Jug Suraiya, one of the Top Editors at my newspaper, has a wonderful way of highlighting really disturbing issues in a humorous manner - I was particularly moved by this post of his, so i re-blog it here.
Your local government school has no teachers, textbooks or even a blackboard? No problem. Send your children to a private school. No sarkari hospital or even basic health centre where you live? So go to a private hospital or clinic. No electricity or municipal water in your house? Buy a generator and send for a water tanker.
Step by step, the Indian state has been giving up its most basic duties and obligations to its citizens and leaving them no option but to fend for themselves: you either pay a private agency for a service which by rights the sarkar should provide, or you learn to live without it.
The latest service which is the fundamental duty of the state to provide and which it seems to be handing over to those who can afford to pay for it is law and order.
The Supreme Court has questioned the government's agreement to provide a Z-class category security cover of 33 Central Reserve Police Force personnel to Mukesh Ambani and his family for the payment of 15 lakh a month. "If you provide security (to the common man instead), five- and six-year-olds will not be raped," Justice G S Singhvi said, referring to the horrifying case of a child who has been sexually violated and mutilated in a public toilet in Delhi at about the same time as a CRPF contingent was preparing to move into Antilia, the Ambani's super high-rise home in Mumbai.
While the court's obvious distress about this state of affairs is laudable, it is also belated. Politically-connected individuals – including many who have officially retired or withdrawn from public life, and who face no obvious threat from terrorists or other criminals – have long and routinely been given state protection while the so-called 'common citizen' – for whose benefit and behalf the state is supposed to exist, to begin with – is left helpless.The anomaly – of the state protecting itself and its own representatives, such as politicians and officials, while leaving ordinary citizens dangerously vulnerable – was brought tragically to the forefront by the lethal gang rape of the young woman that the TOI named Nirbhaya. Had police surveillance and protection in Delhi been more equitably distributed between so-called VVIPs and the common folk – the aam admi, or the 'mango people' as one such VVIP disdainfully called them – Nirbhaya might well have been safe and alive today.
The first duty of a state, any state, to its citizens is that of protection. The state is Hobbes's 'Leviathan', to which individuals submit their freedom in return for security from the lawlessness and disorder of nature where life is 'nasty, brutish and short'. A state which, by implication, tells its citizens to protect themselves as best as they can because it can no longer ensure their safety – unless they are rich enough, or have enough political clout, to pay for it, one way or another – ceases to have the right to call itself a legitimate state.
It is often said that there are two Indias: the India of the haves and that of the have-nots. Similarly, we have those who are clearly above the law, which they treat as any other purchasable commodity. And there are those who remain below the law, a luxury which they cannot afford to buy.