In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Arup Mitra

After enormous struggle we may move only a small step towards the truth, however, the invisible hand is there which will never fail us at the end, such was the belief of the scientist Madam Curie who was a Nobel laureate. When the world is faced with a serious challenge posed by the COVID-19 virus, the scientists are striving hard to discover a vaccine. In the mean time the only solution for human beings is to maintain self-discipline. The sun of knowledge will rise one day to light up the whole world. Let the ice of devotion keep us fresh in the meantime when darkness surrounds us.

Our sufferings are not independent of our action. While analysing the Bengal famine of the last century the Nobel laureate in Economics, Amartya Sen had opined that the lack of planning and coordination had added to the misery in a significant manner. The man-made component can be much greater than what the nature may have initiated. Our effective action can always neutralise the adversity and that is the reason why civilisation exists instead of coming to an end.

In a low income country like India the sudden and prolonged lock-down initiated to fight the virus, created additional problems of much greater severity for many. The plight of our migrant workers in the face of the lock-down unfolds how many of them are located in large cities and how much contribution they make to the entire growth process of the urban economy. One study had once calculated the value addition created by the waste collectors in a city like Delhi, and the magnitude was much more than the income that they were able to earn for their livelihood. However, the entire research on informal economy in a country like India seems to have gone waste as we could not create good advice and effective action accompanying the lock-down strategy to counter the spread of the virus. We could not educate ourselves of the fact that the lock-down is usually adopted to create capacity to deal with the situation which is about to emerge in the forthcoming days and the adoption of such initiative will have to be accompanied by immediate action to lessen the vulnerability of those who are at the lower rungs of the society. People who earn their livelihood on daily basis without any permanent shelter in the city and substantial saving to fall back on, did not strike our conscience. Even the minimum facility to arrange for their transport to take them back to their native place when actually the virus had not spread to a large extent could not be created by us. We had to wait to witness this endless suffering as they start moving on foot or in vehicles dumped like cattle and that too in exchange of a huge travel cost. Vivekananda mentioned, “Him I call a Mahatma (great soul) whose heart bleeds for the poor, otherwise he is a Duratman (wicked soul)”. Tagore urged that your god is standing where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path maker is breaking the stones. In a country where so much enlightenment took place and the guiding forces are enormously large, our mistakes are manifold and unforgivable.

To pursue good action also requires a great deal of sadhana. Else, we tend to remain confined within the realms of selfish deeds. We try to create fortune and secure our future at the cost of others’ misery. Indeed, Yudhisthir in the Mahabharata had mentioned that the greatest wonder in the world is that in spite of realising our transient existence on our visit to the cremation ground, the next moment we behave as if we are going to live on earth for ever. The biggest folly of human life is when people try to deprive others and benefit at their expense, realising the least that this unfair inequality will be the cause of one’s destruction. After all, it is god’s mercy that his gift may appear to be painful though in actuality it can be joyous because it contains the seed of innovation which takes us a step forward towards the truth. What we consider to be the end may actually be the beginning: beginning of an era, be it material, political, social or spiritual or a combination of all. After all, as Tagore sang, ‘He is that truth which has kindled the light of reason in our mind’.


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