The Deadly Indian Roads!

WORLD HEALTH Organisation has revealed in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety that more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world. This has given a dubious distinction for the country.

The report says that in India 13 people die every hour in road accidents. These figures are also backed by the records of National Crime Bureau. It says that in 2007, 1.14 lakh people in India lost their lives in road mishaps. Road deaths in India registered a sharp 6.1 per cent rise between 2006 and 2007. These are the registered cases. The numbers could significantly increase considering the number of cases that go unregistered. 50 per cent of the deaths include pedestrians, cyclists and bikers. The maximum number of casualty is reported from Andhra Pradesh followed by Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The reasons for such figures are also not very difficult to figure out. Most of the deaths can be attributed to speeding, not following traffic rules, no helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles. An increase in average speed is directly related to both the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of crash consequences. Moreover, the traffic management in most of the cities does not function at all. The citizens should also be blamed who hardly follow any rules while driving. They can easily get away by paying paltry sums in case of any traffic law being broken. The law in itself is also not strict to keep checks on the vehicle movements. We don’t have scientific traffic engineering which forms the basis of road safety improvement practiced in the United States and United Kingdom since 1930s.

It is quite ironical that in our country 30 deaths from swine flu has made headlines but the 13 deaths per hour on road hardly find mention in the news. It is very important to set the traffic management right with the latest technologies. The drivers should also take all precautions. These road fatalities can become an ‘epidemic’ and will be the world’s fifth biggest killer by 2030.

Mayawati: Vision of Development and Handbag!

MAYAWATI’S STATUE-BUILDING spree has been termed as a demonstration of her narcissism. Remember that Uttar Pradesh  is one of the most underdeveloped states in the country. In the last assembly elections, the people of Uttar Pradesh had given their Behenji an entire term to rule them. They believed in her “Sarv Jan Hitay Sarv Jan Sukhay” slogan and delivered their mandate. I have “serious objections” to those who are raising the point that Behenji is wasting our money. We must understand that every politician has his/her own vision.

Maywati's Statue
Maywati's Statue

Mayawati seriously believes that development can be achieved through building statues. So that is what she is doing. There might be a power crisis in the state but the people should not worry because the electricity that will “light the statues” will also give their homes some light. Something is better than nothing. She might not be doing anything to bring investments to the state, but her decision to erect statues has generated employment for hundreds.
This was the precisely the reason why Ambedkar Park was razed and a new monument was erected in Lucknow in memory of Manyawar Kanshi Ram. Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula had the same objective in mind when he ordered the building of the Imambara after his people were unable to make ends meet after a bad drought. What’s wrong with it? Elephant statues await you in Lucknow. The elephant is a symbol of power. Mayawati is powerful and so is the state of Uttar Pradesh. The state has a population that exceeds even that of neighbouring Pakistan.

To ensure that we remain powerful, we pay no heed towards the population problem and it ensures that the  state plays a big role in the country’s politics. This is the precise reason that we have a “developed” state and why it is scaling new heights. The power and water crisis, lack of infrastructure, investments, and law and order, are just the words used by politicos. But by now, we have “adapted” to it. So who cares for these “words”. Do remember to contribute towards the fund of Behenji’s birthday. You could end up risking your life.

The state might not have any jobs for its students but it has ensured that the state becomes an old age home with children moving to other states for employment. This must be a way to control the population of the state. The new parks and statues will attract more tourists and will increase the wealth in the “Sarkari Khajana” for more “such developmental schemes”. The curriculum of the state board may see some changes as well. We need some reforms in education and it will be great to have a dedicated lesson on “Mayawati and her development vision for Uttar Pradesh.”

Twenty years down the line, I will walk on the lanes of Lucknow with my kids. They will gawk at the statue of the lady with a handbag. I will tell them that it was our Behenji who made this state developed and  prosperous. The parks that we enjoy, were built under her regime. 

But that bag which you see carries MY MONEY.

