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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Monday Musings: Compassion for the poor missing in governance

Farmer suicides in Mantralaya are symbolic of the complete lack of compassion in governance.

pune Updated: Feb 26, 2018 15:22 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Farmers in Osmanabad were made to pose with slates during a panchanama to assess crop loss.
Farmers in Osmanabad were made to pose with slates during a panchanama to assess crop loss. (HT File Photo)

Hailing from the backward district of Dhule, 84-year-old farmer Dharma Patil had been making repeated rounds of the Mantralaya for at least three months to secure proper compensation for his land being acquired by the government.

The farmer had received Rs.4 lakh for his five acres of land which he felt was grossly inadequate. He had lost hopes of securing justice from the district officials and was, therefore, coming all the way to the state capital.

When he realised that his visits were futile and the government lacked compassion for people like him, he decided to end his life at Mantrayala itself. On January 22, he consumed poison and died in the hospital a few days later.

Since then, there were at least four suicide attempts by the poor, inside and outside Mantrayala. They are indicative of the poor man’s extreme frustration with life and governance in the state.

How did the government react to these suicides? Was there any sort of reflection on the need to show greater compassion towards the poor and the distressed? The only visible evidence was to install nylon safety nets on the first floor of Mantralaya to catch the fall of those distressed souls attempting suicides in future.

There is widespread evidence of the insensitivity of the state and central governments towards the poor. After the recent round of crop damage due to hailstorms, farmers in Osmanabad and Jalna complained of indignities heaped on them. In Osmanabad, farmers were photographed with slates in their hands during a panchanama to assess crop loss. The slates, with basic information about the fields and the crop loss, may have helped reduce administrative work of recording crop loss; but the farmers rightly felt that they were being treated like criminals with slates in their hands.

In Jalna, it was not enough that farmers had suffered crop and poultry loss in the hailstorm. Insensitive government officials did not think twice before asking them to conduct post-mortems of their chicken killed due to the hailstorm.

Some weeks ago, this newspaper brought to light how the government had made plans to issue orange coloured passports to unskilled workers and those requiring emigration clearance. The passports were meant to be issued to people who had not studied beyond the Class 10 and were headed primarily to the Gulf countries.

While the government claimed that the orange passports would help identify them easily and thereby offer protection against exploitation abroad, there was uproar in the country that they would be treated as second class citizens and the orange passports would lead to further discrimination between the rich and poor. The decision was finally called off by the government.

Recently, at a public event in Pune on February 4, three young IAS, IFS and IPS officers observed that the Indian bureaucracy needs drastic changes.

“Governance has to become compassion-oriented and the poorest of the poor must get the benefits of the administrative governance. The government must work for the poor and not drive them away,” said Dnyaneshwar Mulay, IFS, at that event.

Casteism, he said, had become pernicious, affecting all organs of the state. He reiterated that compassion “must become the religion of the country.”

Farmer suicides in Mantralaya are symbolic of the complete lack of compassion in governance. Nylon safety nets are not the solution. What is needed is a mindset change in governance.

First Published: Feb 26, 2018 15:22 IST