suckling the dead mother. Such poignant incidents do not matter to Madame Maneka. Where was she when migrant workers, including women with breastfed children, were walking hundreds of miles and braving heat and hunger?
Many of our politicians are comfortable in their sprawling air-conditioned offices while making heartless statements thinking that the public will be amused. Unfortunately, we are facing a world of many a heartless politician whose ground level perception of reality is spoon-fed by a controlled media and an army of paid volunteers.
Come election time, politicians of all hues come crawling and begging before the voters with false front, crocodile tears and sugar-coated promises.
The plight of Jyoti Kumari will be window-dressed with lip service and temporary show of magnanimity. But there are lakhs and lakhs of Jyoti Kumaris agonisingly waiting to see the end of their poverty tunnel. They are but symbols of India’s millions of poor who languish in misery for want of work or resources or due to caste and class oppression.
The window-dressing of politicians is no solution to poverty eradication. They do not believe in poverty eradication. They peddle their agenda-based poverty alleviation theory and the survival of the fittest.
As if in a comic strip, in the name of poverty alleviation, crores and crores of rupees are dished out with the hidden agenda of keeping the people eternally poor. The poor are needed as vote banks and for collecting World Bank funds in their name for so-called development projects. That is where the politicians will shed crocodile tears about ‘our poor brethren’ while they connive to keep the poor floating just to survive. They will go even to the extent of conniving with the capitalist class by passing legislations for extending work hours from eight to twelve and for tightening the noose around the poor labour force.
Ravi’s shower of words on Jyoti for her feat is remarkable and quote-worthy: ‘I salute her courage and determination.’ But, when India’s Jyoti Kumaris stand up and ask, ‘why are we poor?’, our loudmouthed politicians appear to use corona mask.(Published on 15th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 25)