Certain happenings are quite saddening. Even as they get submerged in the hubbub, locally, the terror of inequality that persists in our society recurrently bring them ashore.
Anaswara, a 17-year old student from Cheruthana, had committed suicide last week. She had deliberately put an end to a life full of pain and financial constraints and ailments afflicting her family, who had no house of their own. Her death brings to light the poverty that continue to exist indiscernibly in our neighbourhood. The tragic incident makes us think that if known earlier, each one of us would have lent her a helping hand. That is the reason why the CPM local committee stepped in, giving its land for cremating Anaswara’s body. The Chief Minister had directed the District Collector to provide a plot and construct a house for her family. The Congress had also agreed to provide a plot and release funds to build a house. With all due appreciation to the humane deeds extended towards the family of the deceased, a question certainly needs to be raised loud. Why had the helping hands and the authorities taken so much a time until her suicide? This inquiry might help in comprehending the reasons for failing in being the saviours of those before they attempt to end their lives due to poverty, despite having friends, teachers, neighbours, political parties and active organisations, and those officials who toil day and night for social welfare starting from the ward to the national level.
Going by the official documents, which say that the poor are less in number, there should be no deaths because of hunger or lack of health facilities. In a place where daily wage jobs give a minimum Rs 600, there shouldn’t be any destitute people as per the Centre’s criteria. Even those who are capable of buying two kilogram of rice every day, from the market, are, according to law, deemed outside the poverty line. In reality, the birth of such tragedies start right from the enthusiasm of the governments to omit the citizens instead of including them as much as possible in the social welfare schemes. It’s impossible to eradicate poverty completely without re-examining and revamping the existing criteria for filtering out the poor. The poor-rich gap could be minimised only by considering the daily wages and per capita expenditures that differ according to the social circumstances existing in the different states. Take the instance of Kerala. The money to be spent for making land available for housing, education and health is greater than other states. The social scenario is the low income and ailments quickly turning the families destitute. In rural sectors, the average financial liabilities amount to more than Rs 19, 000. While the landless comes up to over three lakh, the number of homeless poor is about 11 lakh. But a majority of these people are denied social welfare programs due to the government regulations. Anaswara’s family had continuously approached the different government offices for realising their dream of a home but in vain. When she embraced death with no hope left, the authorities and the society have become conscious and assistance have been pouring in.
The momentary sentiments and condolences is surely a relief for the family. But only politically developing schemes and programs that uplift the poor and progressing towards poverty eradication, permanently, would ensure that such tragedies are not repeated. Poverty isn’t inherited but ‘man-made’, just like slavery and racism. Mandela’s observation that poverty could only be eliminated by the collective efforts of people, is relevant. The view that poverty is not a crime and that it isn’t shameful to share it with companions and resolve it through combined efforts, should be acknowledged by rich and poor alike. The realisation that uplifting the poor to a life of dignity is also a responsibility of the rich, has to be nurtured socially. The nonchalance of the fellow beings and the inadequate social welfare schemes would not be able to free the family of the deceased from poverty or hunger. However, choosing the wrong path of suicide as a way out to evoke the sympathy of the society and the government and believing that it might serve as a pillar of support for the family in future, passes the message of social tragedy to the new generation. The temporary sympathies evoked only by death won’t be able to prevent such mishaps permanently.