Bandra Worli Sea Link: 21st century symbol of classism

Bandra Worli Sea Link which was inaugurated last week has captured the attention of all the citizens of Mumbai. This mega project is developed by MSRDC (Maharshtra State Road Development Corporation) and HCC. The budget of this bridge shot up 4 times from initial Rs 400 crores for 16 lanes to Rs 1634 crore for 4 lanes. Isn’t something interesting? The opposition parties have already demanded for probe by central agency for corruption in the project.
BWSL is said to be the major project in Mumbai after independence. There are two landmarks in Mumbai now, the gateway of India and Bandra Worli Sea Link. I was enjoying the rains of Mumbai on Saturday at Worli Sea face with my friends. We decided to have a look of BWSL which was 100 m away from sea face. I went there with anxiety but on reaching the sea link, I realized that this link is not meant for the pedestrians and 2-3 wheelers. I was bit surprised and chuckled. The government has made majority of Mumbaikars fool. The one who does not owns a car is not allowed to enter the sea link. Gateway of India was made for Prince and this bridge has been made for rich. This is the vision that government has for aam aadmi!! During British times we had a hoarding “Dogs and Indians not allowed” and now there will be hoarding at sea link “Pedestrians and Bikers not allowed.”
I want to ask government whether they have constructed a bridge or opened a 5 star hotel. A major infrastructure project of which Mumbai is boosting is zilch for ordinary person. This is against the Article 21 of our Constitution which gives me this right to go to any place which is not private. It just shows that we are still held by the evils of classism. This sea link, an Engineering marvel, is the symbol of 21st century classism. Let me tell you that anyone can go and walk on Golden Gate Bridge in California. They have dedicated lane for pedestrians and 2 wheelers. But then this is India. Nawab Malik, cabinet Minister of state in an interview on television said that the pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge because they will commit suicide from it. What a silly reason? Has government done any survey or something on this? We can say this statement as a statement of government unless government disowns his statement. Today I want to ask all of the readers that are the infrastructure developments meant for rich only?
The citizens must join hands and agitate against this discrimination. As a tax payer, I have also contributed to building of this bridge. And even if i have not then also government cannot stop me from walking on to the bridge. The government will have to answer to the citizens about the stupid logic of depriving majority from using the bridge.

Bihar Transformed

On the morning of counting day, driving through rain and the blossoms of Laburnum and Gulmohar in Patna, I was surprised to find that the road outside Nitish’s residence deserted. For a moment I assumed the other news channels had decided to skip the early morning slightly pointless pre results dispatches, till I walked a few steps away to the next lane. Sure enough, the entire media cavalcade of cameras and broadcast vans was parked right there – outside the home of Rabri devi, Lalu’s wife and the proxy Leader of Opposition.
 
Why would the media ignore the bigger story – Nitish Kumar, the man being wooed by all political formations, praised by Rahul Gandhi, hand-grabbed by Narendra Modi, and generally seen as Bihar’s great hope – to chase the by now predictable story –  the decline of Lalu Prasad, the Railway minister who looked all set to go off track this election?
 
This could a matter of habit – after all, Lalu has been the centre of gravity in Bihar for two decades. Or it could a more calculated journalistic gambit, linked to the well known contrast between the two men – Impetuous Lalu might supply some drama even as a loser, while Punctilious Nitish would not allow the media in except at the
designated hour dutifully phoned and faxed to media offices. Nitish, as the consensus goes, does not believe in springing surprises.
 
And the initial leads came as no surprise. Both reporters and exit polls had picked up the astonishingly high level of Nitish’s personal popularity on which the NDA hoped to sweep Bihar. The only subject of speculation then – what would be the final tally?
 
Lalu’s elder son, a Krishna Bhakt and mildly notorious in Patna, drove in from a morning visit to the temple, flashing the victory sign, holding up both his hands. He is giving four seats to his party – quipped one journalist. Uncannily, that’s what the RJD ended the day with.
 
Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP leader who completes the Bihar triumvirate, had all morning been enconsced in a five star hotel suite – the one that he occupies when he is in Patna, which is not too often, usually around election time. He has a reason, or excuse, to stay away – as part of every single government since 1996, his duties as Union Minister have kept him busy in Delhi. Except this election took that excuse away. Paswan lost from Hajipur – a seat he won seven times since 1977, losing just once in the Congress wave of 1984. This time, an 88 year old man, Ram Sunder Das defeated him. Das could be this Lok Sabha’s oldest candidate.
 
As far as age goes, many have claimed this election has upturned an old truth about the way Bihar polls. That it is no longer about Jaat or caste, the vote is for Vikaas or development. Hardly one to dispute the remarkable transformation underway in Bihar, led by Nitish, I would slightly modify that claim. The reality is more nuanced.
 
