Antara Dev Sen
Antara Dev Sen is Editor, The Little Magazine. Email: [email protected]
Now we have a Delhi ao, desh bachao (‘Come to Delhi, save the country’) rally. The saviours of the country are students of elite institutions led by medical students and doctors who have played havoc with the lives of the sick and poor, by crippling the health system with their endless anti-reservation strike.
The Prime Minister extended yet another olive branch to them on Friday, but they still continue with their strike. I am not sure what they will achieve, since the government has already taken the decision to implement from next year the 27 per cent reservations for OBC candidates in higher education, has promised to increase seats to accommodate the quota, and there is a Constitutional Amendment involved.
Continuing their agitation can only harm the poor and the sick, who have no control over the situation.
Frankly, I have had enough of these spoilt brats throwing tantrums and holding the country to ransom. For two weeks now these young doctors and medical students have been on strike, refusing to do their duty, turning away the sick and dying.
They have perfected the art of the terrorist hostage taker: unless you meet our demands, these innocent people will die. And predictably, they say the government is responsible for the suffering of the sick — by not giving in to the strikers’ demands. Yet every time the Prime Minister or President gives them a dignified escape route, they turn it down.
And apart from gullible students of other institutes, they have now managed to rope in residents’ welfare associations, traders, chemists, shopkeepers and others, apparently to step up the ‘nuisance value’. Unfortunately it is more than ‘nuisance value’ when people die or suffer grave physical harm.
The medical faculty of government institutes like AIIMS (which is the centre of the storm) have also joined in, going on mass casual leave and supporting the deluded students in every way. These people who are paid by the taxpayer, these students who are being educated on the taxpayer’s money, who live in a world subsidised by the taxpayer, have decided that they will not live up to their end of the bargain – that they will not treat the taxpayer, the common Indian.
And they get away with it. Because the Congress government believes in giving opponents a long rope to hang themselves with. Usually at the cost of the masses.
Like they preferred to let the 400-year-old Babri Masjid be demolished if that helped weaken the BJP-led Hindutva movement, here too, they would rather let the medical students make enormous fools of themselves and lose all public sympathy so that the anti-quota movement is weakened. And the silly kids have been playing right into their hands.
Let’s take a look at what they have been doing. Apart from making the sick suffer, that is. They have been parroting stuff about ‘equality’ and ‘merit’ and going on hunger strike and marches. In some of these demonstrations, they have been sweeping streets with jharoos, implying that if the low castes do our jobs then we would have to do theirs, and isn’t that shocking, for privileged, upper caste, upper class, educated chaps like us? They have also been pulling rickshaws, to send out the same message.
They have been offering to commit mass suicide, writing protest letters in blood, shaving their heads in mourning, burying themselves in the soil, fainting in the heat on hungerstrike and collecting lakhs and lakhs of rupees to fund their protest. Of course, as middle class people with friends and children among the privileged protestors, we tend to weep at the sight of these youngsters tormenting themselves apparently for the greater good of the country.
Here I will not explore in depth the argument of whether or not we should have quotas in higher education. (Personally, I do not think we should, although I do think social justice is necessary and the historically disadvantaged need to be provided better education consistently from the primary to the highest level.
They need access to opportunities and unwavering social support that equip them to fight on level ground for higher education and jobs. In short we need to work out a more nuanced selection process for candidates that looks at ‘merit’ more holistically, and not just carve out a quick quota.) For the moment I would just say that the actions of the anti-quota protestors are only harming the anti-quota argument.
For two main reasons:
(1) they have discarded reason, humanity and good sense to take up the tool of the blackmailer and terrorist to doggedly protect their turf, and
(2) their actions show a deep caste bias (like, sweepers can’t be doctors) that would allow those supporting caste-based quotas to rest their case.
Let’s take the terrorist/ blackmailer activity first. Thousands of sick people – including those who have travelled long distances from villages to get to a good city hospital – have been left to suffer and several allowed to die while the privileged young doctors have turned away.
Why do you think it is the doctors who went on strike, and not the engineering students, for example? Because the doctors’ strike affects us in terrible and immediate ways – it is a matter of life and death, and doctors have often been quick to set aside the Hippocratic Oath and exercise that power.