Social media has been flooded with memes, frustration and ridicule over pictures of election campaigns and the Kumbh Mela.
Questions are being asked but none have been satisfactorily answered. At a time like this, when the country is in crisis, why do people continue to be blissfully unaware of the rational path of action? I blame the people at the top, the government.
Let me demonstrate why.
There has always been a silent debate on religion vs rationality raging in the country. Often, the argument on rationality may be superior but it can be blindsided, especially in India, where religion is revered.
This instance of the Kumbh Mela is not the first time people picked religion over logic.
When India was tackling the bubonic plague, the British wanted to exterminate the rats that caused it. However, they faced severe opposition because the rat was Lord Ganesha’s transport. Today, even 80 years after the plague, with much higher literacy rates and scientific development, we continue to see this happen.
But why is this so? Let’s look at another instance before I answer that.
Moving on to something that the citizens are equally passionate about, elections, we see the same thing happening with them.
Thousands of people have gathered, violating Covid protocols such as wearing masks and social distancing, to cheer for their favourite political leader.
The irony is that a politician promises the welfare of his people but has not been bothered by the fact that simply holding such a gathering jeopardises their welfare. This is when double-faced priorities of political parties become visible to those who are willing to look.
People are influenced by power
The two incidents enumerated above — dealing with religion and politics — operate on the same underlying phenomenon.
People look up to others, to help them and to guide them. Their dependence on influential people is so high that they often imitate or listen to what people in power have to say. Usually, without any rational thought.
As a result, a lot of power lies with the political and religious leaders.
The only way to tackle this is good, responsible and purposeful leadership.
As a citizen of the country, here’s what I would expect my government to do, to keep me safe and sane:
Acknowledge the reality
People need to be aware of the reality as it is, and not how the government wants us to see it. If the government tries to fudge numbers, the truth often comes out through other channels and that ultimately reduces trust.
Illiterate people are the most vulnerable to fall for what the government says. And this makes it more important for our leadership to be completely transparent to its people. It also helps to communicate the rationale behind decisions being made, so that people are aware that they are for their welfare.
When in crisis, leave aside animosity and fight together
What the youth sees in the media is governments blaming other governments for mistakes and mismanagement.
In an ideal scenario, we would see them working together to take on the crisis head on. Unfortunately, the politics in the country is so elevated that every activity pursued is either to show one as superior or put down another as inferior.
United we stand, divided we fall cannot be emphasised more in such times.
The same rules apply to all — no exceptions
When citizens are fined for not wearing masks in public spaces, but they view a gathering where no one, including politicians are not following protocol, what impression does that make in one’s head, what is the message that goes out?
Whatever the case, it is a complete disgrace to the leadership because it either propagates lies or immense superiority, both of which are dangerous. Everyone should follow the same protocols and should be penalised similarly.
While I agree that the government cannot keep track of the every citizen that makes up the 1.4 billion population, the way it lead can change how people behave, quite significantly.
When the leaders choose to ignore rationality is when we know that the country is not in good hands. Is it time to ensure that we have highly educated and accomplished people at the top? A question for another day. Stay safe in the meantime.
Shreya Vishwanath is a student of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai (Autonomous)
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