Social Responsibility

Update: This post has been edited for clarity and typos.

What prompted me to write this is another post shared by my friend on Google Reader. It talks about Sarabjit Singh, a woman who did not want her husband released in exchange for terrorist. Kudos to her! I really admire her because she put her country before herself and her family. I did not appreciate the post when the writer called another person, who was desperate to get her family back during Kandahar hijacking, an anti-national. It is becoming rather fashionable to call somebody anti-national. Be it cutting flag coloured cake, playing musical version of national anthem, or if it looks like someone’s leg is facing the national flag. There are lawyers who make a living out of it. I want to explain why demand or negotiating release of hijacked passengers in lieu of terrorist is not anti-national, but plain human. I know some views are controversial, please do not jump to conclusions before reading this post completely.

One of the jobs of the Govt. is to protect its citizens. The govt. is elected by the people, and consequently it is the job of the society to elect the right government. In other words, it is the society which takes care of itself. When plane is hijacked, the govt. failed in its duty to protect its citizens. So what is wrong with demanding the govt to secure the release of the passengers? It is the govt. which has failed and has to set things right. The society is very much entitled to demand this. It is very disappointing to see that a part of a society thinks otherwise. They speak as if it is duty of the hijacked passengers to die for the country.

It is very easy to judge the relatives who are facing the trauma as “anti-national” by others who have no experience dealing with such uncertainties. Everyone loves their country, most of us love ourselves more. That’s the fact. I am really appalled by the ease with which the author of the post judged the woman  as being anti-national. I bet the author has never been in situation where there was a gamble for his loved one’s life.

Many ask, “If we ‘give-in’ to the terrorists, wont it send the wrong signal to the terrorists that every time a plane is hijacked, they can pull another of their terrorist heroes back from prison?” My response is the following: If you are scared that that signal we sent that day makes them think that hijacking a plane is solution to their problems, haven’t you
already conceded that they will hijack again and there is nothing India can do to prevent that? Are you convinced that we can protect ourselves any more? This, to me, is the real felling of “giving in” to the terrorists.

In some sense, many think that govt. “gave up” to the terrorists. Here’s how I look at it: Had we remained stone hearted and let the passengers be killed, we are sending a signal that if we release a terrorist, we cannot catch him again, that we were very lucky to have caught him.

Lets assume that India has a reputation of storming the planes every time they are hijacked. Think for a moment, as a terrorist, what would you do? Would you attempt negotiation with the govt. from the hijacked plane? Or would you blow it up mid-air or against a tall building out of spite? I have a feeling this has been done before.

For once, before calling anyone anti-national, society ought to step into their shoes and look and the options before them. It is the fault of the government/society that the plane was hijacked. After the harm is done, society should try and rectify it. Not treat the victims like guinea pigs in a failed experiment and let them be killed by hijackers. The society has to take the responsibility of bringing them back alive.

Talking about social responsibilities, let me express my views on capital punishment as well. I am myself not sure about capital punishment, but there is one case where I am against it: in punishing serial killers. I was in favour of capital punishment before watching the movie ‘monster’, which portrays a life of a prostitute who becomes a serial killer out of circumstance. I am against capital punishment given out to psychopathic serial killers.

People don’t just “become” psychopathic serial killers. It is the society which makes them. It is the society which gives them tough choices and it is the society which treats them badly. When the results aren’t favourable, society wants to treat the person like a guinea pig and kill him. I dont like the ‘tax payer’s burden’ argument about keeping them in jail (when there is no hope for them to recover) either. It is the society which made them that way. From a moral point of view, society should pay for its failed experiment.

Another argument I have heard is that we all have lived in the same society, and we did not turn out to be serial killers. My simple answer is that every individual is unique, and if you cant respect that, you are the one who doesn’t deserve a place in society. Some favour death penalty for the ‘sentiments’ of victims’ families. I dont buy that because the decision which the family takes is an emotional one and not necessarily the rational one.

Moving a little away from the topic, people love to call those who have left the country for education or job as anti-national. IITians, and in last ten years, NITs, BITS etc, are the main targets. Let’s examine that claim as well.

Firstly, ‘the lakhs of rupees spent on an IITian’ argument. As an IITian, I can say that we were not put in luxury. We had to pay for everything from electricity bill to Rs 600 for renting a gown for the convocation to ‘security’ for the hostels. They subsidized the mess (which was horrible) up to Rs 8 per day per student which, I agree, is quite significant. But then who isn’t subsidized in India? Petrol is subsidized. Diesel is subsidized for farmers, but other people buy diesel cars anyway (they are real anti-nationals if you ask me 😛 ). Gas is subsidized to every household. Taking all of that into account, I am not sure if the subsidy for us is more significant than what is given to the rest of the country. Profs are paid for research and teaching us. Its their job and cannot be counted towards the “burden” of the tax payers. The only place where, I think, the lakhs of rupees figure makes sense is the licensing of the softwares for research. Sophisticated Labs and Labs Equipments are something which undergraduates seldom use. But, I am sure any research that is done in IITs and IISc comes back to nation as inputs for ISRO, DRDO etc. for India’s development. Most of research is done by PhD students who stay in country. I am damn sure the lakhs of rupees figures is not the true figure. The realistic figure, I believe, is a much reasonable amount. I do realize that rest of the colleges do not even get the minimal facilities that we “enjoy”. That only talks about govt. apathy.

Secondly, lets look at the reason why the “brain-drain” occurs. A student expected to pay back to country though research or through entrepreneurship. As far as research is concerned, it is known that hardly any importance is given to it in India. Expenditure towards research takes a back seat. Infrastructure in India is lacking. Who is responsible for that? Government/Society. How about entrepreneurship? India was a socialist country 20 years back. Little wonder that brain-drain was rampant back then. Today it’s, thanks to economic reforms, much less. Again its the government/society responsible for that. Calling people anti-national is doing society no good. There are very few who put their country ahead of their personal ambitions, they are truly amazing. Other are human, not anti-national.

Also, why is the responsibility of the chosen few to bring the country out of the mess it is in. What is the role of the people who judge others as anti-national? Isn’t that an indication of resigned society putting burden on a some of its members to bring them back on their feet.

Before calling anyone “anti-national” the society should learn its responsibility.