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Death Is Getting Cheaper

The moral value in life lies in questioning the government for its colossal failure on the employment front.

The suicide pact, in which three youth from Alwar district in Rajasthan ended their lives by jumping in front of a speeding train on 20 November, forms a tragic part of the series of deaths that India has been witnessing. On the parameters of moral common sense, Indians seek to evaluate the idea of death either in terms of living longer or living a short life but for a noble cause. In any case, the latter is considered to be morally more valuable. One’s life acquires meaning only through the investment of labour power in the creative sphere of activity. Such an investment also presupposes the availability of opportune conditions which would help one to use one’s mental and physical powers, and which are so crucial for developing a sense of self-worth. The sense of self-worth withers away when one finds oneself encircled by inopportune conditions. In fact, structural conditions that apparently look promising turn out to be quite frustrating eventually, particularly for the aspiring youth. Ironically, it is education that sets limits on the realisation of aspiration. Growing enrolment in higher education and the corresponding emphasis on the competitive examination system as the only route for a secured future serve as crucial indications of the continuation of this predicament.

The crisis of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led government has become much more serious, with the competitive examination as a concept having reached its limits in practicality.

The three youth who ended their lives form a part of this predicament as they had also pinned their aspirations on entering the civil services. Considering their educational qualifications and the sincere efforts that they were making to realise their legitimate aspirations, these youth ought to have got some stable job, preferably in the government sector. Instead, in their own self-assessment, they had become unemployable without any hope of getting employment in the future. According to the statements of their friends, the three believed that they had become a burden on their parents and the entire society. The loss of self-worth or a sense of meaninglessness is produced by the incongruence between the question about what one ought to have become and what one actually becomes. Arguably, a majority of the youth in the country are caught up in such incongruence between the “ought” and “is” dilemma. The tragic deaths of several youth over the years point to this enduring paradox.

However, politicians, through the nationalist construction of youth, often tend to symbolically elevate the moral value of youth. Thus, in such language, youth is made to appear as the country’s developmental asset, the nation’s pride or India’s future. Politicians and most in the present government seem to celebrate the role of “yuva shakti” in what they call the “Make in India” campaign. But, an observed side of such rhetorical construction suggests that the dying youth are a dispensable lot. This attitude of the governing class is evident in its leader’s failure even to genuinely show some degree of remorse at the series of deaths of the youth who are ending their lives. But, the market and the government do not provide the required conditions and decent opportunities for its articulation. The lack of decent employment opportunities often leads first to social death, and ultimately to biological death.

In the Indian context, social death becomes social in the cold response of caste-based civil society, which does not distinguish between dangerous sewerage in manholes and the human being who is forced to enter such a death trap. In fact, a corporeal death is the tragic culmination of social death. Biological death is an unfortunate route that the farmers and unemployed youth adopt in order to escape social death that gets defined around the devastating experience of indignity and humiliating loss of self-worth. It is not the creative life of the youth, but their death that provides the evidence that they exist. The existence of youth is recognised only in their deaths through police inquiry, forensic examination, and compensation.

The irony is that even if the state tricks some of these youth on a regular basis by using symbolic issues ranging from cultural nationalism to raising religious structures, the youth seem to participate in the project. Ruling parties and their leaders in the government lack the moral capacity to tell the truth that their government is incapable of providing the youth with employment. Their politics does not allow them to tell the truth that skill development and job “melas” are nothing but a mirage, an exercise in futility. Such gimmicks of the government only provide the illusion that there are plenty of jobs and that the youth only have to acquire the skills for them. In such a situation, Indian youth have the moral determination to tell the ruling party the truth that the government lacks capacity in solving the fundamental problem of unemployment. But, the medium to speak truth to power must not be tragic. It must be transformative. Political parties have an agenda in misleading the youth on religious grounds, but is it not the responsibility of the youth to take the lead and ask questions about a more decent and secured life?

Updated On : 4th Dec, 2018

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