Nitish has revived Bihar’s comatose administration, kickstarted schools and hospitals, used the centre’s money well to build roads and infrastructure – public goods meant for all, they have indeed created a groundswell of support for him across the state and across communities. But what Nitish has also done is target benefits to specific communities, based on caste: the EBC’s or extremely backward castes, numerically larger among the backward castes but edged out by the more powerful Yadavs and Kurmis, have finally been given political space through reservations in panchayats; Mahadalits, dalits minus chamars and Paswans, for whom state largesse now ranges from subsidised homes to monthly supply of bathing soap; even among Muslims, Nitish has singled out the Pasmanda or backward and dalit muslims for special schemes like Talimi Markaj, a scheme aimed to bring Muslim children to school.
 
This is social engineering, Nitish style. And it pays. It has created new votebanks. Numerically, the most significant is the EBC bloc, 100 odd castes that add up to around 30 % of Bihar’s vote. In 2004, not a single EBC candidate was voted to Parliament. In 2009, three will be sworn in as MPs, all three are from Nitish’s party.
 
Further proof of how caste realigned this election – Lalu’s outburst post defeat. Two months ago, on poll eve, he dismissed my questions on the impact of the potential consolidation of the EBC and Mahadalit vote. But as his own electoral defeat from Pataliputra flashed on TV screens, he turned to the group of journalists and ranted : ‘Everyone has united against Yadavs, there is hatred against Yadavs’. His other villains: the administration for rigging the polls, an upper caste media for biased reporting. Familiar targets from the nineties. Not suprising. But what was mildly stunning was Lalu’s dismissal of development as a factor. He said if Vikaas could win votes, he would have won hands down for the turnaround of the Railways. He was emphatic : development does not win votes. It was scary to see a man stuck in the nineties.
 
Nitish, as expected, called for a press conference and walking into 1, Anne Marg had a surprise in store : a mandatory security check, at sharp contrast from the mad chaotic unchecked stampede into Lalu’s home. The security guards, including women constables, were trained to frisk, but did not have the detectors. Another insight into how Bihar is changing – step by step.
 
The press conference took place under the mango tree, the sole unchanging landmark in a vastly different Chief Ministerial Residence. The briefing lasted twenty minutes and a beaming Nitish Kumar repeated several times, the word ‘Nakaraatmak’, translated best as ‘Negative’, but far more potent in its original meaning. Nitish said voters had rejected the ‘Nakaraatmak’ approach of his opponents. Nitish reiterated that this was a vote against ‘Nakaraatmak’ politics. At final count, Nitish had used the word 10 times.
 
Nitish may have choosen the negative adjective, but his work has been an affirmative one, both as the chief minister trying to bring governance back to Bihar, and as a politician schooled in the politics of social justice. The stream combines the socialist ideals of Jayaprakash Narayan, and the modified socialism of Karpoori Thakur – Bihar’s second backward caste chief minister and the first to introduce reservations for OBCs in North India, way back in 1978. Both Lalu and Nitish were claimants to this legacy. But while Lalu squandered it, Nitish is building on it – by deepening the reach of reservations and social targeting. It is Mandal Part Two. And like Mandal Part One, you could have a problem with it, if you oppose affirmative action based on caste. Except, by further refining reservations, Nitish has actually taken on what has been one of the prinicipal criticisms of Mandal – that it helped dominant caste groups like Yadavs and Kurmis become even more powerful, at the cost of the more backward and less powerful groups.
 
Lalu may have privately wished that Nitish’s agenda would lead to a backlash from the upper castes, Yadavs and Kurmis – but it didn’t. Possibly one explanation : even if the others are slightly resentful of reservations, the resentment is offset by the larger benefits of a functioning state that has finally begun to deliver.
 
No wonder, at his press conference, Nitish didnt look particularly crushed at the national picture of a UPA win, and an NDA defeat. Instead, he asked the new government at the centre to live up to the promise of special status for Bihar – just a day ago, every political party had shown a willingness to consider the demand when a hung verdict seemed likely and the support of Nitish seemed crucial.
 
Still beaming, Nitish wrapped up : Good that the elections are over, now lets all get back to work.
 
Post Script: Observations overheard that day: RJD has become Rajput Janta Dal. Apart from Laloo, the other three RJD candidates who won are Rajputs.
 
