Just because we in India are more than a billion people does not mean we let people die in blazes, collapsed bridges, stampedes, floods, riots or even while crossing the road. Life in that case will be highly unsafe.
Insecurity breeds fear that affects human development and creativity. The biggest hallmark of civilisation has been the guarantee of human security. Or else what is the difference between earlier jungle living and now urban setting? What is the point in living in gated communities, but once out of them being vulnerable to all kinds of risks? The key to ensuring safety and security is respecting and adhering to laws made by mankind. Right to life and security is our basic need.
To provide this basic right, a country secures its borders from external invasions. Alert soldiers ward off enemies from any intrusions even if it is at the cost of their lives. That is why we daily hear of brave encounters. Brave men and women in uniform keep awake so that we are not invaded. They protect our geographical boundaries. It is because of them that we sleep in peace.
But what about internal security? Who are its soldiers? They are both in uniform and in plain clothes. They are the civil administration. They are specially selected, elected and appointed by people. If they fulfil their responsibilities honestly and sincerely and without fear or favour, people enjoy internal safety and security. It’s when they fail that people die in fire blazes, on roads, in floods or in other manmade disasters.
Internal security keepers must consider themselves akin to soldiers on the borders, envisioning what would happen if they fail their countrymen? We will be overrun by marauders who will come and exploit our vulnerable sections, rob us of our wealth and resources, enslave us and perhaps kill us too. Just as we expect our soldiers on the borders to secure our borders without being reminded to, we expect the local administration to be civil soldiers within, protecting and ensuring our internal safety.
Police, civil servants, elected or nominated or selected representatives are internal soldiers, whose duty is to guarantee internal security by doing their duty without fear or favour. Anyone coming in the way is the enemy of society and has to be dealt with as per laws.
Had rules been followed, we would not have lost over a hundred lives at the Kerala temple with hundreds suffering from burns. It has left behind orphaned children and grieving families. If the district administration had denied permission to the temple authorities for fireworks, it was also their duty to prevent its violation by courageous enforcement. They failed in their duty to protect people as internal soldiers, which is a criminal breach of trust.
All manmade tragedies have a few common factors: Neglect of one’s duty, callous behaviour towards others’ safety, greed or highly selfish motives behind neglect, showing off of one’s pelf, power or position, taking risk at others’ cost and indifference to others’ suffering.
We, the billion-plus people, need to be a better humanity with a better sense of responsibility. We should have an enhanced consciousness towards our duties. We should respect human rights and live our lives for a higher purpose. We have got human life to do good, and not to injure and destroy others. Let’s be trustworthy civil soldiers to serve humanity, and protect our people with the same courage and patriotism with which our armed forces protect our borders.
The writer is former IPS officer and runs the NGO Navjyoti India Foundation. The views expressed are personal