The irony of life and death

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The Bombay High Court has done well to focus attention on the plight of patients at Mumbai’s twin Wadia hospitals in Parel due to freeze of grants from the civic body, while the new Uddhav Thackeray government raises the cost of the B R Ambedkar memorial project at Dadar’s Indu Mills by Rs 300 crore to a whopping Rs 1,070 crore. That this hike in cost is accounted for by the Cabinet decision to increase the size of the icon’s statue by 100 feet to 350 feet is a sad commentary on governmental populism, ostensibly to win the hearts of the people. The implication of the government’s action is that while there is no money for the poor and middle class who cannot afford treatment at ‘star’ hospitals there is enough to raise the height of a statue so that it could compete with India’s first home minister Sardar Patel’s 597 feet statue in river Narmada in Gujarat. As Justice Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari said so succinctly, the same people Ambedkar represented all his life can die but scarce money must be spent on a statue of the messiah of the poor. What an irony and what level of hypocrisy! There is indeed no knowing whether the same government in Maharashtra or a subsequent government would not raise the height of the Ambedkar statue further to beat the height of Sardar Patel’s statue which is billed as the world’s tallest statue.

Leave aside the Gujarat example where the statue has been developed into a tourist spot where ticket money is raised from public, the kind of profligacy that the Maharashtra coalition has shown in pandering to vote banks is not an isolated case. In Karnataka, Cabinet positions were promised to all those legislators who ditched the erstwhile Congress-Janata Dal (S) coalition and defected to the BJP in a recent example. The gigantic statue of Sardar Patel that Narendra Modi has had built at a staggering cost of Rs.3500cr ($500 million dollars) is also said to have been inspired by the Lady Liberty. Modi’s ‘statue of unity’ at 182 metres is twice the size of the US icon (93 metres).However, unlike the most popular American icon celebrating the ideals of freedom and democracy and offering refuge to the poor, wretched and rejected lot of humanity, this monument is nothing but a celebration of Modi’s own vanity and an inflated vision of his legacy. Indeed, a number of things about the Patel statue just do not make any sense.

Likewise, huge sums of money are rumoured to be passed on to those legislators who cross sides in other states as well in classic examples of subversion of democracy. Slowly but surely, all pretences of propriety are being given up to satisfy the lust for power of elected representatives who pay lip service to serving the people selflessly. It is all this that is responsible for an erosion in the public faith in the current democratic process. As the masses grow more conscious, they will react. Unscrupulous politicians had better watch out.

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