The election has ended the Raj of Gundas – Gundis. Gundas are dons turned politicians. Gundis are their wives, propped up as proxy candidates. All 10 of them lost. Including Munna Shukla on a JD U ticket.
 
A jubiliant Nitish had one reason to be upset. Digvijay Singh, his former party colleague turned rebel, won from Banka defeating Nitish’s candidate. This setback could be crucial – in keeping Nitish grounded. Bihar cannot afford another arrogant leader.

Source: NDTV Written by Supriya Sharma

The IIT incident: A result of persistent blind eyes

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur which is a premier institute of India is again in news but for wrong reasons this time. The death of the institute’s third-year electrical engineering student, Rohit Kumar, last Sunday, has rattled the students of the institute. According to first-hand account of students, Rohit had been visiting the hospital since Friday, March 20, complaining of headaches. On Sunday, the headaches became increasingly painful and he was on his way back from the doctor when he fainted and fell from the rickshaw, resulting in major injuries.

Following this, he was taken to BC Roy Hospital by two students of Lala Lajpat Rai Hostel. The doctor on duty (who was present at the time when Rohit was taken to the hospital), Dr NK Som, recommended that he be taken to the Apollo Hospital, Kolkata and shown to a neuro-surgeon. He said that BC Roy Hospital did not have facilities to handle such cases and that it was best to take him to Kolkata as soon as possible. However, problems such as filling of petrol and the extensive paperwork involved in arranging an ambulance caused a delay of two hours during the course of which nothing much could be done. He was finally sent to Kolkata with two students for company and an untrained attendant. En route it was found that though the oxygen mask had been placed over his mouth, the tank had not been turned on. Soon after this, Rohit started coughing blood.

The students who accompanied him had the attendant call up Dr Som and the students followed his instructions; pumping out blood without any help from the attendant. At that time, it was decided to take Rohit to the Spandan Hospital in Midnapore since his condition was deteriorating rapidly. In spite of asking the BC Roy Hospital officials to inform Spandan authorities of the impending arrival, there was no one there to receive them. By the time a doctor was available, Rohit had passed away and the hospital declared him dead on arrival.
The above account is on the basis of the report filed in the online newspaper written by IITKGP students.(http://scholarsavenue.blogspot.com)

The news of Rohit’s death spread like wildfire and students gathered outside the director’s (Damodar Acharya’s) residence demanding some response from him. A callous answer of “looking into the matter” and his attitude made matters worse. As tempers ran high and numbers swelled, students resorted to destruction of property, in a bid to demonstrate their anger. They ransacked the director’s bungalow, smashing his car and forcing him to resign on Sunday.

In a democratic set up, one is free to protest. There have been numerous cases in the recent past where people have been forced to be violent and aggressive. It is very disheartening but true to a great extent that authorities just turn a blind eye to peaceful protests. Barring the stir by students against reservation in 2006, all the subsequent protests have been violent in nature. Be it Gujjar protest, Gorkhaland, Amarnath Yatra land row, Khairlanji incident, Nandigram etc. But only such protests were able to move the authorities.

In this case too, the students are justified in their protest. The reason being many such cases of medical negligence have been reported on the campus in the past few months. Given below are a few of them:


Gaurav Tomar, a fifth-year student was suffering from very high fever before Holi. He was admitted to the BC Roy Technology Hospital and treated for jaundice and typhoid. Later, in Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, Gaurav was diagnosed with malignant malaria, the actual reason behind high fever. The wrong treatment allegedly damaged his kidneys.

In December, a second-year student suffered cardiac arrest while attending an NSS camp outside the IIT campus.

He was rushed to the institute’s hospital, but doctors could not even administer oxygen, as there was reportedly no mask at hand. The student died shortly.

A few days ago, a fourth-year student had fractured his arms while playing football. It took five hours for the hospital to organise an ambulance to transport him to Kolkata.

Considering the series of the negligence cases and repeated requests from the students falling to deaf ears the students took such an action. If the authorities had taken the issue being raised seriously, a life could have been saved. Moreover, such violence would not have occurred in the campus of an IIT. But as Bhagat Singh said: “To make deaf hear, a blast is required.” Perhaps, this is the tragedy of this democratic nation. Bhagat Singh used these words for British Government which was neglecting the concerns of people. The concerns of people are still being neglected by our very own people. If the issues concerning people are not heard by the administration and government, then the meaning of democracy ceases to exist.

