The Supreme Court should not be identifying the poor, but must leave that to ‘us economists’, says Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen.
Of course Mr.Sen. How stupid of the Apex Court to be so presumptuous! The amount the PC has allotted as being the ceiling to qualify for the BPL status is way generous! Why, some of the heads under which the allocation have been made are not even necessary like, rent, for instance or even education. My maid complains that she hasn’t been able to get a BPL card despite running from pillar to post for 5 years. Maybe the PC had found out that she spends more than Rs.32 per day and so have blocked her efforts.
I am surprised no one is praising the Commizzion, which in one deft stroke has ‘disappeared’ (as my granddaughter would say) lakhs of poor from the face of India. What a great way to project the ‘prosperity’ of our country! So now we have magicians in the PC in addition to jokers as our elected representatives. Truly a circus!
More seriously, the recent riots in UK were termed by observers as a reaction to the deepening social divide between the haves and have-nots. In India too the divide which has always existed is widening at an alarming rate. It is almost as big a ticking time bomb as the increasing population is. The situations of both classes of the population are similar, but oh so different.
Last night as I suffered from a bout sleeplessness, the similarities and differences between the two jostled in my brain. I am jotting them down before they fade away.
Note: Haves are those who obviously fall way above the PC defined BPL, and not to be confused with those who marginally escape being BPL. In short folks, it means people like you and me and those like the Ambanis, our leaders and of course PC members. The Have-nots are those workers, labourers and other BPL populace, which doesn’t have two spare coins to rub together.
They are denoted as Hs and HNs, respectively .
Let’s start with the basic needs of roti, kapda and makan and then go on to the other heads.
Both Hs and HNs suffer from heart-burn and acidity.
The Hs indulge in food – rich, oily, spicy and down it with gallons of cola, coffee and aerated drinks. They belch grossly as a result.
The HNs belch too because their stomachs are empty but producing digestive acids. The HNs stay hungry for hours and even days. Sometimes their hearts burn too when they see so much food being wasted at weddings and in hotels, when their kids go hungry.
Both the Hs and HNs are in a fix about clothes.
She stands in front of the wardrobe and wonders what to wear from the rows and rows of clothes and then agonises over what accessories to go with them..
In her meagre shack she looks at her single threadbare saree and wonders how to hide the big tear in it since any attempt to stitch it would only tear it completely. Her hands are bare, the glass bangles having broken when she was scrubbing vessels in a house the previous day, and the neck are ears are bare too….
This one is less about a dwelling place and more about sharing living quarters.
The Hs share. Of course, they do – the roof, that is. They are loathe to sharing the rooms/loo with members of their own family and so go on building/renting bigger houses where they all have their own ‘space’. Look at Mukesh Ambani’s Antilia! Guests coming to the Hs’ houses have to announce their arrival months in advance to avoid inconveniencing them.
The HNs on the other hand are experts at sharing the single room which accommodates not only their own family but those who keep streaming in to the city from their villages. When they live on the footpath, it is of course open house. And the loo? It is shared between a dozen families, that is, if they have one at all!
They have such large hearts that they even allow their hutments to be razed to give the Hs their malls and markets, while they live in inhuman conditions on the outskirts of the city and commute long distances to clean and wash for the Hs.
Actually the PC has been very generous in allotting Rs.49 as house rent. The HNs don’t pay rent at all – living on footpaths and under half constructed over bridges. So aren’t they saving the humongous amount, especially if it is a family we are talking about here?
There are more similarities in this one – both the classes have water.
The H in their overhead tanks and underground sumps, which they liberally flush down the pot, wash the terrace, balcony, car(s) etc. etc., not to speak of leaving the tap open as they brush and shave. The richer Hs even fill their sunken bathtubs to wallow in it. If the water wasted in hotel rooms by the Hs waiting for the hot water to start running from the taps is saved, I bet it can provide enough water for an entire colony of slum dwellers.
The HNs have a lot of water too – around their houses, in the narrow lanes and by lanes in their slum colonies and in puddles breeding mosquitoes around their shacks. But for water to drink, wash or bathe, they have to stand/fight in line at the single tap/hand-pump or trek miles to fetch a potful.
When there is no power the Hs have to sweat it out without an AC in summer and shiver in winter without heating. They can’t watch TV or use their computers unless they have power back up. What deprivation!
The HNs have all the light they can use since street lights don’t go off unless there is a major power breakdown and they don’t need any fan, living in the open and enjoying the gusts of wind from passing vehicles – so what if it is laced with methane and all kinds of toxic fumes? The slum dwellers, who are ‘not poor’ according to PC standards of course, are worse off, having to shell out unreasonable amounts as ‘electricity charges’ to the slum lord who has let out the jhuggi at an exorbitant rent.
I hope you understand now that being poor is a breeze while being a H is fraught with hardships of all kinds!
This affects both. The Hs are not able to go for those holidays, can’t afford to eat out at swanky restaurants and can’t afford to commute by car. The poor things!
The HNs don’t have to make a choice about things they want to buy with their meager income. They need food. But here comes the dilemma: what to buy? It certainly is not possible to buy one potato, one tomato and three bhindi with their income, as demonstrated by a TV channel. So grains win over and they end up eating plain rotis, which they sometimes wash down with water — if they can get some, that is.
These are all the similarities that I could think of, which would have you believe that the Hs hold all the cards vis-à-vis the HNs. But the latter hold the trump card.
While the Hs sit at home and pontificate over the state of the country and lament the poor quality of MPs and MLAs that get elected, loath to leave the comfort of their drawing rooms, the HNs lured by the ‘spirits’, and other ‘incentives’, fooled by the false promises of the leaders who make a beeline to their miserable homes and sometimes cowed down by threats of their slumlords, march to the polling booths and plunge their ultimate weapon on the symbol they have been ordered to push…thereby extracting sweet revenge on the unfeeling Hs who zip past in their fast cars and faster lifestyles.
Poetic justice? You bet!
(Image courtesy: 2space.net)