Three infants, aged between six and 14 months, moved the Supreme Court to curb air pollution. They filed a PIL through their parents specifically against fireworks, claiming a fundamental right to a clean environment, essential for their growth and development. Lately, reams of news print and unwelcome international attention has focussed on Delhi’s poisonous atmosphere. It hasn’t improved. Maybe this is what it takes, three babies, most unusual litigants, to embarrass the state into action.
The last time I entered an Indian court, it was to retrieve my driving licence for a traffic violation. I was scarred forever by the endless circles it took in Patiala House Court to get it out, needless to say, a waste more of the court’s time than mine. Nothing could induce me to intentionally go back there, yet these indefatigable young parents of the potentially coughing babies have been undeterred by the system.
They’re making an effort to demand change. Like there are rarely any eureka moments in science, just a series of small victories that ultimately lead to something, regular folk know, responsibility for action cannot be left to politicians and bureaucrats. Cheesy it might be, but we have to be the change we want to see.
A journalist, cynical by nature, would probably question the agenda behind a PIL by a toddler, and wonder about such gimmicky righteousness. Everybody isn’t a publicity seeker. Going by status updates and retweets on Twitter, there are a huge number of people actively pursuing social change, alongside their regular careers. Friends of mine, whose professional roles have nothing to do with the environment, spend time, effort and money raising awareness on the importance of biodiversity. Many others, I see from my Facebook feed volunteer at children’s homes, organise langars and collect woollens for the poor.
Despite everything, one feels a social sense seeping in at a fundamental level. The car-free Tuesday, a wonderful idea for choked Gurgaon, would not have been a success without the support of three lakh people who work there.
In the FTII stand-off, students have held firm on their core demand of dissolving the society headed by Gajendra Chauhan. Intellectual integrity and their desire that art be separate from politics has given their protest legitimacy and sympathy.
Often, when I tell people I write for a newspaper, they ask me why there’s never any good news and why it remains so depressingly the same. Other than the cricket team winning or the Sensex going up, the news focuses on tragedy, terror, rape and drought.
Social media tends to highlight the opposite. It’s full of heart-warming videos of fuzzy animals, rags-to-riches stories, and about ordinary people doing remarkable things that remain hidden from view. Like the Humans Of Bombay Page on Facebook which currently has a picture of a boy delivering newspapers to help his mother out. Those narratives are pleasant, and personal, and hopefully accurate. More importantly, it’s what people also want to read.