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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do Indian elections matter to Pandit Ji and Aslam?

Read any newspaper story or watch any news channel, the persons who are quoted and those who are referred to are mostly the upwardly mobile Indian.

They include the software techie, the BPO guy, a businessman or an IIM graduate apart from celebrities.

It is this particular section of urban class, which constitutes less than 5% of the population, that gets disproportionate attention.

During election time, an exception is made. The farmers are also thought of and there are promises of waiving electricity bills or easy loans.

However, there is a huge India aside. I spoke to Aslam and Pandit Ji, both groundnut sellers. Through out the day these two vendors carry the bag full of moong-phali along with a balance (tarazu) and move on selected routes, trying to earn some money by selling the groundnuts.

For them sensex, income tax and foreign affairs are not major issues. Pandit Ji's son passed XII but with 50% marks and he has no connections to get his son admission into any college. He can't afford private college fee.

Besides, Pandit Ji has a severe infection in his foot but the government hospital turned him away. He has no money to go to a private hospital. He has a big family and has a hell lot of problems that seem to have no solution.

Aslam has also his share of problems. "If I manage to sell groundnut worth Rs 150, then I save Rs 40-60 per day but that's not enough to meet my expenses". On bad days he makes Rs 30.

He has a wife and a young kid. Wife makes carry bags out of newspapers and sells them at shops to get some money but it's hardly of any help. The tall promises of politicians in this election hardly matter to them. Aslam once went to a local corporator for relief after flood but eventually he got nothing.

The irony is that nobody bothers about the poor any more or need for a real change. The most basic need is urgent and inexpensive medial care. However, it is no longer an issue. The middle-class stopped going to government hospitals and as a result nobody bothers about them.

Poor go to government hospitals only to be told that the doctor hasn't come. If they are fortunate to get the doctor, there are no medicines.

As the vocal middle-class has abandoned these places, nobody takes up these issues as newspapers and channels only listen to the class. In rural areas, situations are even worse.

The second basic need is education. But the era when a poor guy studying in a government school could aim for the sky, is almost passe. Now you throw money and get a degree. Where is parity and equal opportunity?

While MPs and MLAs raise their perks by thousands, millions of elderly citizens don't even get the minimal pension meant for destitute, that is barely a few hundreds a month. Pandit Ji and Aslam are just two persons who fall in a particular category of vendors.

There are people who work as drivers for Rs 3,000 a month, those who works as private security guards for less than 2,500 (and those who work in garment shops and hotels, there are guys working as labourers, masons, coolies, repairers, signboard painters, waiters, mechanics and numerous such professions) who don't even hope for a raise of Rs 100-300 a year.

There are teachers in private schools who don't get even 3,000 a month. And so many other people working in hundreds of other professions. A serious illness or an operation in a family is enough to give them a financial jolt for several years. Unfortunately this is not an issue in elections.

The election has cost us Rs 10,000 crore. Mostly it's the rich who fight the election and such is the trend that an honest person who doesn't have either filthy money or party backing wouldn't even be able to introduce himself to more than a few thousand of electorate, let alone create an impact on the entire constituency of over 10 lakh to 20 lakh.

After getting votes, they go back and the poor citizen doesn't even dare to knock at the doors of such palatial houses, even for genuine works. So what's positive about the election?

Yes there is talk about development, but that's all hollow. What any person with a critical family member needs is urgent medical care at lesser cost, but no party and no candidate has even raised the issue of healthcare for all Indians.

Not even the educated middle-class that should have set the agenda. We know we can afford better treatment and we don't care about the poor. Plain hypocrisy. We are worried about job losses but we don't care about millions of lives lost due to lack of medical attention.

In rural India, more than 100,000 women die during pregnancy, just because of lack of proper health care. Though 90% of them are preventable. So what are the issues for the Lok Sabha polls 2009. Just think of it. What sort of election is that and what sort of people are we?

[Photos: Pandit Ji (top) and Aslam]


Anser Azim said...

kind of same story appeared in todays indian express.

Balajee said...

Dear Indscribe,

Your article has touched a raw nerve with me. I always used to think what do the poor people or even lower middle class people do when faced with medical problems involving disproportionate costs over their income. For the people of this class this must be the biggest challenge facing there day to day life. The second issue is of education. We are adding to the population of India, but we really have an urgent need to educate everyone and not just make the people literate. Without that it will simply add to our numbers without giving adequate opportunity to the people for skill enhancement and learning. I think Health and Education are the two fundamental issues which are still being seriously neglected by the political class. The people understand this but I think the politicians are still to comprehend this. To top it all the media is least concerned about these issues and is foussing on trivial issues like the length of the nose and the make of the saree.