This incident was very visibly a result of the blinded deaf authorities. It had an implied reaction from the students in the form of very violent protests which led to self-resignations of the Director & the Dean. This and whatever post-incident action that is going to be delivered are very obvious reactive actions from the authorities, but a question that still finds an answer for itself is that when will the authorities of premier institutes and organisations take proactive measures towards the safety and well-being of their members?

Need to enhance medical competence to handle crisis

Ever since Mumbai was hit by terrorists on November 26 last year, there have been many steps taken to improve the security and to counter similar situation in the future in a better way. There has been no denying that there was security lapse due to which terrorists were able to create mayhem in the city. But, it is the time to introspect the weaknesses in our system and try to plug the same to avoid such occurrence again in any part of the country.

This post is basically to attract the attention of readers and administrators on the incapability of our medical staff during such hour of crisis. There is a report that 70 people died in the carnage at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Out of these 70 people, 30 who were hit on hands or legs lost their lives due to non-availability of treatment at the right time. So, we should learn some lessons and try to step up the emergency handling capability of the administration.

It is thus very essential that our administration tries to ponder on the following points which I and few of my doctor friends felt should be implemented:

  • We need to have concept of ‘triage’ in this country. This concept needs to start from the place of disaster itself. Triage is a process of prioritising patients based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. The term comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate, sort, sift or select.
  • Then we need to place ambulances at the strategic locations throughout the city. The staff with the ambulance should be well trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR is an emergency medical procedure for a victim of cardiac arrest or, in some circumstances, respiratory arrest. These are the two commonest complications which person injured in such strike undergoes. There should be training of civilians as well in CPR. The situation in our country is such that even medical professionals don’t have any experience in this. Right now, staff in ambulance is just not capable to do this simplest procedure which is taught in school in many of the Western countries.
  • The infrastructure in hospitals in current scenario is not up to the standards. There are very less number of beds in casualty and operation theatre. A hospital was just a few metres away from CST station and if it was better equipped, then few more lives probably could have been saved. Hence, it is very important to have separate wards/beds to handle any emergency situation.
  • The biggest problem then faced is shortage of blood. The blood bank and hospital coordination is also poor in our country. It takes much time for a relative of injured or a hospital staff to collect blood and then give it to the wounded. Therefore, it is essential that our blood-banks and hospitals work in tandem.
  • According to a few medical students, there should be especial training given to doctors as well. It is just because under normal circumstances, a doctor hardly treats the bullet injury.Few of them were of view that this training should be done by the army doctors, who are quite familiar with the treatment during bullet injury. There can also be the proposal of setting a separate unit of trained doctors like we have National Security Guard (NSG) or something. These doctors can be flown in the minimum time period to the place of casualty. They can work in aggregation with the regular staff of hospitals and also this can overcome the shortage of and burden on regular doctors. There is a fact that the doctors are overburdened in regular days and during emergency situation the condition gets even worse.
If there is proper team of trained medical and paramedical staff to handle any crisis then the number of deaths can be brought down. Whether the points mentioned above are feasible or not is to be decided by decision making bodies. But, I have felt that the current medical facilities are just not enough. It is thus of utmost importance that the administration thinks over this aspect as well.

Mumbai To Shanghai Via Baghdad

This is a fictional short story trying to portray the illusions created by our Political System.

This voyage of mine is 4 months old. I was working on a cargo ship named Mumbai at that time.It all started when my employers one day asked me whether I will like to join them in their Voyage on a Cruise called Shanghai. I was pleasantly surprised by their offer but at the same time I was very apprehensive while conversing with them in first few meetings. I don’t know how, but they came to know that I was still not very much convinced with their idea and had doubts in my mind regarding the Voyage which they were asking me to take.

By and by, they started to make me feel comfortable and tried their level best so that I join them. They were great charmers, every time they came for a meeting they brought snaps of Shanghai to allure me. Finally, I crossed the road which they wanted me to cross. I was convinced, I made a promise to my parents that on Shanghai I will work hard and earn enough to get them what ever they could wish for themselves for my employees had told to me that Shanghai was a wonderful cruise to work on and I can make everything from nothing out there. I bid good bye to my parents and reached the port on specified date and time. There I saw 20 youth with travelling  bags on their back.When I joined them,I came to know that they were also  asked to join this voyage.

