In Bihar, hundreds of poor kids have died this year. They have fallen prey to a mysterious disease called AES. AES is known as “chamki bukhar” in the common parlance. Few things shine in Bihar. The poorest state in India is known for poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, lawlessness, corruption and casteism. Ironically, a deadly illness is “shining” in Bihar! Hence, the prefix “chamki”.
Nature has a cruel sense of humour. The AES has baffled doctors. The disease remains a puzzle to the medical science. As most of deaths take place in Muzaffarpur, some doctors relate it to litchis, for which Muzaffarpur is world famous. Some others blame AES on malnourishment because most victims are extremely poor who live in mud huts with thatched roofs. But in India, the poor ‘s lives are cheap.
When the World Cup Cricket is underway, who cares about poor children dying like flies?
Narendra Modi tweets about Shikhar Dhawan’s injury. And Bihar’s Health Minister Mangal Pandey, named after a great revolutionary, checks World Cup scores at a high-level meeting on AES. And Nitish Kumar, with his antaratma (conscience) firmly in place, refuses to sack his Health Minister. Now to rub salt in the AES wounds, the Bihar Governor Lalji Tandon is organising a “shaastraartha” at the Raj Bhawan in Patna.
The Raj Bhawan is going ga ga over the event. According to a Raj Bhawan ad placed in Patna newspapers, pandits from three streams, Mithila, Kashi and the South, will grace the occasion. Now, what is a shaastraartha?
Essentially, it is a religious debate involving philosophical mumbo-jumbo. No issues concerning the aam aadmi is ever discussed. I have never heard about a shaastraartha where pandits discuss minimum wages! A shaastraartha is all about advaita and vedanta, aatma and parmatma. Meaning hot-air discussions which have bogged down India since times immemorial.
We Indians don’t discuss poverty and illiteracy because we have to ascertain whether parmatma is “sthool” (big) or “sookshama” (tiny)! Therefore, a tiny Singapore is dazzling while millions of Indians still defecate in the open. Another feature of these shaastraartha is their domination by the Brahmins. Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims are seldom made participants. In the caste-ridden Hindu society, Brahmins are seen as a repository of all wisdom. Therefore, more often than not, shaastraarthas are a tool to perpetuate Manuvad in which only Brahmins are treated as human beings.
The Bihar Governor Lalji Tandon is a BJP man. Controversy is his middle name. His detractors call him Lalchi (greedy) Tandon. His son Ashutosh Tandon is a Minister in UP. But he doesn’t call it vanshavad (dynastic rule). For Lalji Tandon, it is rashtravad (nationalism).
To cut a long story short, pandits will assemble at the Rajendra Mandap in the Raj Bhawan today. After their fruitless debates, a sumptuous dinner will be served. Most probably, the dinner will be vegetarian with tulsi leaves and Gangajal as delicacies. Lalji Tandon will get a pat on his back by his masters at RSS Headquarters, Nagpur.
It is said that Nero Fiddled When Rome Burnt. 2000 years ago, when Rome was on fire, the Emperor was busy playing a music instrument. Now kids are succumbing to the AES in Bihar and the Governor is playing host to pandits at the Raj Bhawan. No pandit can cure chamki bukhar. They can only recite Sanskrit shlokas. History has not forgiven Nero after 2000 years. Let us see how many years history takes to forgive Lalji Tandon?
(Mr.Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch Bihar cadre IPS Officer. His views are personal.)