wo news items carried in the Daily Mirror on Monday, on inside pages though, warrant serious thinking and a deeper study of the Sri Lankan economy. The stories, both reported from Matara were about two hapless persons, a mother and a father in two separate incidents attempting to ruin the lives of their own children, not due to their possible inborn cruelty, but owing to extreme desperation and frustration apparently born out of poverty.
In the first of these stories, a woman had left her one-year-old infant with her fourteen-year-old sister-in-law under the pretext of visiting her husband and fled the area. In a heart-rending statement to the police the sister-in-law, who is also still a small child at 14, had told the Weligama Police that when she spoke to the mother of the child about the infant she had reacted angrily and told her to leave the infant in the deep freezer. One can surmise that she might not really have meant that, but it was the way she had expressed her desperation.
In the story, a differently-abled man had left his two sons, aged four and five, at the side of the Mahanama Bridge in Matara and had allegedly attempted to commit suicide by jumping into the Nilawala River, a waterway infamous for such acts undertaken by desperate people. He had been saved by some villagers who had seen him attempting to end his life. He had later told the police that he was a father of eight children and his wife had deserted the family. He had stated that he had travelled all the way from Embilipitiya to Matara with his young children in search of his wife, to no avail.
These are not the only stories published in newspapers so far about the harm inflicted by parents on their children, borne out of desperation, but unintentional. It was a few moons ago two children were thrown into Kalu Ganga and were rescued by three army personnel who were on duty nearby. Needless to say these are only a few such incidents that have been reported by the media although many more may have gone unreported.
These are stories read mostly by women and the possibility of the economic pundits or policy makers reading them is remote. However these are the stories that challenge the claims made by the politicians who always try to paint a rosy picture of the country’s development and economic prosperity. Whatever the figures about growth rates, per capita income or unemployment recorded in the reports prepared by the concerned authorities show, these stories point to a situation that prevails in the country where mothers and fathers of the poorer sections of our society who in acts of utter desperation proceed to throw their children into rivers or die violent deaths by throwing themselves into rivers, leaving their desperate children to fend for themselves, while on the other end of the spectrum the number of motor vehicles imported into the country by the economically effluent persons of our society increases every year clogging the main roads.
What these events tells us is that the fruits of the so-called development or economic prosperity have not reached the lower strata of society, especially the masses in the interior of the country. But no complaint is heard from them or from their so-called representatives since the people have reposed the responsibility of the situation on the Karma or fate. It is therefore pertinent for the intelligentsia of the country now to initiate a discourse on the economic realities around them.