SHIMANDA MUNGUR
Counsellor and Human Rights Activist

A failed society happens when the failed political system we have in place or that inherited from the past creates as huge a gap between its own citizens. Various studies on ostracism have shown that the more people are excluded, the more they are apt to behave in extreme manners. Hitting people in their utmost dignity is bound to have a counteraction in the society.
“Being excluded is painful because it threatens fundamental human needs, such as belonging and self-esteem…and again and again research has found that strong, harmful reactions are possible even when ostracized by a stranger or for a short amount of time,” Kipling D. Williams, Purdue professor of psychological sciences (studying how ostracism hurts individuals as much or even more than a physical injury).
The video from various newsrooms circulating on the internet concerning the recent post-flood protest for compensation is alarming. On one of the recordings we see a woman, hungry and angry, saying that she has no food. Like her, the hundreds of people mobilising for the few hundreds of rupees per head for 3 days must be a consequential amount of money, namely for food and as a matter of fact, reclaiming what victims of flood are being allocated as citizens receiving social aids. What baffles me is the difference in procedure and the disparity in social aid received. I am not sure on which criteria the disparity or the differences are based on.
As in the previous paper published in the Forum page regarding my visit along with a friend of mine to Fond du Sac, we went to a place nearing Le Hochet. Our initial destination was Roche Bois or Baie du Tombeau, but ended up in Ste. Croix, Cité Briquetterie. The reason for which being that the bus drivers, bus stewards advised us not to do so, being inhabitants of route Cocoterie themselves. We have been led to Camp Veuve in front of a home for widows, managed by the social security ministry. We changed our trajectory from there to the actual place we wanted to move to, i.e towards the inhabitants affected by the recent flood.
The few inhabitants we met with dissuaded us from venturing on our own any further , “mamzel, misie, nou res isi nou, nou konpran zot lintansion, selman krwar nou, pa al okenn sa bann plas-la. Zot pa pou sorti koumsa”. This sounded weird but we knew and accepted that we knew nothing of the place and we would rather listen to those who live there and pay attention to their words. We have been told that those most affected live near the river or in route cocoterie and we did ask : why should we not visit them and 2 of the inhabitants guided us to some families.
Our primary objective was achieved : that of meeting people affected by flood and to connect with them by listening to how they lived the flood and the difficulties they are presently having to cope with. Restoring people’s dignity by being present and moving across those barriers created in the mind and in between various social classes.
From the conversation we have had with the first 2 inhabitants we met with (our guides), we learnt that the people living in the red zone are in dire conditions so much so that even police officers and other important people refuse to go there, the worst being in times of urgency. They are into abject destitution. Their primary reflex after so many years of being ostracized is that of reacting with aggression. If there is a problem in our society which is not being taken care of it’s about how people feel and how to help them move upwards to restore their rights as equal citizens and to restore their dignity.
Giving away money to make as if this is going to change the prevailing condition is not even part of a long-term sustainable solution. When people go through intense damaging conditions, they need to be supported emotionally and psychologically. They need to be taken care of and helped in such a way that they can reconstruct themselves as individuals and members of the society. The Rs.175/ head is in no way going to save them from destitution while the Rs.3000/head in contrast to the Rs.6000/head, in either case cannot rebuild their life. Neither would that help them put in place drainage or housing facilities.
If unemployment is a paralyzing factor to women and the youth of the country, with the various discriminations already existing in terms of gender, social class and expats in the country, unemployment in areas isolated from the rest and being treated as second class citizens are in no way bringing any balance or relief to those affected.
Among the people we visited were once again elderly persons living with health problems and people in their 40s and 50s. If some are beautifully crafting their arts on gouni bags with colourful threads with much love and warmth in their hearts, we wonder about the means of those who are having no proper channel to earn their daily bread.