The father of our nation recognised the power of violating laws and used it to fight foreign domination. Almost a century later, more than a billion of us, most of whom were born free, are trudging the same path not realising that the Britishers have left and by not obeying the laws of the land we only harm ourselves.
Lets admit it, we are a nation of law breakers. We break them constantly and with impunity. We skip traffic lights and ignore speed limits, we overload goods and overcrowd passengers. Seat belts and helmets cramp our style. We drive as we please, stop when we want and turn when we have to and we pay heavily for this……sometimes with our lives
We ignore guidelines and evade taxes, we cheat on duties and surcharges, we undervalue and oversell, we sweet talk our way through pollution control, barge through check posts and trick our way through speed traps. We hate to be frisked and searched, questioned and probed……and we pay heavily for this……sometimes with our lives
We ace exams without appearing, procure false degrees and documents, we get life insurance without health checks and licenses without driving tests……..and we pay heavily for this…….. sometimes with our lives.
We drop names and flaunt connections,”Jaanta nahin mein kaun hoon ?” is a phrase we use shamelessly for petty gains. We bribe and berate, bully and beseech to get our way. We jump queues and skip procedure, we litter, spit and urinate, deface and defecate.. ….and we pay heavily for this….not with our lives….but we do pay.
It may appear that we have drifted towards lawlessness, but actually we have merely exposed our true self. Independence has given us the freedom to do as we please, and so we have dropped the garbs of civility and stand naked for all to see. Sociologists and historians blame it on centuries of repression. Most Indians lead lives of quiet desperation and walk around like tightly wound springs ready to unravel.
Our best behaviour is reserved for our foreign jaunts. On alien soil we patiently drive in lanes, follow procedure, clean up after ourselves and queue up for everything. Stripped of the clout we carry in our own land and scared of the consequences of unruly behaviour, we become law abiding citizens. Even in our own country, the discipline and humility with which disciples conduct themselves in sacred spaces shows that we are capable of discipline.
The problem is we lack character which is a result of consciousness. We have yet to learn the essence of virtuous living which is an end unto itself and is followed because it feels right, not out of fear or greed. Till then this waywardness has to be tamed by society and law. Sadly, the politician, police, paisa nexus helps the high and mighty escape unscathed, reducing the judiciary to a mockery.
We are not bad people, we are just misguided. We see the privileges enjoyed by our leaders and want to join in. We love to appear well connected and do what others can’t. Such is our misplaced notion of ‘ respect’ that if a person breaks a rule for us we feel honoured. To change this mindset we need true leaders. Consider this, a Minister submitting himself for a frisk, a pilot car stopping at a toll booth to pay for the chief minister’s motorcade, a party ‘heavy weight’ patiently waiting in line. Imagine the effect on the public psyche when they see that no one is above the law.
Lastly, a great nation can not be built without citizens of sound character and the training has to start at home. In a country which gave the world the philosophy of ‘ Nishkam Karma’ we teach our children to focus on the end no matter what be the means. As we dutifully shuttle our children from one coaching class to the next there is no time for character building. It is not surprising that these children become adults who have little sense of right and wrong.
Gandhi ji had advised us to be the change we wanted to see. So, finally, the onus is on us. Bapuji never doubted the ‘power of a small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission to alter the course of history’ and as his children neither should we.
( carried in the Hindustan Times on 25/11/2016)