Indians don’t value human life. Indian life is cheap. Dime a dozen. Even then we don't use our currency. Neither the government nor the judiciary nor the overall system cares enough. For decades we have told ourselves this litany and believed it.
We even add the rider that other countries run to the support of their citizens. Our people don’t. Not at home or abroad.
That old chestnut: our embassies don’t help us. Indians are so dispensable.
Not like the Americans who care so much more... that odious comparison and we swear by it.
Time, perhaps, to stop the self flagellation. If Indian life was truly that much of a toss then why would the army squads hunt for those 10 soldiers for so many days in freezing weather and such high altitude.
If they had given up seeing that hope was a slender tendril that survivor would not have been rescued. And they are still looking. They haven’t called off the search even though odds indicate it is well nigh impossible anyone is alive but they won’t give up.
Remember the Dornier crash off the Chennai coast last year. It was a Coastguard flight that disappeared. They hunted for it with dogged determination for over 30 days and they did not give up till the wreckage and the casualties had been found.
Maybe that moaning and groaning we do has less basis than we think. Sure there are so many of us that the illusion of life being undercut gets a certain legitimacy. Riots, drunken driving, mob violence, these acts have had their casualties.
But this generation seems to have a lot more self respect and regard for life per se. That is why there is public opinion on killing protected animals wantonly. That is why rapists and paedophiles are given short shrift. That is why we have learnt, or at least are learning how to say, enough to injustice and threat.
And we do care more. Perhaps a new world order, a fresh sense of pride, more starch in the spine, the advent of technology and a wider knowledge base have all contributed to stand by each other and not give up.
I think such camaraderie in the home or the workplace is creating a general realisation that we count, each one of us, so don’t roll over us or throw us under the bus or think you can take us for granted.
It is this elevated sense of looking out for fellow Indians that has at least cut through the cynicism. We must now use this self belief effectively to end the practices that cheapen our lives.
You make spurious medicines we will get you.
You lock undertrials for years we will haunt you.
You exploit child labour, we will come for you.
You think poverty coarsens the right to life, think again.
You hurt women we will indict you.
You drink, drive and kill, we will fix you.
Our lives are not on a sale.
We are the still the record holders for the biggest mass evacuation by air in the history of the world. For what it is worth we do care...we just have to change the mindset and stop letting ourselves down.