The Apartheid Within

“Indians and Dogs are not allowed”. Imagine being meted out this inferior treatment in your own country, in your own land. After more than 60 years have passed since our forefathers fought nail and tooth for all this independence we revel in today. Yet there remains a systematically discriminatory framework which mocks their sacrifices in the most institutional of manners.

Indian Armed Forces. Here we are with questions that I seek answers to. And I am going to try and address the elephant in the room. From restaurants in Army cantonments to Hospitals for the veterans, I have seen that ‘Indians and dogs not allowed’ mentality hasn’t freed our minds even after Britishers left. These discriminatory practices mock fundamental rights in their face. Pardon me for my diminutive understanding of Indian Constitution, if I see it wrongly.

Let me give you little background to help you understand the situation better. My father joined the Indian Air Force in 1980s, after nearly 26 years of service he took voluntary retirement as a JWO, that is Junior Warrant Officer. Now some work structure of the Indian Army. Workforce is largely divided into 2 parts, that is Airmen and Officers (These days both are collectively called Air Warriors, which I understand is an effort to lessen the divide). Every Rank you gain, like every government service brings in better pay and better amenities. Thanks to the Colonial Era, Indian Military system had and still has two very distinct categories of soldiers whose living, eating and mingling with each other wasn’t really allowed. My understanding is that Officers consisted of British citizens and it was natural for them to not allow people from supposedly ‘lower’ ranks to mingle with them, and these were Indians if you didn’t guess it. JWO is a ‘lower’ rank as seen from that perspective.

Let me bring you to present with some incidences.

First one – My mom’s not well and we are at a Military hospital for Ex-servicemen. We all submit our smart-cards and wait for the doctor at OPD to call us up. Several senior citizens have been waiting for hours to have their turn. And thank lord, there is a priority entry for any senior citizen. As we all patiently wait, a man in his 40s walks smoothly to the smart-card counter, shows his card and gets an instant call into the doctor’s cabin. Yes, the same british-era perks are still present. You guessed it, Officers of the Indian Military forces. Why would you think a relatively young man will wait for lesser humans like Senior Citizens?

It broke my heart. People barely able to walk will have to keep waiting but someone with a higher rank will parachute into the doctor’s cabin. I always thought Hippocratic Oath was to treat patients equally and with utmost care. But there is no reason to blame the doctors and not even the army, when the whole system in place advocates for oppression.

Second one – Mom was operated and we are at Command Hospital, Pune. It’s vast and has public access. While Mom sleeps and recovers from anaesthesia administered to her we go to an on-site canteen. There are two doors to come inside. One is made of reflective cut glass, one is made of dull blue painted wood. As I take my seat on a table I realise there are two halves of the restaurant, one is where I am sitting, other is built on a step higher. I can read the board saying “Officers and Medical Students”. There is a waiter, but he wouldn’t come to your table, he does but only if you sitting on the other side. The ‘Higher’ side. The walls on the other side are well painted, my side is good just that the paint is tarnished. So is my soul. I suddenly realise how was it to be in British India or how was it in apartheid era South Africa, where you could have the money and means to travel first class but you were not worthy of it.

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The Higher Side

Am I dirty or filthy? Or is there a disturbance that my presence will set in your tranquil solitude? Isn’t that a place of public access where you are making compartments without a reasonable reason? Am I too little to sit near you? You have put a curtain between us, am I so perverse that you can’t look at me or I can’t look at you?

The same place, same menu, same price. And I face discrimination thanks to my dad’s rank. Or even if I was civilian, thanks to me being just a little human who can’t eat in the same place as an Officer’s family does.

It was tea-time. I went to a different canteen, once again in the hospital campus. For a moment I couldn’t see compartmentalization and that gave me hope that things are changing for better. And their it was, that beautiful curtain. Saving noble eyes from sight of us poor humans, with the board kindly announcing that I was not welcome. Telling me that you can pay the same price, you can be as good as you want to be, but we will never let you in.

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Curtains, because peasants are bad on the eyes

I can write incident 3 and 4 and then 5, I can talk hours on how this institutionalised discrimination belittles a man and his service for the nation by disallowing his family to have access to basic amenities. But I wouldn’t. It will again be the same rant with no conclusions. In my understanding, ranks should get you more payment and perks but one’s rank should not let his or her family being humiliated on places of public access. Ranks decide your pay, they cannot in any way create a lesser human and more human criteria in a constitutional democracy. Imagine going to a public park in a civil establishment, and not being allowed access to it if your Income Tax return wasn’t above a particular amount last year.
I am not blaming Officers or the Military. They are are just a cog in the wheel. They didn’t decide this, they didn’t do it. It was done long back by the British. It’s the system that needs to be reformed. For the sake that children and families don’t end up being humiliated for a practice that should have been long abolished. So that our senior citizens don’t have to wait longer for medicines. So we can kill this apartheid within.

And it’s not just another random rant, I am aggrieved and fed up from this years of humiliation. Writing a letter to Chiefs of military staffs and commands remains on my to-do list. Further, if it seems legally viable, a PIL to stop such practices.

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एक चाँद सी सड़क

जब भी उस पर से मोटर गाडी चलती,

गड्ढों में बारिश का पानी आंसू सा लगता,

कभी इस ओर कभी उस ओर छलकता

भूली बिसरी, यूँ ही रोती  बिलखती,

वो टूटी सड़क जो मुझे चाँद सी लगती |

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धड़-धड़ करती, टेढ़ी-मेढ़ी गिरती-पड़ती ,

वहां से गाड़ियाँ तोह खूब गुज़रती,

पर एक आम से शहर कि आम सी सड़क,

अब उसकी भी क्या गलती ?

