Who will bell the cat ?


Javed Iqbal

IN his famous article on workers’ strike, a former Indian Justice Pana Chand Jain quoted a French philosopher Charles Fourier who gave the theory of “the right to work.” Fourier had also declared that “politics extol the rights of men and do not guarantee the prime and only useful right, the right to work.” Meanwhile, the Indian apex court had held in Delhi Transport Corp. vs DTC Mazdoor Congress Case that income is the foundation of many fundamental rights; and when work is the source of income, the right to work becomes as much fundamental. The skirmish between black coats and white coats is best reflected in Gunnar Myrdal’s famous book ‘Asian Drama’ that says “the softer a state is, the greater the likelihood that there is an unholy nexus between the lawmaker, the law-keeper, and the lawbreaker.”
No aspect of society seems straightforward nowadays. The day-to-day crisis-like situation has made society quite unsafe for the hapless. Neither the law nor any tradition of respect or equality before the law is flourished and this has inevitably resulted in the law of the jungle. Our society could not be developed as a single societal unit; rather, it’s like a group of many factions that do their best for safeguarding their interests. For that reason, the law and the constitution could not grow enough, to say the least. Some say that the state’s writ has been badly compromised. The institutions are weak; which instead of imposing restrictions on outlaws, support the mafias. The sordid PIC tragedy is not the first event to be mourned. It is one of such sad stories that happens on an everyday basis. This time, there are two kinds of groups who are face to face, the lawyers and the doctors. They have always won battles against state institutions for their interests. Both have ignored the sanctity of professional ethics. Former, by violently violating the law; and the later, by playing strike cards while ignoring critical patients in hospitals. The wise say that society can survive oppression but not injustice. Perhaps, it is strange that there is injustice everywhere and society continues to ignore the writing on the wall. The row between black and white coats is under trial in the court. Let the judicial and legal proceedings continue but one thing is clear that no one can touch them.
The judicial system is facing major problems and people’s trust is badly damaged. People prefer taking the law into their hands, instead of seeking long-awaited justice from the courts. They know that it requires the proverbial age of Noah, a treasure of Nimrod and patience of Hazrat Ayyub (RA) to get justice. It is also an important question that if the courts are capable of rendering any judgment against powerful groups like lawyers or not? It is difficult to concede to the right to boycott of courts on the analogy of conceding the right to strike of employees. Both, as it seems, don’t bother theirs and others right to work.
There is also an issue of the dignity of the court, delivery of justice, sufferings of people and the writ of the State. On the other side, there is a question of the moral fall of the learned side of society. Now, it seems that there will be mushrooming of conspiracy theories. It seems that we have not yet come out of the tribal mindset. A tribesman helps its people in any way, even after knowing that they are unjust. Secondly, intolerance is on the rise. Harmony amongst people has much diminished. Trivial matters lead to fights and even murders. When the moral turmoil prevails in society, the values are devalued.
The government should pass legislation to bar any of the public sector employees to proceed to protest or go on strike come what may. They obstruct others’ right to work. Moreover, the health department should get signed an affidavit that doctors would not leave the patients unattended whatever the circumstances may be. The doctors join the public sector to serve on their own will and they may quit it at any time if they find it unfeasible. The trend of lawyers’ boycott should also be curtailed. The government should also ensure that no one interrupts public life as a protest by blocking roads, locking courts and knocking out public offices. The poor writ of the state leads to poor social protection which gives birth to the gangster mindset. It is a prime job of the PTI government to empower state institutions to curb organized mafias and mob justice phenomena. Alas! It has failed in this regard. If we couldn’t counter mafias, then Swedish economist Myrdal’s thesis would prove true. That drama was about overpopulation, poverty and the danger of what we now call “failed states.” But who will bell the cat?
—The writer is a Lahore based public policy analyst.