Diwali, as most of us are aware, was a week ago, give or take a few days. My Facebook Newsfeed was filled to the point of overflowing by Diwali posts. Some people attempting to wish their friends happiness on the auspicious occasion, but most of them warning us all against the exploitation of persons from the lower economic strata that is, if one were to go by these status updates, only rampant during the festive season.
Environmental pollution caused by fire crackers, and child labour is the most discussed topic at family dinners, parties, and just about everywhere during Diwali, along with; of course, Rita Aunty’s yet another granddaughter’s birth and Sharma Uncle’s extravagantly wild parties.
The souls of activists past celebrate during this auspicious time as well since there seems to be no shortage of people who stand up for the down trodden. Charming, is it not?
But like all good things come to an end, Diwali comes and goes, just like the sudden increase and decrease in the number of active citizens, or, as I would like to call them lovingly, the Diwali Activists. As the festivities draws to a close and people prepare to return to their respective places of work, the problems we face of pollution and child labour are easily forgotten with the last sparkler that was lit, and is cast away like the empty container of a “flower pot”. They would resume their fight against environmental problems next year. The Ozone layer, even though it has a hole it in, is still intact. Let us worry about it when it no longer exists. The children who are forced into child labour could, if they survived, count on the citizens of our nation to fight for them next Diwali. A year is not too far away! Just 365 days, give or take (Diwali is celebrated according to the Hindu calendar, and therefore, has no fixed date.)
Now, let me share some statistics with you. Numbers make things more fun, I’ve noticed. Although we do not have official and reliable numbers, it is estimated that 20-65 million Indians are affected by human trafficking. Most of them being women and girls who are forced into commercial sexual exploitation, but that is a topic of discussion for another day. In the years 2009-2010, a nationwide survey established that about 4.98 million children between the ages of 5-14 were engaged in child labour. Outdated statistics show that a considerable number of these children are employed for hazardous jobs. Shall we discuss the fate of children who go missing? Official numbers, as released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, states that around 1.2 lakh children arrive, unaccompanied at railway stations every year. About 68,869 out of the official 1.35 lakh children who went missing in 2013 are girls. 15 children go missing every hour in India. Do not be fooled by these official numbers. The cases are, like all other crimes, grossly under-reported.
Air pollution, among other forms of pollution in India is, this may come as a surprise, an all-year occurrence. Fuel wood and biomass burning, fuel adulteration, vehicle emission and traffic congestion being some of the few minor contributors, while large scale crop residue burning in agriculture fields in autumn and winter months being the major contributor. A fun fact- India produces the third largest amounts of green house gases only being shadowed by the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America.
Sadly, the activists, this country so badly needs, come out only during a particular time of the year. We wake up to the misery and suffering of innocent lives, affected both by human trafficking and climate change, only on Diwali.
Did someone say something about our country being the world’s largest democracy?
The title, this title of the World’s Largest Democracy, is a humorous one. Democracy cannot function in a country where so much injustice prevails. It will not function in a country where her citizens take up arms to fight this seemingly endless oppression of the marginalised only for a day. It does not function in a country where even the basic Right to Live is denied by the suffocating fumes of exhaust piles. What we have today is a mere façade of democracy and it will remain so until we win the battle against the plague of suppression that haunts our nation.
I wonder if talking about these few of the many issues that grips India at family Diwali lunches is just a conversation starter or a sort of fashionable trend. It irritates me, these status updates. I’m not saying that all of these activists are phoney. Some of them are doing a commendable job and I bow to them for that. All I’m saying that most of the people, who care so much during Diwali, would not really bat an eyelid during the rest of the year.
It irks me, this hypocrisy.
I remember, back when I was in middle school, I was a part of an NGO called The Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness. I worked with them for two years. All through the year, the other kids would mock the members of this tiny group for going around the campus and cleaning up after them but during Diwali, they were sailing in the same boat as us! The dedication of the Diwali Activists is inspiring.
The Abused, the Down Trodden, the Exploited, the Suppressed, the Atmosphere, and the sorts, I apologise to you all! It truly does seem like this terrible plight is going to change every time Diwali comes around, but nothing happens. Elvis (in this case, the Diwali Activists) have left the building as soon as the sun rises the day after. You are left with a feeble voice to fend for you for yet another long year.
For these people, the darkness never seems to end, does it? Even the Gods we worship cannot end this obscurity; end this eclipse. The Gods, mind you, whose victory is supposed to be celebrated during this Festival of Lights. Ironic, is it not? How can they (the God) change anything when the people with means choose to be Diwali Activists? When updating their Facebook status on Diwali is the course of action they choose? I fail to understand how that is going to prevent the depletion of the Ozone layer or feed a starving child who’s childhood is at the mercy of their employer? I mean, seriously now?
Look at my Facebook newsfeed for today. Not a post about child labour or pollution. A week after Diwali and everyone has withdrawn into their tiny bubble of perfection; the evils already forgotten.
The numbers of the Diwali Activists is almost worrisome.
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