The panacea for doing away with communalism, regionalism, and all forms of sectarianism is to build social trust among the members of society. In this, we all have a role to play – individual actors as well as CBOs and civil societies.
However, here I would like to focus on the role of our public institutions and not the public per se. Why? Because they are the ones vested with all the real authority and power (by us). And as they say, with greater power comes greater responsibility.
I would say that it is our public institutions that are largely responsible for the lack of social trust. In fact, social mistrust exists in our society. Kindly bear with me for a while. And I mean to include our police, our judiciary, our medical industry, our bureaucracy and so on. There is no need to get very emotional over what I have just stated. Let me give some facts which many of us are even aware of.
1. There are more than 5 crore cases pending in our judiciary across the country. And as they say ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’. The whole ordinary masses of this poor country – especially the farmers, tribals, women, the poor and the marginalized – are bereft of any justice by the very institutions supposed to deliver them.
2. As per the Transparency International Index, India is more corrupt than even Pakistan or Afghanistan. It is estimated that around 6 percent of India’s GDP is annually lost due to corruption in our bureaucracy and police.
3. Everybody knows how the medico-pharmaceutical industry treats its health patients as financial instruments more than as human beings.
4. Also everybody knows how the colonial character of the Indian police (as instruments of terror) still persists today. Even in the US, wasn’t it the police manhandling and brutality that led to the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter movement?
Let me make it clear that I am not speaking against any individual officer or individual. The whole system lacks the confidence of people, especially those who are not quite well informed. The last thing we can expect from public officials is using slangs in their official dealings.
Let me also make it clear that I am not absolving the public, CBOs and civil societies from holding them accountable. In their capacity and merit, they have been rendering their service quite well. For instance, during the Covid lockdown, the ANSU distributed relief items not only to members who voted for them but also to all other tribes residing in the capital region, and even to non-APSTs like the stranded labourers. Also, recently, CBOs like the Adi Baane Kebang distributed relief items to the fire victims of Ego village in Leparada district and Longliang village in Tirap district, thereby fostering harmony and trust. However, as I have said, we can hold them accountable only to the extent of their merit.
Therefore, just like our shrinking GDP or deteriorating environment, even in matters of deterioration of social trust and mistrust, it is the government and public institutions that are to be held accountable. And this social trust doesn’t fall from an empty sky; it requires a certain favourable social milieu where it can blossom or wither away.