Are we too tolerant as a nation?
Aug 26 2013
— Hutton Gibson.
Sab chalta hai”— This was the topic of a debate I had participated many years ago in my school days. It is amazing how one phrase describes the attitude of our society and country even today; and this one phrase lies at the heart of our societal problems. We have such a causal attitude and amazing amounts of tolerance towards everything that is wrong – indiscipline, corruption and moral depravity leading the way.
India stands at a crossroads today, with one road leading it to becoming a global economic power and the other leading it to destruction. The political and economic background under which it is operating today is tough and the road to destruction is easy to take. On the economic front, it is no longer a question of catching up with China’s growth rate, it is a question of survival. Any educated, well-informed Indian knows the solutions and, therefore, I presume that those in power must know them as well. Time for rhetoric is over. Politicians need to act and not deliver speeches. If there is true love for the nation, then come with suggestions to improve the current crisis we are engulfed in.
Economics is not isolated from the fabric of our society. Economic reforms will not be enough in themselves. Corruption, archaic laws and an apathetic judicial system are equally responsible for eroding business and investor confidence. If it is the jungle law that prevails in India, why would anyone invest here and why would tourists not go to countries where there is value for human life? The opening up of the Indian economy in the 1990s and the surge in economic growth led the evolution of India, but ultimately the Darwin’s theory on the survival of the fittest will prevail. A society that is morally depraved needs healing and no amount of economic reforms can help it.
No doubt the trigger to my thoughts has been the Mumbai rape case. The Delhi incident in December 2012 had enraged the nation. There were marches and protests everywhere and the government changed the law under pressure and the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 came into force. It provides for life term and even death sentence to rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. That is all good in theory. In spite of the national outrage and adverse international publicity, in spite of setting up fast-track courts; the victim’s family and the entire country is still waiting for justice to be delivered. It is mind-boggling that one of the perpetrators has been playing the law for a fool and the judiciary is struggling to deal with it. The biggest deterrent to crime is punishment and that concept does not exist in India. Despite the new anti-rape law being in force, there has been an increase in rape cases. The reason is simple; no one has faith in the law and those committing the crime know that they can get away. There is no fear of wrongdoing. In general, the Indian society’s treatment of women is fundamentally flawed. We are living in the dark ages where the macho man is the ruler and the woman an object – to be possessed, controlled and used at will. This attitude has to change.
The problem is that we have learnt to tolerate everything. That is why there’s nothing like an Arab uprising in India. Protests happened against corruption, protests keep happening about crimes against women. There will be a period of time when the whole country’s attention will be focused on these issues. The media will engage in constant debate, but there will be no effort to come together and resolve the issue. After a while, life will move on. We have lived too long in a society that does not punish the guilty and we have learnt to live with it. We see so much corruption around us that we have accepted it as part of our lives. We are constantly faced with so much indiscipline and rowdy behaviour that we give up trying to correct it. This is where we go wrong. Yes the government must act, yes the judiciary must be efficient and justice must be delivered timely, but our role is to protest. Our role is to stop accepting this decadence, to loudly raise our voice against every injustice that we see around us.
“You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”
—Marian Wright Edelman
Mahatma Gandhi had said, “Be the change you want to see.” Let us start the change within ourselves, within our homes, our offices and the environment around us. A crusade needn’t be out on the streets, you don’t need media and publicity. You need an iron will to make that change and an acceptance that we’ve simply had enough.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”
– Elie Wiesel
(The writer is CEO of KPMG India)