I hope this never happens to anyone but imagine, you just leave your house for some work or to meet someone, hoping that you will be back home in a little while. While you are leisurely on your way, thinking about the grand plans that you have in your life, you suddenly freeze and feel volts of electricity pass through your body and lose consciousness. When you wake up, you see yourself in the hospital with your limbs amputed and your face all disfigured. You are told by doctors that you will not be able to move ever. The reason that you are given is that a high tension wire was lying on the road as some work was going on. The workers of the electricity department forgot to put the warning sign and ward off the area and hence you met with the unfortunate incident. Whom do you blame, the electricity department, the state, the union, whom? And after you complain, you get no response, because your complaint is gathering dust along with a zillion files lost in the dusty offices of the government? What hope do you have? Chances are that you may have an insurance policy, but what about those millions of people living in the rural areas, who have no means to even afford an insurance policy? Such was the case of Kanhaiya Lal, a 28 year old man from a village in Greater Noida, who being left with no option sought permission from the President of India to end his life.
We the people of India are one of the most unprotected people in the world. We call ourselves a welfare State, but our country lags behind in providing the common man with welfare schemes. Even the schemes that the government provides, are not made so easily accessible. Hence the only ones who can manage to avail the so called welfare schemes of the government are the ones who do not mind being harassed by the babus. Others are too busy toiling for their daily bread. They hardly have the time to even think of availing the so called welfare schemes, because to avail them, they will have to let go their daily work which wins them bread.
Losing life, limbs and livelihood are a way of life in India. Be honest, what was the last time that you were moved by a news which informed you that a certain person had lost his life or limb because of some callousness on the part of the State? Chances are that such news might not have moved you and you must have just moved on with reading other news. We have become so used to such things. In western developed countries, such things rarely happen and when they do, people take to streets and make sure that the government takes up the responsibility, if it fails to do so. Such is the hallmark of a developed country.
In India, the Government of the day takes advantage of the scattered demographical nature of the people. It is difficult for all the people to come together to hold the government accountable. In small sized western countries, it is easy to mobilise masses for an issue-based mass movement. The result is that we are left in a lurch. The famous phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” is often used out of context. It was uttered at a time when the country was at war. But in peace time, the citizen ought to expect welfare from the country, otherwise taxation is nothing short of legal extortion, which the citizen is forced to pay without expecting anything in return.
Its time we ask ourselves, are we protected enough in our own country which we call home? Do we not deserve security of life in our country? Are we not entitled to expect that the State/ country, which is the largest unit of community, will do something in return for our submission to its authority? For if the answers to the above questions are in the negative, we are living as orphans in our own country.
~Kawaljit Singh Bhatia.
The Writer is a Lawyer and practices regularly at the Supreme Court of India.