The TV interview of the companion of the rape victim, who died in Singapore, doesn’t cover the city or its citizens or its police force with glory. As per press reports, he said: “We didn’t have clothes, we were not able to stand and there were people passing by... They could have taken us to hospital, given us clothes in that crucial one and a half hours. For a dying person, every minute is important,” he said, adding that even when the police finally took them to hospital, “no one even brought us a blanket”.
He also contended that the police had delayed taking them to hospital. “Three PCR vans fought over which police station had jurisdiction, which delayed our admission to hospital,” he said.
“At the hospital, we had to wait and I had to literally beg for clothes. I managed to borrow a mobile from someone to call my family,” said the friend, who is the only witness to the horrific assault on the woman.
Take, first, the metropolis of India.
Delhi is notorious for being a cold city. No, I’m not referring to its current bone-numbingly chilly weather. It is really cold in terms of relationships and fellow-feelings. You’ll understand me if you’ve ever lived in Kolkata, compared to which it is a soulless city. (Remember Dominique Lapierre and his novel City of Joy dealing with the rural farmer, Hasari Pal and his search for a better life.) India’s metropolis has a stand-and-stare-but-stir-not culture if you’re in need of help. Ask any accident victim or a stranger.
Delhi Police is not only curt and gruff but can be positively hostile in dealing with citizens in distress. The country’s police force was created by the British to strike terror among the ruled, perpetuate the raj and create a class of most obedient servants. In the post-Independence period, they have, basically, continued with the same outlook. The public perception is – and there’re good reasons for it – that the two main functions of the force, today, are VIP protection and hafta collection and, if there’s still some time left, do whatever possible to throw their weight around. Your first reaction on sighting a policeman is to avoid the creature as for as possible.
What, citizens have started asking, should be the key function of police force. It’s to preserve and protect the constitution and community by enforcing the law and protecting an individual's rights that are constitutionally protected. Befittingly indeed, the Irish police, for instance, are called the Garda Síochána ("guardians of the peace"); a police officer is called a garda (guardian). In a typical French village (I’ve once lived in one) people drop in the Gare de Gendamarie (what we call a thana) for an evening chat and drink. You know what treatment awaits you if and when you enter a police chowki of a thana.
The key to effective policing, said Sir Robert Peel, the legendary creator of London’s metropolitan force in 1829, is that “the police are the people and the people are the police.” According to him, the bedrock of good policing is getting out in the community, dealing with the daily issues that concern people, earning their respect and co-operation in preventing crime. The dramatic reduction in crime in New York in the 1990s, for instance was by implementing the Peelian principles.
Some day when we address ourselves to the task of re-structuring our society and its institutions, we would have to re-organize our police force and its present colonial style functioning. At present, the service is, in its functioning and performance, just the opposite of what it should be.
Next, why don’t citizens come forward in case of accidents to help the victims? Our hopelessly dated criminal-legal procedure makes people reluctant to offer help. They are worried that they would be harassed by the police, would be repeatedly asked to visit the police station and the courts. Hence, they avoid getting involved.
Every now and then the above issues get highlighted but the ground reality continues unchanged.
Time to Say Goodbye
You must have, like me, wondered of late what on earth fiscal cliff is and what, in God’s name, does YOLO mean? By excessive over-use certain words and phrases tend to get on your nerves. Yes, both literally and figuratively. Good that Michigan's Lake Superior State University prepares every year a recommendatory list of words to be banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.
They have recommended that in the year 2013 of our Lord’s Grace, the following words and phrases should be banished from vocabulary: fiscal cliff, guru, double down, job creation, bucket list, trending, super food, boneless wings and idioms like kick the can down the road. And of course YOLO which, by the way, stands for You Only Live Once. It’s an acronym frequently seen on Twitter and used by that God-damned internet tribe called texters.
The word guru is invariably prefixed to a management counsellor or a specialist in some area. Peter Drucker who contributed perhaps the most to our understanding of modern management, famously said that the person who used the term management guru for the first time wanted, in fact, to say management charlatan but instead, used the term guru because he wasn’t too sure of the spelling of charlatan.
The top entry 'fiscal cliff', which had the most nominations, is a timely phrase that has dominated political discourse in US as Republicans and Democrats negotiated into the eleventh hour in hopes of avoiding a financial catastrophe. God save America and us too who depend on the stability of the dollar.
Rahul Baba’s Silence
The one question exercising every Delhite in the last few weeks was ‘Where is Rahul Baba?’ There have been such ghastly developments and he hasn’t breathed a word. Such tight-lipped stance is unbecoming of the heir-apparent. Won’t his carping critics – and there’s no dearth of them – construe his silence as callous unconcern with what happens around us.
Or has mummyji told him to keep his mouth shut lest the enemy camp misinterprets whatever he says. I hear she is deeply concerned with the spreading foot-in-the-mouth disease that has assumed epidemic proportions the Party. So, she herself missed her sleep and in the dread of the night ventured out, braving Delhi’s bitter cold, along with Manmohan Singh to receive the dead body of the 23-year-old paramedical student when it was flown black from Singapore.
Whatever the explanation, Rahul Baba’s silence – just a brief message of condolence – doesn’t show him in favorable light. Maybe his latest PR advisers have different notions of what’s important and what’s not or what mummyji should handle and where he should stick his oft-bruised neck out.
Meanwhile, some loyalists of the Party have been wondering where their neta is. I’ve seen posters asking:
Where’s Rahul Gandhi?
There was earlier a school of thought that believed in leadership theorem of ‘lead from the front’. Some experts now advocate it’s better to lead from behind. That’s what Rahul Baba is seems to be doing.
Slippery Uncle Sam
We are, come to think of it, an excessively emotional people. Our attachments are deep-rooted and we treat human interactions as sacrosanct. But the tragedy is we transpose this trait in the ever-changing, highly volatile area of foreign policy where yesterday’s friend may be today’s sworn enemy and today’s adversary, tomorrow’s bosom pal.
Take a simple example. Recall President George Bush came on a three-day State visit to India in March 2006. We bent backwards to welcome him, thinking it to be the beginning of an ever-lasting new era of Indo-US friendship. His focus was simple, namely, to seal the nuclear deal to promote American exports. Deal done, the party’s over; thinks Uncle Sam. But we like fools continue nursing deep bonds.
Today, the US needs Pakistan, and not India, to extricate itself from Afghanistan. So, the State Department has no concern for Indian sensitivities over granting immunity from the civil suit to two former ISI chiefs (comfortably settled in USA) in on-going cases against the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 26, 2008.
Most American friendships are, like marriage of convenience, notoriously short-lived.
Public Service Journalism
You must have wondered at times if public service journalism can survive in these times and in this age. Yes, it can. And also play with good luck a formidably powerful role.
If you want a proof, here is it. There is a small bimonthly American news magazine called Mother Jones. It started publishing in 1976 and was named after a trade unionist and opponent of child labor. It is still around, dedicated to unfashionable causes and undercover investigations.
And – now hold your breath – it made Mitt Romney lose the Republican bid for Presidency. How? You wonder. It was Mother Jones which reported the scoop of Romney’s secretly recorded telling reporters that 47 per cent of the country was “dependent” on Obama. And that indiscretion was Romney’s undoing.
Secret of Healthy Aging
New Scientist tells us “Japan leads the way in healthy aging.” Life expectancy at 82.6 years is enviable indeed. It’s not just the life span but healthy life expectancy too. So what’s their secret? A University of Tokyo team made a study and found availability of antihypertensive medicines and reduced salt consumption appear to have played a role.