Do we Indians as a race favour the underdog so much that our sympathies lie with law breakers? Also, with those who would not have suffered had they followed the laws in the first place? Is it part of our cultural ethos that we push as much as we can until rebuffed, and then complain about injustice meted out to us? I have examples from the macro to the micro, so this set me thinking.My friend’s nephew had just been discharged from the hospital. I was informed that he had been hit by a truck and had a narrow escape from death. In spite of not wearing a helmet when riding his two-wheeler, luck was on his side and he lived though with a few broken bones. Everyone cursed the truck driver. He was irresponsible, they said. He should have seen him coming, they continued. It was all his fault, they vociferously shouted. The boy had a sheepish look about him. I heard later from his friend who was with him at the time of the accident that they were actually at fault. The boy was riding fast in the early hours of the morning in the wrong direction, as this was a specified One Way Traffic road, (though thousands of others also do this, admittedly in Bangalore). There was no way the truck could have stopped in time. As I said before, in all the recriminations not one person spoke of the boy’s wrong doing though it was obvious as to what had happened.
At a macro level too we see the same phenomenon very much in vogue in Jammu & Kashmir, for example. Stone throwing youth defy prohibitory orders and confront the police in the Kashmir Valley. They seek to hurt the police not merely taunt them. When the police retaliate, not by shooting to kill but by using pellet spraying shot guns, a large section of the media cries foul. They say the police should be more restrained, more careful, more mature. But what about the casualties suffered by the Police? They too have got personnel grievously hurt. Those who support the stone pelters don’t even bother to acknowledge that they had no business to defy prohibitory orders and pelt stones in the first place.
Even in the matter of paying property tax, successive Governments have come out with schemes to favour those who should have correctly registered their houses in the first place. Under the name of “regularisation” thousands of citizens guilty of directly or indirectly benefitting from illegal constructions get favours instead of being punished. The Karnataka Government’s Akrama Sakrama Scheme is a case in point.
Yesterday, in the august Rajya Sabha, I was cynically amused to see the reaction of the distinguished Deputy Chairman of the House. One of the MPs complained that he had not been given enough time but others had exceeded the time allotted to them. The Hon. Dy Chairman asked him with a smile if he had asked him to stop. He went on to point out that the MP had stopped in his allotted time on his own. This amounted, to my mind, to saying that you will lose out if you follow the rule and will succeed only if you break it!! We saw many speakers exceed their time, plugging on gamely despite the plaintive cries of the Dy Chairman that their time was up!
These are unrelated incidents but I see a common thread in them. The message seems to be break the law if you think you can get away with it! If you don’t, it’ s too bad for you!! That is sad.