Patriotism, an unalloyed virtue of love for one’s country and nationalism, driven by the ideology of a sense of belonging to one’s country seems to be witnessing suffocation in the current dispensation of providing good governance to 135-plus crore people across the nation, identifying themselves with diverse badges of their multitude of lingo, faiths, ethnicity, economic status, affiliation to different loud-mouthed vote-seekers as their followers and what have you. The division of the land’s population has further got deepened, given its classification for purposes of privileges, particularly the all-too-familiar quota system, leaving the rest red-faced. The issue of liveability of the country, debated in formal circles and talked about informally by lay people, particularly the urban literati, influenced by pride on one side and prejudice on the other, has tended to assume the proverbial Gordian Knot proportions, requiring extraordinary powers of articulation to sustain the march of the nation towards economic prosperity not excluding the country’s last citizen.
The imperative of avoiding emotions in the matter of introducing measures that result in ease of living for everyone cannot be over-exaggerated. While law and order is getting out of hands for the administration, the gap between need and accessibility to safe water, pure air, decent shelter and health has tended to be yawning to unmanageable levels, even as the wily vote-seekers are having a field-day.
Atmospheric air, perceived as abundant, even infinite, seems to have suffered hurt in no less way than drinking water, now shrinking in supply, given the often publicised fact that none of the Indian cities has air quality matching the norms stipulated by World Health Organisation (WHO). The errors and hasty, unviable measures being taken by successive Governments in addressing the problem in respect of these two life-saving resources remind us of the romantic novel Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austin (1813) highlighting the difference between the superficial and the essential. India is said to account for 15 of the top 20 most polluted cities of the world. Further, 12 lakh Indians reportedly pay with their life annually due to breathing impure air, known to be hazardous.
Even as the country’s incumbent Government at the Centre has an ambitious five-year plan of providing dwellings for all, there are 18 lakh people living on footpaths and pavements, 20 lakh in dilapidated homes and 6.4 crore in slums. In sum, feeling pride or prejudice about the land is subject to the extent of people’s basic needs being satisfied.