The employers said that we will be traveling on Mumbai for first few days and then we will board the Shanghai some where in Mediterranean. But, the employers had different plans altogether, they wanted us to work for them on their oil vessel called Baghdad. But, since they were not able to find employees for this vessel, they deceived us. Actually, Baghdad was not in good shape and those who worked on it feared for their life as it could sink any time.The cunning employers said that we will have to board the Baghdad in Red Sea and we will have to work on it for 6 months and only then we can go on Shanghai. Left with no option in mid sea we all had to bow down before them.

Right now, we are working hard on Baghdad and our employers are exploiting us. The working conditions are tough out here and then there is a  fear that Baghdad may sink any time. I miss  Mumbai. Greed and illusion has made my life tough. But I am the one who is responsible for my present condition. Had I said a firm no to the illusion called Shanghai and loved my Mumbai I would have  never seen such a hard life. I am still on Baghdad and I am not sure whether my employees will keep their promise of sending me to work on Shanghai.

But one thing is for sure,next time I wont repeat the mistake. I will not fall prey to cunning people anymore. I will work on Mumbai and be loyal to it. I don’t want Shanghai. All I want is a peaceful life.

This short story is an effort by me to make the people of India aware of their voting rights and stop them from making the mistake they have been making for years. Please do vote this time and yes most importantly vote for the right person for the betterment of India. Leave your personal issues behind and think about the nation.

This short story is an effort by me to make the people of India aware of their voting rights and stop them from making the mistakes they have been making for years.

Employers are none other than those very politicians whom we have elected to take care of our nation. The 21 employees are us, i.e. the people of India.

These politicians have been promiseing to make Mumbai Shanghai some day but look at what they have made of it. A situation which is the same as in Baghdad – rather worse than it – is prevailing in Mumbai. Mumbai is now standing in the same league as of Kabul, Islamabad and Baghdad( with regards to the terror attacks). These blood-sucking Politicians suck our hard-earned money as tax to live a lavish life. Instead of getting more schools built, they get reservation quotas enforced. Instead of uniting India they divide us on regional & communal basis. Instead of controlling floods they have developed it as an industry. Instead of mourning the death of people killed in terror attacks, supporters of one leader celebrate the selection of his leader as the new chief minister of the state. The other candidate waiting for long to become CM gets upset with the high command and floats a new party of his own the very day. One of them barks like a dog and then the other talks about lipsticking and powder. The CM of the neighboring state comes for a visit to Taj for his vote bank politics at the time when NSG was fighting with terrorists while the then CM of the state goes on terror tourism with his son and a Bollywood director. The shameful acts of theirs have no parallels.

So my request to the people of India is: Step out of your home and please do vote this time. And yes, most importantly, vote for the right person for the betterment of our very own nation. If you don’t think we have the right person, read this. But, please don’t sit at home and crib. Get out of your walls and vote.

Jai Hind

This is how the other half lives

Female shop assistants first made their appearance in Kurumbur bazaar after STD booths [phone booths] opened in this tiny town.

Before their advent, one did not see girls behind shop counters here. After all, this was rural Tamil Nadu, where the only two places women worked were either in the fields or as domestic help.

Then things began to change. The utensil store hired a salesgirl, then the ice-cream shop and soon there was a fair sprinkling of girls in the town’s shops.

When Indian Oil Corporation opened a petrol pump here, it hired girls to dispense fuel to customers. They were paid as much as the boys, were given the day shift while boys worked the nights.

S Kuruppaya, who has been running the petrol pump for two years, says many girls have come and gone during this period.

M Devi is 22, has studied up to class IX and belongs to the village. After working at the STD booth for Rs 500 a month, she moved to the petrol pump. “Here, I get Rs 1,800 a month,” she says.

“Many girls from my street work in a textile showroom in Chennai. They live in a hostel there. My mother did not allow me to go there though I wanted to,” she continues, insisting that her photograph be taken in such a way that it didn’t show her face.

Since her elder brother moved out after marriage, she lives with her mother who works as a farm labourer earning Rs 40 a day.

“I like the work here. It is better than working in the paddy or banana fields where you have to work under the blazing sun and sometimes in pouring rain.”

She does a 10-hour shift, coming in at 8.30 am and leaving at 6.30 pm. Apart from her salary, she gets Rs 10 as expense money everyday. She also gets tea twice a day.

