By: Deepika Bhan/ IANS
New Delhi: Several happenings in the past fortnight have shocked the nation. Both the year-end and the beginning of the new year, much as one wants them to be joyous occasions, had the most gut-churning stories coming out in the media – stories that will remain embedded in the memories at least of this generation.
Anjali, a very popular Indian name for girls, has become synonymous with pain and death, and Shankar Mishra, the manifestation of the rot that has set so deep in our society.
Both cases are different yet connected in the sense that these demonstrate our failing morality and growing insensitivity. For a society which is extremely sensitive about religion and related practices, virtues, ethics and goodness are not something to fight for, but the two incidents re-emphasised the need for us to go back and examine our moral fibre.
Anjali, a young woman, who wanted to earn for herself and yearned for fun like any other young person, had to pay with her life for the same. Her death was painful — she was dragged for 12 km underneath a car and her cries for help reached no one.
Her death was all the more agonising because her so-called friend ditched her at the crucial moment. Had Nidhi raised the alarm, had she called the police, then maybe Anjali would not have suffered an excruciating death. Nidhi, as shown on various CCTVs, walked confidently home and showed no pain or shock while talking to the media later.
The mental state of the occupants of the killer car defies all logic. How could they not know what they were doing for 12 km? How could they keep on going without hearing the cries of a human being? The drivers know when there is something amiss. Even a small pebble under the tyre is felt, so how could they just ignore a body?
These questions do baffle a sane mind. Equally shocking is the role of the police. The Delhi Police proved to be the bigger villain with its men failing to respond on time.
Shankar Mishra, accused of urinating on an elderly woman on an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi, had everything that one aspires for — a dream high-paying job in a big MNC, a good life. But what went so wrong with him that he did what the woman has alleged? Top job, good educational qualifications and sound family background – this man also has no criminal background.
Why then did he do what he did? He is said to have taken too much alcohol. Most likely, the availability of free liquor affected his rational senses. He lost his mental balance for a moment, but equally shocking has been the attitude of the airline and its crew on the flight. One is overcome by feelings of disgust and angst.
The country has still not gotten over the Shraddha Walker case, and these two new ones have jolted everyone’s concscience. In the Shraddha murder case, the victim and her boyfriend Aaftab Poonawalla were in a live-in relationship and both were literate and aware.
Aaftab proved to be a gruesome killer who cut his partner into 35 pieces and dumped them across the national capital and surrounding areas. This bone-chilling case made the country remember the one that had played out in Nithari in the National Capital Region many years ago.
Similar cases have been reported from several parts of the country in the recent past. What is alarming is that the list of such cases is growing by the day.
Cases get reported, highlighted and then forgotten before another one crops up. It is not that the culprits are psychopaths. They are seemingly normal and in some cases such as Shankar Mishra, very well educated.
There have been many discussions about the lowering of the society’s moral standards after every case. But no follow-up action happens. Moral values are inculcated in early years, then why is this not getting the due space in schools?
Moral education, along with a knowledge about the law, rules and duties, is what is most needed to be imparted to children. The schools must be bound to dedicate a period a week to moral education for every class. The NCERT even has a syllabus for ‘Value Education’ for students of Class 1 to Class 12.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha last year, Union Minister of State for Education Annapurna Devi said: “The NCERT textbooks, developed on the basis of NCF 2005, prescribe and integrate themes and examples related to moral conduct across the subject areas and across the various stages of school education in the syllabi and textbooks for Classes I-XII.
“The University Grants Commission (UGC) has launched a policy framework — ‘Mulya Pravah: Guidelines for Inculcation of Human values and Professional Ethics in Higher Educational Institutions’. It emphasises that stakeholders of an institution, be they faculty, students, administrators or others, should be guided by the core values like integrity, dedication, trusteeship, sustainability, inclusiveness, commitment, respectfulness, harmony and belongingness.
“Further, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 provides for ethical reasoning, traditional Indian values and basic human and Constitutional values such as seva, ahimsa, swachchhata, satya, nishkam karma, shanti, sacrifice, tolerance, diversity, pluralism, righteous conduct, gender sensitivity, respect for elders, respect for all people and their inherent capabilities regardless of background, etc.”
All these big words don’t really seem to be translating into action on the ground. A much more practical approach needs to be adopted to make moral education the core and essential part of education, whether in schools or in higher education.
It is important to make children aware of the values on which our civilisation rests and the laws that govern our country. Moral education books or classes must be treated on a par with any other subject and the paper must be marked and its score be added to the overall result.
The country is growing, so are the aspirations and ambitions of the people, but it is said that if morals and principles are not valued and followed, then societies are doomed. It is high time for educators, religious and politics leaders, and thinkers to deliberate upon this.
Scenes such as the recent chaos and clashes in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, or what we keep seeing played out in Parliament and in state Assemblies, do not send the right signals. Our aggressive and abusive politicians do not instill confidence in us. Probably, they could have benefited from moral education in their formative years.