Monday, September 06, 2010

Food for Thought - Justice in a Rotten System

One only has to pay a casual visit to India's commercial capital, the City of Mumbai, to see what disparity lies in this land of great diversity. You find skyscrapers built over slums and you find footpath dwellers soaking in non-stop rains, overlooking tall and imposing structures housing corporate Head Quarters. It is a harsh irony that hits you hard - when millions starve below poverty line, there are thousands who showcase their flamboyance. That's life - and life is in display in all its colours in India.

While not much can be done by the political class that is handicapped by its desperation to survive and by the systemic flaws that grace the society, there is good news - the Supreme Court has, time and again, proven to be one sensitive and sensible institution that doesn't flinch from muscling its prowess and converting political inertia into action. But for the interference from the Supreme Court that pronounced its "Order" over media remarks of food grains rotting in the open, directing the Government to distribute the grains to the poor rather than letting them being fed to rats, the Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, would probably have been busy encashing his IPL links.

It is perplexing even to normal intelligence as to why it is that the Government hasn't provided for adequate storage of foodgrains, in a nation that prides on its agricultural produce. Have we been too busy laying highways and building IT parks to process outsourced orders, to earmark some resources to store the foodgrains that farmers struggle to produce? Would it be a sustainable system to have a section of the society reeling in exuberance while millions of poor go to sleep with stomach full of hunger? Is it fair for a Minister in-charge to label a Supreme Court directive as "impractical", when he has failed in his responsibility to make sure the hard-earned produce is at least, stored properly for distribution?

How is the order to be implemented? There are those who emphasise the impracticality of the solution, those who accuse the Court of playing the populist tune to the gallery. If the courts are to implement policy issues too, if courts are to chalk out plans of action as well, what are Governments there for? It's a question of putting the horse before the cart - deciding what needs to be done leads the way to the "How" part of the equation. We may never have a perfect solution - but there would be at least some headway in the right direction!

Life was never fair - nor would it ever be. It is only hope that would take us forward in this struggle to mitigate the relentless disparity between the towering surplus and the abysmal deficit - hope, that such few institutions as the Apex Court, have enough teeth to have its say over rotting foodgrains, and push the rotten system into action.

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