No irresponsible remarks please!

Preeti Panwar

What is it that is afflicting some of our political leaders and those who hold high positions in our country? Is it the foot in the mouth syndrome or is it simply the ‘I don’t care attitude’? It is ironical that those who are supposed to be sensitive towards us and act as balm in times of despair, tend to hurt us the most. The general public seems to have lost count of the number of times that those who hold positions of high esteem have made comments that they should not have. However, more often than not instead of showing remorse for the hurt that they have caused, these so called ‘responsible’ people go on to justify what they have said, however lame it may sound.

Let’s start with some of our politicos who in the recent past have made such bizarre and tactless statements which have not only led to major uproar, but have also made us cringe. One of the most iniquitous comments was made recently by none other than one of the tallest leaders of our country – P Chidambaram.

The Home Minister’s assertion that the Indian middle class spends money on mineral water and ice cream without batting an eyelid, but protests a bit too much against a marginal increase in the price of rice and wheat predictably created a hullabaloo, with the Opposition lapping it up and tearing into the senior Congress leader.

Let me jog your memories and reload as to what exactly PC said – “We are prepared to pay Rs 15 for a bottle of water, but we can`t bear to pay Re 1 more for 1 kg of rice or wheat. We are prepared to pay Rs 20 for an ice cream cone, but we can`t pay Re 1 more for one kilo of wheat or rice.”

There may or may not be merit in what Chidambaram said. That’s another debate. The point is that at a time when the common man is reeling under rising inflation and price rise and with the budget of the middle class going haywire, the Union Minister’s comments simply appear insensitive. There are times when it is more prudent to keep quite rather than spell out the obvious. Because as they say - “Words once spoken cannot be taken back”. Chidambaram later issued a clarification but by then the damage had been done.

We just need to dig into the archives and many more such incidents start tumbling out. Some time back, a minister in the Karnataka government, SA Ramdas made an eyebrow-raising remark during the inauguration of a literacy campaign which went something like - “Living in a joint family eradicates the possibility of having extra-marital affairs. Nuclear families give way for affairs that lead to rise in HIV/AIDS.”

However much we may try, it is difficult to digest the logic of the man. At a time when AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate in the country, those in power, instead of taking measures on a war footing to curb the menace, are passing statements which make you flinch to say the least. AIDS has nothing to do living in a joint or a nuclear family. It has to do with one’s promiscuity and lack of awareness. Someone needs to tell Mr Minister this.

Wait, there is more – Many of you would remember one of most insensate comment not too long ago made by someone who is supposed to be the protector of the common man - DIG Satish Kumar from the UP Police. Instead of coming to the aid of a hapless and distraught man and helping him find his daughter who had been missing, the man proclaimed - “If your daughter had eloped then you should be ashamed of it and end your life. I would have killed my sister if she had eloped or else I would have committed suicide.”

The fact that the statement was decried for its shock value and that the man in the uniform was later on handed a transfer order by his bosses offers little solace for a desolate father who was searching desperately for his daughter. And mind you, this was a comment which was caught on the camera and was telecast widely by most of the television channels. The fact is that many such incidents of pure insensitivity take place all over the country almost every day, not only in rural areas but in big cities as well, which go unreported.

What is most ironical is that sometimes hurt comes from those quarters where you expect the least from. Is it wrong to expect a woman in power and position to be gender sensitive? But lo and behold sometimes women too hurt women and in the most uncaring manner. A sample – The National Commission for Women (NCW) chief, Mamta Sharma literally left most of the people stunned and speechless when she said that `women should be careful in dressing themselves.` This was in reference to context of the Guwahati molestation case – an incident which has left the whole country outraged for its sheer brutality - so much for gender sensitivity and protection of women in our country.

This was not the first time for Madam Mamata. She had earlier said that women must not get upset by `sexy cat calls` because in her terminology ‘sexy’ meant ‘beautiful and charming’ and that women should feel proud of it. Need we say more?

So those of you, who make such callous comments, keep in mind, that together with your image getting tarnished, it offends and saddens a lot people. Only the media benefits from it, as it leads to soaring TRPs, masala headlines in newspapers and hits on websites.

It would do you good to remember this proverb - “To create a good impression, it may take a lifetime but one wrong move can shatter it in seconds.”

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