वो टूटी सड़क जो मुझे चाँद सी लगती |

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खबर कुछ यूँ चली, बात यूँ फैली,

होने वाली थी एक वी-आई-पी  रैली,

मंत्री जी वहीं से गुजरने वाले थे ,

अब सड़क के अच्छे दिन आने थे,

वो टूटी सड़क जो मुझे चाँद सी लगती |

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सीधी सपाट सड़क पर ड्राईवर ने गाडी को भगाया

जनता ने सालों तक जिन धक्कों को खाया

मंत्री जी को लेकिन एक झटका न लगने पाया,

यह सोच कर मुस्कुराई,

वो टूटी सड़क जो मुझे चाँद सी लगती |

The Great Indian Change

Just the hands changed, the positions changed. We remained the same.

Who were on the road, protesting, now sit in thier plush cabins trying to justify what they do.

Who sat on the throne, now adorn the roads with placards and cries of injustice.

They both do the same things let it be the things done when they occupy the throne or when they race through the streets fighting police barriers.

What they criticised once is what they try to justify now after they have come to power.

What the others did themselves now seems injustice when done by the new ‘rulers’.

And

We sit here, voting for change, hoping for good. All we get is a change in names, names of those who rule us.

My Indian Political View

I am the kind of person who participates in national prime-time discussions everyday….
In my drawing room, in front of my TV. No one listens to me, I know.

I am just like any other aam-aadmi (mango-people), I morally hate corruption, I feel good when officials are caught red-handed…. But just like most of my country-men I too give bribe, to babus, peons, railway ticket checkers (because I don’t get reservations even after booking 60 days before).

Why I don’t join politics—
When you are just a citizen and not a politico, you don’t have any responsibility. Just say anything, walk anywhere and you don’t have to issue a manifesto which you are expected to abide by.
Its just like being a normal student in a school. All fun, no restrictions. Now when you are into politics or by some great luck get elected ( will tell you about the luck thing later), you are like the head student of the school (commonly called captain), you are not supposed to do fun stuff, roam around, and you are responsible for every student, you get scolded when something goes wrong at the campus. In simple words,” It’s too dirty to clean now”.

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Why one can’t win elections—
Yes, I’m a known pessimist, my words are full of discouragement, my thoughts are negative. But to answer my critics I say – “I don’t think negative, I just prepare for the worst”. When I was taught about politics and democracy in class 9th and 10th I had that idealistic picture in my mind that democracy is the best, we get to voice our views, we are free, we get to contest elections and fair elections. Then I grew up ( not much ), I saw today’s India, different from my idealistic India. Everything was different. The election process is not fair. Everyone knows this but no one does anything about it, that is the irony. Elections today are not won on promises and ideals they are won by buying votes, buying officials, tampering voting machines. It has become a show of ones economic prowess. A poor person can’t dream of becoming a leader.

Todays Scenario
We had a system where judicial, executive and legislative parts of the government were supposed to do their work and this was called the system of checks and balances. This checked the distribution of power. All three parts were equally responsible. Today, after more than 60 years of independence, legislative (political) part of government is the one which has taken over the system. Officials, judges all are under pressure from Netas. No neta is under pressure from them. Baabus are transferred on orders of ministers. Judges are selected by politicians. The most learned and genius minds like our IASs and IPSs are made to work like servants by them.

My Questions (unanswered)
Why people should join politics?? To serve the people… Right…
I wonder why there is so much competition for being a minister, more so of being a minister of a malaidaar department, why?? Ministers who have net worth of 2 crore rupees end up being worth 100 crores after five years of loot… no one questions them… why??? Officials and baabus who work with dignity, honestly and expose scams are transferred more than a normal corrupt employ…
they don’t get promotions, their juniors become their seniors, their life is ruined, they get death threats… Just because they are doing there job well?? Why?? Who is going to answer these questions???
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What Beni Prasad Verma Doesn’t know…

Yesterday, respected( only by congressmen) minister Mr. Beni Prasad Varma gave two great statements (great for media, as it gives them content for 8 PM ‘National’ discussions).
One was to say that SP Chief Mulayam Singh is “sathiya gaye hain”, I really could not understand what made some news channels say that they could not reveal what he said because it was not suitable for TV. Was it that offensive?, he did not curse anyone’s mother or sister.
But yes that was unparliamentary ( or parliamentary I should say).

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Beni Prasad Verma, the new economist

But the main matter of discussion is what he said next, he said he was happy that there was inflation, that the prices were rising, he said because the price rise was just limited to sugar, pulses, wheat , rice etc, he felt it means more profit for farmers.
Now what I feel,
Beniji was trying to make inflation into a cool topic, as if its not a big problem
I read he was once a kisaan ( farmers’s ) leader, so may be in an attempt to do this he tried to favour farmers too much, ( I’am not against farmers)
Now what about the meaning of his statement, this respected person thinks that the extra money that poor indian people are giving due to inflation is going straight to farmers.
But I request the news channels who scooped this matter and took advantage of this for one whole day, to go and ask poor farmers what do they get for a kg of wheat they sell and what is the price in retail. I bet it may not be 20 to 30% and that’s a shame, all the money that we pay in excess goes to the middlemen, and thats the truth of our economy. These are everywhere, they don’t do any work they are just in the system to increase prices and they take advantage of government’s poor procurement systems.
The thought that the our hard earned money is going for the benefit of poor farmers is totally wrong.
Next time watch your words Beniji. Because

The words once out from your mouth are like an arrow shot from a bow, both never come back

If you have anything good or bad, any appreciation or arguments please leave you valuable comment.