The killing of Odisha’s health and family welfare minister Naba Das on Sunday still comes as a shocker.
In a country that has had its tragic share of assassinations, including the most heinous murder of the apostle of peace the nation remembered on January 30, the killing of Odisha’s health and family welfare minister Naba Das on Sunday still comes as a shocker. It is not often that an armed policeman becomes an assassin though there was a precedent in Mrs Indira Gandhi being gunned down by the very people who were detailed to protect her.
As a politician and a serving minister, the senior BJD leader may have been in the right place as he went to an inaugural event on a Sunday. It was his misfortune that a sub-inspector, said to have been facing a mental health issue as serious as bipolar disorder, as revealed by a doctor who had treated him in the past as well as recently, chose that occasion to use his gun on a human target because he was unhappy with something in his professional life.
The service conditions of policemen, who draw relatively meagre salaries, has been a long running issue in a country whose people are accustomed to being granted leave for personal reasons at the drop of a hat. This matter of taking casual leave has been a perennial problem in police forces leading to many an incident of cops opening fire on colleagues or themselves.
Mental health issues are, however, a very serious matter and need far greater application of collective minds of the superiors in such forces. Medical resources are rarely used to treat people who are always on an edge when it comes to being on duty for long hours on ‘bandobast’ duty and for days together. There is a need not only for greater sensitisation among the workforce but also sensitivity on the part of those in charge of such human resources.
It must be terrible for the leader’s family that he should be the victim of what may not have been a planned political assassination. While grieving for him as we invariably do when a person is thought of as an innocent victim, what must not be lost sight of is the larger human problem of mental illness, to talk about which itself may have been taboo in Indian society. To be humane may come with a cost but, as a society, we have some way to go in recognising the problems of people among us and helping them.