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Dangerous Neglect


One of the reasons why certain activities go unnoticed by the Government and Administration is that these are ‘invisible’ also to society in general. This is why officials can ignore the activities, as there is no pressure on them to take corrective action. Take, for instance, parents who ferry little children, some as young as two years old, on scooters and motorcycles through already dangerous traffic. It is a recipe for disaster and very definitely illegal, but it is considered ‘normal’ by everybody. Occasionally, the most horrific accidents take place, but the focus is never on the original mistake – the blame is cast on those driving the bigger vehicle. In more developed countries, it would lead to parents being locked up for a long time for reckless endangerment of the child.

It is the same with the sale of illicit liquor, prostitution and human-trafficking, encroachment on public property, substance abuse, littering, etc. They are a part of the social environment but have been around for so long and are so deeply rooted that efforts of government to weed them out do not suffice. It is only when they become unacceptable to society in general that effective action will become possible. The deaths that regularly occur because of poisonous hooch indicate the widespread use of this intoxicant in the lowest strata of society, to the extent that it is an unremarkable practice for the people belonging to it. When things go wrong, it is only natural that they do so in a big way.

Society will not progress through just big bang measures – the change also has to be incremental. This is why Prime Minister Modi, in his effort to turn things around, has not just focused on mega projects and policy transformation, but has also emphasised social objectives such as building toilets to end open defecation, Swachh Bharat to manage waste, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, etc., because these are just as necessary. Anybody truly wanting change would adopt such an approach. It is important, therefore, for state governments to also work on generating awareness in society against the ‘invisible’ and the seemingly ‘normal’. This should also not become hostage to ideologies and vested interests. The battle against hooch should not be confused, for instance, with the demand for prohibition. It is in trying to achieve some out-of-reach larger objective that the immediate and the more doable are often neglected.