There are disturbing reports coming in every day of poor people killing their children and themselves. Although the acts are triggered often by a fight between the parents, the deeper reason is very probably the unrelenting pressure of hopeless poverty. With the near collapse of the joint family support system even in the rural areas, people just give up, many of them choosing not to leave their children behind in this world to face the consequences of their parents’ actions. And, it must be noted, that poor families have a larger number of children.
The problem has a much wider fallout on society than just the tragedy inflicted on a particular family. It changes the standards by which people live and is symptomatic of a larger malaise. There can be no doubt that the yearlong Covid-19 pandemic and its economic, as well as social, consequences have a lot to do with this increased hopelessness. Society and the State are failing to deal with the situation at the grassroots level. It also indicates a general lack of empathy within communities resulting from reduced social interaction. The inability, for instance, to participate in the numerous festivals that strengthened human bonding has created a situation of every person for themselves. The closure of schools and the inability to access midday meals must also have had a seriously adverse impact on quality of life.
People have withdrawn into themselves and even those who would want to make a difference are overwhelmed by the enormousness of the problem. Even if they have the means to make a difference, they do not know how – it is not part of the social training. The helplessness with which bystanders react to incidents such as accidents or criminal acts is an example of this. All they can do is to record it on their cellphones.
What is required is social leadership as apart from the political. Ordinary people should set an example of humane behaviour in their everyday lives that not just provides hope to others, but also establishes a support base from among the community for the marginalised. Traditionally, a major role was played by leaders and members of religious sects. The spirit of sewa, sadly, is not so evident anymore. Where it exists, it is focused on mega projects rather than the everyday service required. Too often it comes with a rider, such as conversion. Genuine solutions are needed as the silent massacre of the hopeless is only going to display a continuously rising graph.