India gets richer, Indians more uncouth and more insensitive Rajesh Kalra, 31 May 2010, 05:20 PM IST

If you live in a rapidly urbanising India, especially in the North, and feel that things are getting from bad to worse as far as civility, sensitivity and respect for law is concerned, you are not alone. I go out cycling almost every morning, at the crack of dawn. The total lawlessness that has come to grip the society scares me. As early as 5 am, our cycling group notices people huddled around their cars, drinking outside eateries or liquor joints, fighting, arguing loudly, or simply passing lewd comments at the women riders in our group. The comments do not vary from a Mercedes or a Maruti Swift. They are uniformly distasteful. We often see police vehicles at these joints too, and they are certainly not there attending to an SOS call. Of course, these vends are not supposed to be open at that time is a different matter. It has reached such proportions that the group members are wary of riding alone, lest someone coming from the wrong side knocks him/her down, deliberately, and then speeds away, laughing. This feeling of being scared, and helpless, is gaining ground, rapidly. Several of you would remember the horrific accident that took place in Gurgaon, India’s millennium city, just five months ago on December 24, 2009. Forty seven year old Avinash Shah, driving his small car with his wife and daughter was hit by a businessman test driving a powerful new Audi. Avinash died instantly and his wife and daughter barely survived. The gent who rammed the big Audi into the small car, is out on bail. I am not about to get upset over that, for the antiquated law itself allows for that. I do get agitated, however, over the manner in which the whole thing has been handled. According to eye-witnesses, soon after ramming into Avinash’s car, this gent got out, made a few phone calls using his mobile, and got picked up by his own driver in his car and vanished. The police said they did not have his address for two days despite knowing that he was on a test drive and had deposited his driving license at the car showroom before taking the car out. Two days later, this gent reappeared, with a lawyer in toe and surrendered, only to be bailed out in a jiffy. And since then, things have proceeded exactly the way he has wanted, for he knows how to keep this giant, corrupt, machinery working, for him. Just an aside, when Avinash went on this ill-fated drive, he had left his 18 year old son behind for he was preparing for his 12th board exams. The results have just come out, and not only has this boy scored 95 per cent marks, but also made it to the Indian Institute of Technology. Pity, his father is not there to celebrate his son’s awesome achievements. A lot of people I spoke to about this boy’s performance say it is an inspirational story and his father’s loss motivated him to do so well. Perhaps, but believe me, having lost my parents in a car accident when I was 5, I am sure he wanted to make it this far, but with his dad around. Back to the accident and the businessman, the sense of helplessness that seems to possess each of us when it comes to such instances is extremely disquieting. Why is it that things are reaching such a pass? Sudden wealth, easy availability of ‘good things’ in life, general feeling that money can buy anything, or what else? Is it just a North Indian phenomenon or nationwide? Why it is that uncouth, uncivil and insensitive behaviour is all pervasive? Why is the society so willing to circumvent, indeed buy, law at will? Do you think the media is responsible having abdicated its responsibilities by concentrating on flashy things alone while bypassing the real issues that would positively impact the society? Whatever the answer to those questions is, the solution lies with us alone. We need to stop accepting being pushed around. An individual cannot take on those who mock at our law, but together we can do wonders. The choice is ours, whether to stare down the barrel of the gun as lawlessness gains ground faster than these guys drive their fast cars, or start coming together to challenge the perpetrators of these crimes. I have often heard the argument that our economy is growing rapidly and this is just a brief side effect of such growth. I would rather have a slower growth rate of economy, but a saner, civilised society to live in.

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