Opinionated Indian said...

Very thoughtful article. In this election of big wigs, crores of rupees, hungama, glitz, there is not one party which had education or anything remotely connected to it on its agenda. Quitefrankly, I am dumbstuck and have no words.

In the last article, I wrote one(anon) comment and it did not get published. Now I am second guessing it might have hurt the blogger. That was not my intention and extend my apologies.

JaLpArI - tHe MeRmAiD said...

Article written very well. Now, can you please offer some solutions. . And i dont mean solutions that are again asking the govt. to intervene. . .
anyone with any solutions that 'we' could set about doing?

all i can say is that we need to do our little part in the cosmic karma. . If we all do our little part, things would improve inshaAllah. .
we have 'kaam wali aunties' comin to houses, chaiwala bhaiyas. . If each one of us takes the responsibility of such people related to us (in any way), we are decreasing the poverty burden.

i dont know how much it happens in mainland india, but in my place people collect 'chanda' (charity) for gettin some operations etc done, such things are usually organized by religious bodies. . Like its announced after the namaz in a mosque that so and so person has such a disease, please donate money. . . Such things are already being done,
but the problem is that we are not ready to part with our money. . . MANY give them a ten rupees note. . Without playing down the importance of any amount of money, even if its a single rupee, i want to ask what exactly do we want that sick person to buy from our 'das rupya'? A single cornetto ice cream we eat costs 30 rupees.
what i mean is lets give money from our hearts. . .
no act goes a waste, of course. . . Even the ten rupee note counts, but let us give based upon our financial status, and not based upon the financial stats of the person askin for help. . .

"waise bhi gareeb hai, 100 log milke hazaar rupya bhi de de to usko bohot lagega" . . This should not be the attitude.

Sandeep Monga said...

These my dear r the real stories which no one covers,or if journalist cover them they r just for showing themselves as responsible journos.What don't our politicians stop sitting in their offices all the time.They know if they visit nywhere the staff works .The P.M. & his/her ministers should visit bthe entire country,all the states 7 cities towns & villages 1 by 1 at least for 1 week every month to oniter the development or the problems of these places,I tell u aor system will start working better.I have many more suggestions but.......

JaLpArI - tHe MeRmAiD said...

Talkin in a more 'indian muslim' perspective, i would like to stress upon the importance of zakaat. . .
firstly, lets earn halaal money. . The gr8 gap between the rich and poor is added to by the various haram money sources.
second, be true wen calculating your zakaat. . Dnt folow the gold prices that existed wen u bought the jewelery (dadi's jewelry must have been bought in just a thnusand bucks), bt the rates tht are NOW. .
and thirdly, channelize zakaat money properly. . . Givin 100 Musallas and 100 tasbeehs to the local mosque is cool. . But well, if you think. . You dont need a 'made in turkey' musalla to pray, and tasbeeh is better done on the fingers. . . Three meals to three poor orphans is better than one biryani to one.
so, channelize the zakaat properly.
by this, you are helpin your religion, and also your country, coz any poverty reduced is the country's poverty reduced. This is utmost important esp coz the indian muslims are the 'backward' people of india. Instead of askin people for reservation, lets raise our own standard and get out of the 'other backward classes' mess. .

How do we know said...

i like that line - And what sor of people are we? The pitiable sort, thats what.

Faroha said...

That's the problem with South Asia. Elections here are not issue-based. They are usually campaigned on Roti, kapra, makan, which the poor dont get so that politicians can fight on the same slogans again in the next elections, or caste, or security, or such things. No one fights elections on education, health or justice related issues.

Anonymous said...

Long Long time back I commented on this forum that India needs a Lenin. Maoists will do their ideology will do but not their methods. It makes me wonder @ times if the Maoists really want to uproot the evil why not assassinate the politicians instead of the Policemen.

Jalpari ur ideas are gud but truth be said u need somewhat more realistic. I suggest introducing deliberate disengagements in rural and city economy. Their inter dependency has taken away the self sufficiency aspect from the rural economy. As far as health care is concerned then i still believe its way way cheaper in India than in other countries.

