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The Insensitivity of the Red Beconeers

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We, the Citizens

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

Yes Beconeers is a new word. It refers to those people who have low self esteem and need to have their egos massaged to give them a false sense of worth. We got an insight into their motivations when we visited the town of Motihari in Bihar. There we were taken to a large area treated as a heritage property. It had a few conserved buildings, and a large, ruined, warehouse. Here, the British Agent of the East India Company stored opium bought from local farmers.

Famous author George Orwell was born here: his father was the manager of this opium collection centre.

We believe that the sensitive George was deeply hurt by the tremendous injustice of this drug trade and it was this emotion that drove him to write his famous book Animal Farm. There he describes a world in which pigs have taken control of their farm, revolting against their exploitation by their human masters. The new porcine masters proclaim, pompously, that All Animals are Equal.

This clarion call has motivated all great revolutions: the French, the Russian and the Chinese. But then what happened?

In Orwell’s perceptive book, the pigs realised that equality with the other animals was not enough. After all, as leaders, they were entitled to more. So they added to their original slogan. It now became All Animals are Equal but some are more Equal than Others!

That, ominously, is exactly what is happening around the world, and in our country. We remember the time when Pandit Nehru rode around Mussoorie on a white stallion from Harnam Singh Stables. No Black Cats, no security alerts, no sanitising the Mall. Incidentally, is every voter unsanitary? And if this is so, then is the entire voting process unhygienic and awaiting sterilisation? If red beacons need bodyguards because of a threat assessment, then that perception is based on a deep grievance held by someone against that neta. How then does this vanish when the neta is voted out of office?  We have all seen various CMs being ringed by gun-toting security personnel. But then, when that neta is voted out of office, how does the threat vanish? It should increase. If red-light toting netas were billed for their security cordon, then threat perceptions would diminish dramatically! The money saved could then be used to provide protection for the common citizen who pays for it in the first place!

Finally, we have had the world’s tallest statue erected to honour Sardar Vallahbhai Patel. But did we build this to remember the great unifying effort of the Sardar? His contribution to the unity of India is the abolition of a privileged class. Then why have we gone about creating the hyper-privileged Red Beconeers and their arrogantly insensitive traffic privileges?

When a Red Beconeer stalls traffic to meet his political guru, so that he can get a ticket, is he aware of the death and misery his ego-boosting might have caused? An injured child being rushed to hospital in a car could have died waiting for emergency treatment. An aged grandmother could have breathed her last because her supply of oxygen ran out. An expectant mother with pregnancy complications could have screamed her last agonised shriek and so could her undelivered twin babes in her womb.

We hold no brief for the couple who felt entitled to clear a sports stadium so that they could walk their dog. They have been dealt with swiftly. But if you, as a neta, are pointing a finger at them, look at your accusing hand: don’t three of your own fingers point back to you? And here is our final question. No democratic country gives its politicians such unfettered traffic privileges, but dictatorships do. As H G Wells might have framed the question, Is This the Shape of Things to Come?

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)