Thorns of despair amid hope, optimism!

By Vijay Darda | 03-01-2022

I am filled with expectations, aspirations and ambitions but how do I welcome the New Year?

Vijay Darda

I had cherished so many dreams about the New Year while going to bed on the last night of the year gone by. At the stroke of midnight, I too welcomed the year 2022. I celebrated the occasion with traditional gaiety. I performed pooja in the small ‘Sarvadharma Samabhava’ temple in my house. I prayed for my own happiness, the happiness of my family, the well-being of relatives and friends, the prosperity of the Lokmat family, as well as the prosperity of the country and the world. I retired with the wish to be illuminated in the new rays of the New Year!

Little did I know that when I wake up in the morning, a tragic news will greet me. Braving severe cold, the devotees had reached the temple of Mata Vaishno Devi to fulfil their wishes of happiness, prosperity and good health in life. But the inevitable happened. As the new year eve progressed past midnight, it brought with it a sudden stampede much before the break of dawn. 12 devotees were trampled to death, many others were injured and dreams were shattered..! This is not the first incident wherein innocent devotees lost their lives to a stampede at a religious place. Last year on April 21, seven people lost their lives due to stampede at Karuppasamy temple in Tamil Nadu. In 2011, 106 people were killed and over 100 injured in a stampede at the Sabarimala temple. On August 3, 2008, 145 people lost their lives in a stampede at Naina Devi Temple in Himachal Pradesh, while 120 people died at Chamunda Devi Temple in Jodhpur. In 2005, a stampede at the Mandhara Devi temple in Satara district of Maharashtra killed 350 people. These are some of the examples. Such incidents have happened in every state.

The moot question is who is responsible for such tragedies? Tragedies do not happen suddenly. Our country rests on faith. It is a country of spiritual devotion. Here there is devotion to God, there is faith and there is superstition too. The administration knows that people will come in large numbers, and there will be a craving for early darshan and veneration. In such a situation, is it not the responsibility of the administration to plan meticulously? How come people get trampled to death year after year? Senior bureaucrats are heading the shrines like Vaishno Devi temple. When people went up the holy hill after buying a ticket, how did the crowd swell so much that it caused the stampede? Somebody has to take responsibility. People will behave in their own way. Chaotic behaviour is one of their traits. In fact, the life of the people hangs between governance and misgovernance at such places.

As we pick up the newspaper every morning, news of one tragic incident or the other greet us! Sometimes it feels like the lockdown was good! Imagine the excitement and joy among the people returning after attending a wedding ceremony, but a road accident turns them all into dead bodies! I agree that all this cannot change overnight. We all know how a licence to drive vehicles is issued. There is no discipline among the people while walking along the road. It is not taught how to walk on the road and how to make way for other vehicles. There is really no civic sense at all! Many youths drive two-wheelers on the road in a dangerous way, without any control on speed and brake. Many of them pay for this rashness with their lives! Is it not avoidable? It will take 10 to 20 years for the people to learn how to walk carefully, but by then lakhs of lives would be lost. That is why the system has to be improved.

On the first morning of the New Year, good news appeared that while learning from the pandemic, the government has decided to strengthen the health infrastructure. There was another news that more than 150 new medical colleges would be set up. Efforts will be made to overcome the paucity of doctors. It is a welcome development. But we should also think as to why several doctors have turned commercial? When I talk to good and very sensitive doctors dedicated to the service, they say that as long as the seats are sold, the situation will not improve. When people spend crores of rupees to become doctors, buy machines worth crores of rupees, how do you expect them to be sensitive! Does the government not know that medical seats are sold? After all, even the people sitting in the government get elected from among the common people. In fact, there is an urgent need to increase the seats to train doctors, prepare different courses from two to five years according to the need, and it is then that the country will have more doctors. This is the age of technology and if technology is used on a large scale, the situation can be changed quickly. Patients can get relief from the loot. What is needed is determination, better policies and timely implementation at the government level.

And yes, do not forget that even today 30 to 40 per cent of the people in this country can not get two square meals a day. There is no home to live in and not enough clothes to wear. On one hand, the number of those making it to Forbes list is on the rise but on the other, the size of the middle class is expanding and the lower class is still living in slums. People are forced to spend their life in hellish conditions. Their living conditions need to be improved.

And what a great irony it is that on one hand the government is telling people that not more than 50 people should attend the wedding, not more than 20 people should attend the funeral, people should wear masks and maintain physical distance, and on the other, 10,000 or 20,000 people are attending the wedding in the family of an MLA! Omicron is knocking at our doors and the election rallies of leaders are witnessing gathering of lakhs of supporters! People are neither wearing masks nor maintaining physical distance!

How do I welcome the New Year in these circumstances?

However, here is a poem for you. Whoever has written it, has given great hope to humankind. We nurse the same hope as the poet:

Naye saal ka naya savera,
Jab ambar se dharti par utare,
Tab shanti prem ki pankhudiyan,
Dharti ke kan kan par bikharen.
Chidiyon ke kalrav gaan ke sang,
Maanavta ki shuru kahani ho.
Fir na kisi ka lahu bahe,
Na kisi aankh mein pani ho,
Shabnam ki satrangi bunde,
Barse ghar ghar dwaar,
Mite garibi bhukhmari.
Nafrat ki diwaar.
Thandi thandi pawan khol de,
Samrasta ke dwaar,
Satya ahimsa aur prem,
Sikhe sara sansaar.
Suraj ki urja mein kirnon,
Antarman kaa tam har lein,
Nai soch ke navprabhaat se,
Ghar ghar mangal deep jale

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Vaishno Devi temple stampede, rash driving, no disciplines driving, 30 to 40 percent people not getting enough food, home and cloths, people not following covid rules so how can we welcome new year in this cirmustances?


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