The world has witnessed several tragedies over the last few weeks. In India too these stories have hit the headlines with tremendous outpouring of grief, anger and anxiety. After the Peshawar school attack, I heard many news channels describing it as a dark day for humanity. Indeed, it was a dark day. But I wonder how it was different from any other day. Considering the range and scale of atrocities committed by human beings on a daily basis, I believe every day is a dark day.
Each of these tragedies has touched our lives in different ways. The cold blooded murder of 132 children in Peshawar was heart-wrenching to say the least but it also raises a question about why we don't speak out equally strongly against brutalities that children are subjected to on a daily basis. In India, 58,224 crimes were reported against children during 2013 including kidnapping, rape, murder and "procurement" of minor girls. Crimes against children saw a 52.5% increase in 2013 over the previous year. It is estimated that over 200,000 Nepalese girl children are working as prostitutes in India. Approximately 1,500 children are smuggled from India to Saudi Arabia every year during Hajj for begging. Many more children are trafficked between states within India several of whom end up working as domestic help under the most deplorable conditions. Why does their relentless suffering not anger us? Why does it need Kailash Satyarthi to win the Nobel Prize for us to realise that child abuse is a significant enough problem?
Women's safety is another issue that has been in the headlines regularly since the December 16, 2012 rape case. So when the Uber incident happened in Delhi just a few days before the second anniversary of the Nirbhaya episode, naturally there was tremendous anger and anguish expressed by all sections of society. However, why do we forget that in 2013 over 300,000 Indian women were victims of violent crime including rape, molestation and murder?
In fact, on the day of the Uber rape, another 848 women in India were tortured, raped or killed. Why did we not protest against each one of those crimes? Perhaps if we had we might have been able to catalyse real change between December 16, 2012 and December 5, 2014.
Similarly, there has been considerable discussion about the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa which has claimed the lives of nearly 7,000 people. In fact, India's preparedness or lack thereof to handle a potential outbreak of the disease has been intensely debated. However, to put things in perspective, it is worth mentioning that one person dies from tuberculosis every minute in India. Despite being home to 60 billionaires, 3,000 Indian children die every day because they simply do not have adequate food to eat. Why are these deaths not as newsworthy as the recent Ebola ones? Why do we not talk as much about India's response to tuberculosis, a disease which is nothing short of a ticking time bomb? Why do we allow our government, private sector and high net worth individuals to get away with negligence and indifference?
One life is not more or less important than another. A rape is a rape. A murder is a murder. A life lost to tuberculosis is just as bad as one lost to Ebola. Do we know how many animals are abused in our country on a daily basis? The milk in our glass and the meat on our plate comes after considerable torture has been inflicted on countless living beings. How many of us care enough to take a stand against that? Let us speak out against every single act of brutality, abuse and negligence committed by fellow human beings. Let us not be selective in our outrage.
Also, if we are truly affected by an issue--be it children's welfare, women's safety or public health--let us make the effort to be better informed and do our bit to make a difference. It is no good expressing outrage and simply passing the buck to the government or others to address our problems. After all, we are part of the same society. It is as much our obligation to correct the various wrongs we see happening around us on a daily basis.
Let us not underestimate our power as individuals. Every step we take makes a difference be it sponsoring the education of an abused child or funding the treatment of a tuberculosis patient. After all as Margaret Mead put it:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.