Even as Uttarakhand has concentrated on progress in certain sectors, there has been some disregard for the socio-cultural aspects. This has been the result of complacency as regards inculcation and development of a social value system. Not enough notice has been taken of the many new influences that society is under, particularly in the age of social media. A materialistic and ego-centric creed is promoted over the internet that has overcome the traditional ethical system that Uttarakhand was so proud of.
The impact of this is being experienced by the state now in full measure and requires correction by civil society most urgently. Be it the widespread disregard for integrity in the performance of duties – by those in the highest constitutional positions, those organising examinations for government posts, or those in positions of power over women – all the norms have been thrown out the window. And while it is the tendency among some to blame ‘outsiders’ for the decline in conditions, most incidents reveal that, in too many cases, the ‘locals’ are the transgressors.
Now that the reality stares society starkly in the face, it is about time that a response is launched at multiple levels. It should not just be about a swift response after a criminal act, there need to be measures in place to prevent them from happening in the first place. And this does not mean, as some have suggested after the tragic Ankita murder, that women should not be working for resorts, or that there should not be any resorts at all in remote locations. Such things would eventually result in women being denied almost all equal employment rights ‘for their own safety’.
While the government and the system have their role to play, it is also the duty of every individual citizen to not just set an example for others, particularly the young, of virtuous behaviour, but also to proactively create conditions in their spheres of influence that do not allow breaking of the law. This may just mean speaking out against someone throwing plastic on the roads or being inconsiderate in behaviour towards others. Such individual initiatives would establish a standard that would make it easy to spot, well in time, any nascent anti-social activity. As a society, we failed Ankita. Ideally, because of our efforts, it should not happen again.