I was District Magistrate of Basti in Uttar Pradesh during the year 1982-84. At that time it had not been bifurcated and was the biggest district of Uttar Pradesh in terms of rural population. At the same time it was one of the most backward districts and bad from the law and order point of view. Therefore, for a person to carry a gun was considered a measure of safety as well as prestige. A large number of applications for gun licenses were always pending with the District Magistrate. I tried to streamline the system of granting licenses and ensured that these were issued only in deserving cases.
One day I was sitting in my office in a somewhat relaxed mood when one such aspirant came to see me. I knew him as he was a reasonably respected person of the town. For some time he talked about general things and thereafter came to the subject of law and order. His complaint was that the number of guns in the district was increasing and the sight of so many gun-carrying persons created fear among the common people. He also wondered that if everyone would carry a gun, how would the situation of law and order improve?
These words of his gave me a very pleasant surprise as it was very rare that someone in that district would talk against the number of guns and particularly an aspirant of the gun. I got impressed as well as interested and wanted to discuss the matter further hoping that some solution to the problem might come from him. I agreed with him and asked him to suggest some solution to the problem created by the increasing number of arms. And prompt came the reply that a gun be given to him also. He said this very innocently without realising that the solution suggested by him would only add to the problem instead of solving it. I could, however, convince him that he did not require a gun for safety and he did not press for a license as long as I was the District Magistrate.
This incident fascinated me so much that I have narrated it a number of times to various people. I see a great similarity in the different aspects of human life today and this incident. Be it the matter of indiscipline, corruption, dowry, nepotism, exploitation of weaker sections or any other evil, most of us believe in the kind of solution suggested by the above gentleman. We see corruption in society, also feel bad about it but when it comes to doing something about it, we feel that our indulgence also is the answer. Similar is the case with other evils. We forget that by doing so we add to the evil instead of removing it. Everyone feels bad about the dowry system except when it applies to oneself. We talk of the sincerity, discipline, etc., only as long as it is not demanded from us. The result is the chaos we see around in all walks of life. A situation has reached where we cause suffering to each other and feel that the remedy lies in doing so only.
At this moment a small story comes to my mind. Once God appointed a commission to study the difference in the conditions prevailing in Hell and Heaven. The Commission decided to go to Hell first. It found it to be an excellent place, well built and prosperous. There was plenty to eat and drink. However, the Commission observed that the inhabitants were very weak and kept quarrelling among themselves all the time. The reason was that they were unable to bend their elbows and therefore could not take the food up to their mouths, though it was available in plenty. Starved of food, they had become very weak and irritable making them quarrel with each other. Overall the scene was very pathetic and all the inhabitants were helpless not knowing what to do.
Thereafter the Commission visited Heaven. It found similar conditions there also. The place was well built and there was plenty to eat and drink. Again the inhabitants were unable to bend their elbows but they were healthy and cheerful. On close observation, it was found that, though each one of them was unable to take the food up to his mouth, he was doing so for others and thus each one was being fed by others. The result was obvious with everyone enjoying the prosperity of the place.
The same story is applicable to our society also. It is up to us whether we create a heaven by helping each other or a hell by thinking of ourselves only. In both cases the effect is in geometrical progression. In the first case it is elevating and in the second one it is depressing. While some negative elements will always exist in society, these are to be dealt with suitably, through the administrative process. The trouble arises when the overall situation becomes negative. This is what appears to have happened in present times. This trend has to be reversed and it does not require any, great ideas. The only change called for is a change of attitude. Instead of thinking of only ourselves, if we think of others too, the whole society will be benefited. An individual will also then stand to gain as a member of the society.
Fortunately, such a sorry state of affairs does not exist everywhere. There are many positive examples. There are many instances where great results have been achieved as a result of mutual cooperation. There are villages where there is no dispute, no need to lock houses, no lack of resources, etc. At such places, life is almost heavenly. There are also organizations where ideal working conditions prevail and people work in mutual trust and enjoy the fruits of the same. However, such cases are exceptional but they demonstrate the efficacy of the concept.
The idea is to convey that when we talk of the evils prevalent in the society, we should try to understand whom are we addressing. It is futile to expect solutions from others as they too are victims of the evils. To think of a solution by following the rat race only adds to the problem. In fact, the problem should be addressed to oneself and a solution found within. Instead of thinking what one can do for oneself, one should think what he can do for others. In a way this approach is more selfish because ultimately the benefits will be reaped by him only and these would be much more than what one can gain by thinking of oneself only. If all of us do so, life will become heavenly and none of us will need a gun.