Tavlin Singh’s fifth column: The little things that matter
Once again in the last week, bulldozers have destroyed the lives and dreams of ordinary people in Delhi. There was once again a battle over which mosque was once a Hindu temple. The Qutub Minar and the Taj Mahal were dragged out to correct historical mistakes. This is a temporary column, so a comment is needed on both events All I can say about the bulldozers is that I look forward to the day when the bulldozers will demolish the houses of the corrupt officials who allowed illegal construction on such a large scale. Regarding the victorious Hindutva movement that now claims that the Taj Mahal was a Hindu monument, I have a question: when did the bulldozers come to demolish the world’s most famous tomb?
For those of you who think I’m trivial on serious issues, I have one reaction: Enough is enough. For weeks, if not months, we seem to be talking about nothing more than these kinds of things, so I’m going to save you one more part from the bulldozer or the majority insanity. Something more can be said that has already been said in endless, repetitive primetime debates and in the increasingly repetitive thinking of political pundits.
So, this week I plan to talk about some of the topics that are considered so unnecessary that they never make headlines. My reason for doing this is that the most important news to me was published on the inside page of the newspaper and it is that 89% of Indian children are suffering from malnutrition before they reach their second year. This is according to a recent report by the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-5). The report concludes that there has been only marginal improvement since their search five years ago. It’s heartbreaking and embarrassing. Malnutrition in the most productive months of a child means that they will grow stagnant and never be able to reach their full potential physically or mentally.
When I ask myself why Narendra Modi has paid so much attention to correcting many kinds of negligence during the Congress rule, I have noticed that Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh were the worst culprits in child malnutrition. Obviously, this is something he never paid attention to. Can we expect that after this latest NFHS report of his own government, he will pay as much attention to malnutrition as sanitation in his first term? Transparent India has achieved the level of rural sanitation on an impressive scale as Modi has put his weight behind it. If he does the same to ensure that India’s children are no longer malnourished, we can one day reap the full benefits of the world’s youngest population.
Other ‘small’ things I would like to draw attention to this week. I deliberately use the word small because Modi has shown that what he loves is the big thing. It was during his time that the ‘highest idol’ of the world came up. The ‘Biggest Immunization Program’ has been successfully achieved and the Prime Minister likes to be proud of it. The day I sat down to write this I walked past the new parliament building and, not being allowed to get close enough for a real visit, can report that it already has a tower on top of every building in its vicinity. The old parliament, a repository of much of India’s democratic history, is like an anthill in its powerful shadow. But I disagree.
The most neglected and most frightening news of the moment is the burning of a 17-storey rubbish hill in Delhi. It spreads toxic gases into the city’s dangerously polluted air and reminds us that even though we dream of putting a man on the moon, we have failed to learn how to deal with waste. At the edge of each village, we see pits filled with perishable rubbish and almost all of our small towns have major markets that are actually just piles of rubbish. Isn’t it a shame at a time when we are so proudly celebrating the 75th anniversary of India’s independence?
Those who shout Bande Mataram and Joy Shri Ram with every breath should read the Ramayana more carefully to discover the description of Ayodhya on the eve of Rama’s coronation. And, while they were talking about it, they could also pay close attention to the road that India had paved to get to the forest where his brothers were forced into exile. The methods used to build the roads were as modern as they are today and Ayodhya is more beautiful than any modern Indian city. Although Hindu revivalism is so fashionable, can we please revive some of these things? Isn’t it time that we make sure that Mother India is no longer covered with perishable garbage? And what better tribute could there be than this year of our Amrit Mahotsav to ensure that no Indian child lacks the basic nutrients needed to grow to their full potential?
Can I end with a question? What will happen now that a court has announced that discussions will not start in the basement of the Taj Mahal on whether the so-called ‘twenty-two sealed rooms’ should allow Hindutva activists to start interfering? Will Hindutva soldiers start attacking Muslims in Agra for the ‘sins’ of their ancestors? Seriously, what will happen now?
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