This Covid 19 pandemic provides a window of opportunities for individuals, families, nations and the world to review their priorities. The outbreak of Covid 19 has revealed that there are many areas of neglect especially in the area of public health.
Keeping people healthy and happy should be the development goals of nation, and not economic policies that places emphasis on GDP and per capita income. GDP generally masks poverty, not revealing the unfair distribution of wealth in a country.
One can only look at the media hype surrounding the growing number of billionaires in the world. Almost everyone in the world knows the names of billionaires and any news about them is gobbled up. The rich also appears to be more newsworthy as the public is more eager to read about them rather than poor children in South America or Asia.
Ask who is Jeff Bezos and everyone would be ready with the answer. And if you did not know you would be made out to be not living in this world. Do you know who is Vandana Shiva? She is an Indian woman doing tremendous work to preserve farmlands and natural seeds from being destroyed and replaced by hybrids. Unfortunately, we have chosen to know little about her!
And what about the RSS-Rastriya Swayamsevaks Sangh of India? How much do you know about this organization? Or are you learning about it from mainstream media-BBC, CBS, CNN and Al Jazeera? If you are depending on those media houses for your knowledge of the RSS, then you are at a disadvantage.
If you want to learn about a social cultural organization that is working to lift pride in millions of Indians, then you must learn about the RSS and its programs. The RSS is the first response organization whenever there is a national calamity in India. Today as the Covid 19 pandemic ravages across India, RSS volunteers are in homes, hospitals, ambulances, cremation sites, reaching out to families in their hour of need.
Unfortunately, interest groups hate an organization like the RSS. Not only the jihadists but also the Christian Right and the Communists hate the RSS with a passion. They understand very well that so long as the RSS is among the people, they would not have their way.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a product of the RSS. He embodies the trait of selfless service and is well respected among his peers. Modi did not personally lobby to be the Chief Minister of Gujarat but was highly recommended by Lal Krishna Advani to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapayee.
Sadly, there are forces who do not welcome organizations like the RSS and individuals like Narendra Modi. One individual in support of Hamas and its rocket firing against Israeli chose to identify Modi as one who is oppressing Muslims. I asked him to tell me how Modi is oppressing Muslims and his response was that “you have a degree in political science, and you are supposed to know.”
Spirituality and social development are integral to human development. In India, the several Hindu organizations- Sai Baba, Ramakrishna Mission, Chinmaya, Art of Living, Isha Foundations, etc- are engaged in social services among the poor of India.
If our poojas has to have currency, they would have to be twined with human development. In the Caribbean-Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname-Hindus can do much more to eradicate poverty, diseases, illiteracy and other social ills. The reality is that we have our priority misplaced.
For example, academics conferences on the Indian diaspora have failed to address issues such as poverty, illiteracy and other social ills among Indians. The closure of Caroni Ltd and its impact on communities in central and south Trinidad have never been researched and articulated as a conference paper. The neglect of agriculture is not in the front burner of the politics of the UNC. Academics with qualifications in agriculture and who have worked for decades in the Ministry of Agriculture have failed to speak up for farmers and their continuous neglect by governments.
The latest display of the diaspora in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic in India was a virtual discussion on ways and means to help India’s poor especially in eastern UP and Bihar where the majority of Indian indentured labourers were recruited. I recalled a Chinese remarking to me and a friend that “you Indians only talk about you have families in India, but you don’t help them. We Chinese have always been helping our families in China.”
The Hindu middle class must take a more active role in the Hindu community rather than leave it to known idlers. If not, the community would be running the risk of a repeat of the collapse of the Hindu Credit Union.
The foundation of the Hindu community was laid by men with means- Bhadase Sagan Maharaj, Simbhoonath Capildeo, Rampersad Bolai, Jang Bahadur Singh, Chanka Maharaj, etc. These gentlemen did not settle for being spectators and applauding mediocrity but took to the wicket and played winning innings etc. In this crisis we need to field the best team in the field. Too many with achievements under their belts must exercise the initiative to step forward and take charge.