The Mayhem at the Banks of Holy Ganga
The mayhem the whole country witnessed at the banks of holy River Ganga during the month of May 2021 is an indication of our moral bankruptcy and the disintegration of our social fabric. The dumping of dead bodies of kiths and kins in the river or their burial in the sand has put our heads to bow in shame.
The disintegration of our families is not new in our society. We have been witnessing children sending their parents to Haridwar to spend their rest of life or admitting them in some old age home to get rid of them and spend their lives without any possible trouble. But the Covid- 19 pandemic is putting the last nail in the coffin of our society that once was thriving on the high morality and respect of the elders as envisaged in the holy scripts of the ancient times.
During last one year we are witnessing incidents that had never been seen in our times or even so called modern society. The way children and other blood relations refusing to accept the dead bodies of their relatives for a decent burial has been a cause of concern. In one incident even the parents fled from the hospital leaving behind the dead body of their two month old child who had contacted the covid virus. In another case an elderly person was left in the hospital and his son fled from the scene. The person was taken care of an NGO. However, he succumbed to the disease. And this happened nowhere but in our own union territory
Who is responsible for this disrespectful behavior?
During last 30 to 40 years people especially the young had started to migrate to cities for employment leaving behind their parents in their villages. Parents are always anxious about their children’s employment and do give their consent for their temporary migrations to greener pastures.
And once they settle in cities and get married they because of many reasons don’t want their parents to join them in cities. One reason can be the scarcity of accommodation and other the high cost of living in cities as compared to villages. Slowly but certainly the emotional gap between the parents and the children widen.
But this is not the end. Upper middle class as well as high income group children also dump their parents in their old age. As one sociologist has rightly said that the definition of family is transforming from all-inclusive to “me, my wife and my kids”, hence the new generation is turning a blind eye to their parents. “Young India sees parents more as an obligation and not a part of the ‘nuclear’ family deserving of love and care.”
Parents usually put all efforts to educate their children in good schools and colleges. There are many examples when they had sold their belongings to send their wards to some foreign country for getting best education. When they return, they feel insulted to take their parents to some hotel, mall or any other public place lest their conversation or attitude may embarrass them in front of their friends. After marriage when the children begin to build their own family, parents or grandparents have no place in their ‘extended family’.
Covid-19 situation has further worsened the condition. The ‘Social distancing’ is being used as family distancing. The SOPs while explaining Social distancing stresses on physical distance of two meters between two human beings.
In markets, malls, public transport, road or air, and other social or religious functions or occasions the SOP of “ dou gaz ki doori’ is put to winds but implements in neighbourhood and, in some families, inside the house. Here again elderly people are kept aloof and children are strictly advised not to go near their grandparents as they are seen as covid carriers.
Dr Saba Younis, MD, a psychiatrist working in “Institute of Mental health & Neurosciences (IMHANS)” Srinagar has encompassed the situation in some beautiful words: “Covid -19 is not just a pandemic affecting our bodies it has affected our psyche as well. The paranoia, anxiety and stigma associated with Covid-19 have affected us all in one or the other aspect. The abandonment of Covid-19 patients and their dead bodies in hospitals or along riversides by their loved ones has exposed the humanitarian crisis of covid-19”.
Regarding dumping of dead bodies in river or burying on river side Dr Saba has an explanation: “This all could be attributed to the fear psychosis and stigmatization created for covid-19. People don’t want to hold the last rites of their loved ones for the fear of getting infected by the same.”
Dr Anshu Bouddh, a clinical psychologist at Muzaffarnagar Medical College has the same view: “It may be covid effect. In some cases relatives don’t come forward to receive the dead bodies of these covid patients know that they don’t have to face them again as they have gone for good and are not going to return, so it is better to neglect rather to accept them. Same is the position of those who throw these dead bodies in river.”
However, Dr Saba is optimistic about the future. She is hopeful of a change in the attitude of the people.
“I hope this humanitarian crisis will ward off soon and people accept their loved ones again. I hope empathy will win soon. People will come forward for their loved ones and take care of them and perform last rituals of a person dying of covid-19. After all everybody deserves a decent last rites.”
Dr Saba is of the view that if the present situation continues for some more time then covid wards may become dumping grounds for the unwanted elderly members of a family.
“If they survive, they will live with the stigma thus attract more discrimination in the family or even family members may refuse to accept them back in the family. If they succumbed to the disease, relatives may not even have to perform their last rites”.
Her view is based on the incidents happened at different places in the country including the J&K UT where after admitting the patient, relatives have never came back to know about their well being and where relatives have refused to accept the dead body of the Covid patient.
Someone has said there is no good news but bad news. Covid-19 news is a bad news and is continuously making headlines on the front pages of all the newspaper all over the world and lead stories of all the news channels throughout the globe.
Experts have a pessimistic view and feel that the pandemic is going to stay here for some more time and we have to change our life style as per the requirements of the given situation.