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RASHMI OBEROI | 31 OCTOBER, 2016

Do We Really Need Another Temple?


Our country right now should be concentrating on improving its global hunger index and health reforms and building on its infrastructure and tackling its environmental issues rather than being more interested in building another ‘Mandir’. Ridiculous as it appears the very idea of directing all our resources towards building another temple is mind-boggling.

India has more than its fair share of religious institutions, monumental sites and places of pilgrimage. I think God knows we love him and that we respect him but I doubt very much that he wants us to build more places of worship just to ‘show’ our love but would rather see the other side of humanity being displayed that speaks of compassion, religious tolerance and love for one and all. So do we need to keep building religious and spiritual structures? No, I don’t think so.

It boils down to a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The site that is regarded among Hindus as the birthplace of Lord Rama also historically locates Babri Mosque. Now whether a previous Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque is a question. According to the Hindus, the land on which the Babri mosque was built in 1528 is the 'Ram Janmabhoomi' (birthplace of the god-king Rama). But, Mir Baqi, one of Mughal king Babur's generals, is said to have destroyed a pre-existing temple of Rama and built a mosque called Babri Masjid (Babur's mosque) at the site. Both the communities have worshiped at the "mosque-temple", Muslims inside the mosque and Hindus outside it. However, in 1885 a petition was filed by the head of the Nirmohi Akhara asking for permission to offer prayers to Ram Lalla inside what was known as the Babri Masjid. The rest as they say is now a part of a history.

The disputed land has already caused enough havoc and led to riots and many ugly showdowns. Why stir up a hornet’s nest once again? Let’s build the ‘mandir’…and then tell me will all our problems vanish? No, not at all. Our problems will only recede if we work towards education for all, a workable health policy, a good infrastructure that is the key to development, more stringent policies for law and order, eradicating corruption and holding our ruling governments accountable. That is the way forward.

We need to work towards handling grave issues that need urgent attention like air pollution, poor management of waste, growing water scarcity, falling groundwater tables, water pollution, preservation and quality of forests, biodiversity loss, and land/soil degradation. These are some of the major environmental issues India faces today. India’s health policy is so limited and uncoordinated, whilst primary and especially secondary care is of poor quality and unaffordable to the bulk of the population. The health care sector requires more intervention than the central and state governments offer. The meagre funds allocated to public health programs and the unwillingness and inability of state governments to shoulder responsibility for primary and secondary care has led to the dominance of the private sector in delivery, out-of-pocket financing, and fee-for-service payment to providers.

Sadly our global poverty line does not currently take the multiple dimensions of poverty into account. There are many non-monetary indicators - on education, health, sanitation, water, electricity, etc. These are extremely important for understanding the many dimensions of poverty that people experience. Let’s for a minute, compare India to other countries. It is not a happy picture and we incredulously hit a new low in many fields. There is marked room for improvement. A report by World Bank states that even though India has grown rapidly, its growth has been less effective at reducing poverty than in some of India’s middle-income peers such as China, Vietnam, Brazil and Turkey. India’s performance on key non-monetary indicators of well-being such as child nutrition and improved sanitation facilities lags behind countries at similar stages of development. And estimates that look at the country as a whole can often mask very large differences in the standards of living among states.

India needs to take the lead in sorting out such issues rather than those that are ‘self-destructive’ for the nation. As Indians, each one of us is responsible. As a small start: Let us stop wasting food and pouring milk on idols in the name of devotion… Why can’t the poor be fed instead? Let us help educate a child from the lower-income strata…start with your own domestic help’s children. Pay attention to littering and disposal of garbage. How simple is that.

Known as the land of great diversity, amazing secularism, warm people, magnificent beauty and a rich, cultural history… Let Incredible India live and breathe. India is an epitome of the world… Let us all be proud of that fact.

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