But if u honestly introspect u know nothing concrete shall ever happen. The system is flawed the citizens are guilty and such is the ever expanding enormity of the problem that the system needs a complete shutdown in order to repair it. Redistribution of wealth, an idealistic Lenin anticipated society. But India is going through a transition it will not slow down, shut down is completely out of question. At the end of the day most of us will look @ ourselves with guilt ridden faces, questioning our commitment to the cause of Humanity and then will walk away saying 'Is duniya mei jisne aphsos kiya uspe aphsos karne ko koi na mila'

I truly appreciate your concern dear friend but you shall not be able to change anything not a hundred like you nor a thousand. you will contribute with all ur energy but @ the end of the day what you shall achieve is a white spot in this black universe. nothing else :( :(

Kagaz ki kashti said...

True what you say & the stories of these men are painful indeed.
But what my assessment is that there had been a good amount of work done by the governement. People say that the amount of work done in last 5 years is more than what was done in previous 15 years of history.
India is developing, and it will be having more development in near future. Improved health care & family pension etc.
If you see the movie 'Sicko", you will be shocked to know how bad and expensive medical health facilities in US. And then we say US is a super power... Compare it with India, we are much better.
What this election has bought is a true change in people's mind set... masjid/mandir issue is nowhere, u will see politicians who did not worked for the people would not be elected again.. atleast I am sure about it.
Keeping fingers crossed :-)

Amitabh said...

Govt. is doing a lot of things to improve their economical status but because of India’s large populating many of them being left out. It will take sometime but we will overcome.

What I would suggest here is try to control population by any mean. That’s the only solution. Lots of people think that India has lot of money in their account and it true as well but using all the money on one problem is not possible. We have to diversify the money in such a way so that important things like security, education and health should not be neglected due to lack of fund. If the govt. can take care of these two steps one day India’s population will come down and at the same time millions of people will be above poverty line.

Rest is fine. Hope for the best.

Anser Azim said...

These numbers are for you to understand. The 51.2 percent mark is very high.
New Delhi:

India now is ahead of only Sub-Saharan Africa among developing countries in terms of the percentage of population below the poverty line, though it fared better than China on this count in 1990, according to the World Bank.

The multilateral lender, in its recently released report 'Global Economic Prospects for 2009', said a quarter of India's population will be living in extreme poverty, on less than USD 1.25 a day, in 2015.

The corresponding figures for China is 6.1 per cent and for Sub-Saharan Africa 37.1 per cent. These are based on purchasing power parity exchange rates derived from the 2005 price surveys, meaning that the calculations have been made assuming a dollar's purchasing power to be the same in the years under consideration as in 2005.

According to the World Bank's poverty forecast, China had 60.2 per cent of its population living on less than USD 1.25 a day in 1990, compared to India's 51.3 per cent.

abhijith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krishna said...

Excellent article. Thanks for highlighting the real issues. Instead our politicians choose emotional stuff like Terrorism or imposing some language..hindi or marathi,etc. Instead of taking care of temples and other religious fairs and travels, If governament can focus on it's actual duties...Education and Health care, then most Indians will benefit not just those indians who could get into the new age jobs..BPO or software. Gov definitely did some good work in the form of few good hospitals and edu institutes, but now with new opportunities opening up, it needs to really focus on these issues.

Lamboo said...

Sir, look at it from my perspective. In 1969, when hiking in Himachal in India, I was greeted by a man walking on hillpath. He had a pole with small bells and he was announcing, please be aware, a SC is comimg. Today, you do not see them. I have travelled all over India and in Raigarha where there is lot of mineral deposits which is making some companies very rich, local people spend half of their life time in collecting wood and water. There has been at least a Health Minister in Orissa Govt and three MLA in last 60 years from that area. Povert forces these people to sell their children, some times not to earn money but to send them far away where there shall be water, food and may be a roof so that when they grow up, they can have a better life.
Questions is what we can do. We have a process in place where Indian Govt is doing things but it is slow and will take many years before it can touch every body.
I think, we all educated citizens of India can also do private effort to accelerate this process. I am in Healthcare business and i request you to set up a trust, make a model of hospital/healthcare delivery where we address these specific people and problems, set up large number of these hospitals, support them with voluntary donation of 5% of what we earn every month and close them when either the Goverenment comes in or when the problem has been addressed. Similarily you can have schools and colleges.
Let all of us donate one working year of our life to these institutions. And when I say, all of us , i mean all- there are so many things to do to make these institutions work smoothly.It should be like red cross.

Interested, start it. You are first volunteer and I am the second. Find your third volunteer and we are already a company. Thanks