Her co-worker is L Stella, 43. After working at a printing press before, she had left the job to look after her home for a couple of years but a need for money forced her to take up the job at the petrol pump.

At the printing press, she earned Rs 1,500 a month, here she makes Rs 2,000.

Every morning she comes to work after sending her little son to school. In the evening, since he comes home before her, she rushes home at the end of her shift.

“I have never worked in the fields, I am happy this pump employs women. Normally in the village women are employed only in the agriculture sector, and I don’t know that work,” says Stella, whose husband is employed in the army and is usually away.

Working in a petrol pump is not easy. The women come across drivers who are rude, obnoxious, or in a mood to flirt. Often they have to put up with vulgar and sexist remarks. Moreover, the smell of petrol, diesel and oils is overpowering.

They have not heard about the NREGA, the government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to provide employment for 100 days at Rs 80 daily in the rural sector. But even if that were to start here, they say they are not interested. “If we wanted to work in the sun, we would have gone to the fields. That is less hours of work for the same money.”

Field workers make Rs 40 for working from 9 am to 1 pm and Rs 20 for a two-hour shift in the evening. But they do not work everyday. Work is seasonal and irregular.

People earning five or six figure salaries, may find it strange reading about women who make Rs 60 a day. But this is how the other half lives, and we should not forget that.

 

Source: Rediff

India Starving on Mountain of Grains

The economists have predicted a growth rate of over nine per cent for India in the years to come. It is heartening to see that we are making progress. But one thing that I am unsure of is the implication of this growth rate.

Statistics and numbers are like mini skirts; they reveal a lot but conceal the significant bits. And the same is applicable to the growth rate story. There is no denying that in the last few years we have made substantial progress in many spheres, but the development has been concentrated in urban areas and the beneficiaries are those who belong to the elite group.

StarvationAgriculture, which supports more than 65 per cent of the population, is growing at the dismal rate of three per cent. India ranks 94th in the global hunger index according to a report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). India’s score is 25.03, compared with 8.37 for China, which is 47th on the list. Libya tops the list with a score of 0.87. Between 1981 and 1992, India’s score fell from 41 to 32 and then to 25 by 1997. This means that India has stagnated and has failed in feeding its poor in the last decade or so.

India claims to be a food surplus nation, which is true. Yet we feature amongst the hungriest nations. The ‘credit’ for this paradox goes to the change in the food policy of India in the early 1990s. At that time, the government of India decided to increase the price (or decrease the ’subsidy’) of grains and commodities in the public distribution system (PDS – the ‘ration shops’). It had two consequences. One, it made food out of reach for the poor. Two, it made India a food surplus nation, since those, who require it badly can no longer afford it.

The government presents a beautiful picture of the country, that we are a developing economy which will overtake China in the next decade and become a superpower. No issues with that. But one should be true to one’s assessment.

With the inflation soaring at 11.5 per cent, the life of a poor man has become more miserable. The people in villages (barely few hundred kilometers from our financial capital) have not eaten vegetables for the last few months. The adults have literally given up eating at night. This is perhaps the story of every household, which depends on daily wages or meager monthly incomes.

India also has the distinction of being home to the largest number of malnourished children. Child malnutrition is a leading cause of child and adult mortality. It is estimated to play a role in about 50 percent of all child deaths, and more than half of the child deaths are caused by malaria (57 per cent), diarrhea (61 percent) and pneumonia (52 percent). So we are failing to feed our children as well. What exactly does this growth rate imply when considered in accordance to the fact that the majority of the population of our country is unable to secure their daily bread?

Recently, the reply to an RTI (Right to Information) appeal filed by Dev Ashish Bhattacharya said that over 10 lakh tonnes of food grains worth several hundred crores of rupees – which could have fed over one crore hungry people for a year, was damaged in the godowns of Food Corporation of India (FCI) during the last decade. The damages were suffered despite the FCI spending Rs 242 crore to prevent the loss of food grains during storage. Ironically, another Rs 2.59 crore was spent just to dispose off the rotten food grains. Isn’t this a ridiculous situation where you waste your food grains – which could have supplied food for millions and on the other hand you cite the shortage of food and raise the price of grains 2-3 times in a span of few months.

I sometimes wonder what these policy makers do when they have failed to control inflation, food management, hunger and malnutrition. Their policies have just made the life of the poor even more pathetic. Yet they claim that we are growing at the rate of nine per cent!

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