But where are the slum dwellers to go? They’re all migrants from rural areas. They left their native villages in search of better livelihood and came to the cities. Naturally the cities got over-crowded, basic infrastructure started breaking down and living conditions fell way below par. And its a good thing that the judiciary realizes the importance of public spaces, especially in a city like Mumbai where to get any amount of fresh air, you have to remain indoors.
These migrants left their villages because conditions there are primitive. In the fifty-odd years since independence, the administration hasn’t done much to raise living standards in rural India. Power is erratic, commercial agriculture has turned traditional living patterns upside down, potable water is becoming scarce. Now the ejected slum dwellers have no choice but to go back.
I’m in total agreement with the SC in the matter of public spaces. We need them…desperately. But in my opinion the court hasn’t given us a solution. It has merely complicated matters.
Moving on to more literary matters. I just finished reading the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman. I was fascinated not just by the highly original story, but also by the fantastic characterisations and the high-quality action. However, what makes the trilogy more interesting is that Pullman had an agenda when he wrote it and he made no bones about it. He’s an avowed athiest and he makes it very clear in the books. The books are propaganda material for all those who think religion is make-believe and does more harm than good. However, Pullman criticized the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis precisely because he thought they were ‘propaganda’ too. The difference is that Lewis’s books have a very strong Christian theme.
So what does this mean? That it is ok to propagate atheism, but not ok to talk about religion? That’s a bit unfair, I think. Everyone should have the right to say what they want. If you don’t want to listen, you’d better turn deaf.
That reminds of something else. The whole Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy. I remember getting so confused and I kept asking myself…should there be any limits on the freedom of speech and expression? On the one hand, I believe that everyone has an opinion and they should be allowed to air it. On the other hand, I thought the cartoons were in really bad taste and it would’ve been better for all concerned if they had never been published. I was especially upset that many European newspapers printed those cartoons just to prove a point. It seemed a little spiteful.
All this reminded me of an essay I’d read in college. I don’t remember who wrote it or what its name is. All I remember is the essayist saying that while freedom is important, it should not impinge upon or put at risk other peoples’ freedom. For instance, I’m perfectly free to walk down the middle of the road. But if I did that, I’d violate the freedom of motorists to drive down that same road without any accidents. So basically, there have to be some laws and rules and regulations to make sure that one person’s freedom is not in opposition to another person’s freedom.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that freedom of speech and expression is fine, but it should be used with proper judgement.