27 May 2006

Quite Right?

When Mr Buddha talked of a 'liberal' industrial policy on his swearing-in earlier this month, I had figured something like this was coming. (Note that the paper calls it a 'small' incident though 1,000 villagers protested.)

And then Mr Basu was upset at the absurd behaviour of the villagers. I mean, why would they want to stop industrial development?

Not to worry, Mr Buddha has said, "Nothing has happened."

Now, arent they quite Right?

A happening government

The following is from my mail to a friend who had written to me about the ongoing medical students' protest against reservation:

Reservation is probably the easiest way to gain political mileage. Each time a fresh quota is announced, there's so much protest by the people and posturing by the government that it pretty much stays in public memory. And the government, the Congress in this instance, can beat its drums in the next election saying how they championed the rights of the downtrodden.

You have touched upon the merit factor. So, I won’t repeat it. Some other issues:

Quite a lot of jobs reserved in the government either remain empty or are taken up by the creamy layer. Does the government have any way of ensuring that the creamy layer doesn’t get creamier? Second, why do these seats remain empty? Does the poorest of the person for which this reservation is made, have two meals to eat, and clean water to drink? If he/she doesn’t, why not?

Most of the rural poor today are in a much worse condition than ever before. Migrating to the city is the only hope. But it is not a solution, of course, because once in the city, theey join the ranks of the urban poor.

So, why are the rural poor so poor? My answer would be: inequities in land ownership. That is ONE big reason why India's poor are gettin poorer. No party anywhere wants to talk about land reforms. Why not? For that matter, poverty is not an issue nowadays. It's mostly infrastructure, more employment, etc. (Mind you, to avail these 'employment' benefits, you still have to come to a city. If you are a villager, you are more or less doomed.)

You might be wondering why I went from reservation to land reforms and rural poverty. Take some poorest districts in India like kalahandi in Orissa. How many people have benefitted from reservation in higher education in that district? (Indeed, I think a study should be done on the effects of reservation in India's poorest districts.) Or, to frame the question in a different way, does reservation in higher education address the problems the people are facing in Kalahandi?

Kalahandi is the rice bowl of Orissa, yet the farmers there survive on things like mango kernels. Reason: debt. Reason for debt: inequitable land distribution which will never be set right.

But land reform is not a fashionable political issue. Industrial development is. Infrastructure is. Reservation, definitely is.

Oh, do I hear some people to the left, saying 'We're different. We're the only people who've brought about land reforms.' Then how come people in their state (West Bengal, where else) too die hunger deaths? Why is it that farmers protesting land takeover by Tata Motors are considered insane by the ex-chief minister? [More about this in another post.]

Anyways, you know all of that. To cap what I've gone on and on about: reservation is just one of the ways to address poverty. But politicians would have us believe it's the only way. Now why get into messy things like improving primary education, health access, etc?

05 May 2006

How true!

Read Germaine Greer's article in the Guardian on women and leisure.

I remember teasing my mom often that after dad went to office and we went to school, she would probably have a long nap. Coz, what would she do all day? Surely, there couldnt be so much work?!

Mom would smile and say, "Wait, you'll know."

I know now. Though I am not the type of women that Greer talks about who try to clean an already-clean house or who cook a three-course meal, just doing the bare basics around the house and managing office work seems to take up all of my time during weekdays.

That's why Sunday is my dont-even-lift-a-finger day (provided the maid too doesnt think alike, of course).

But havent most of us forgotten the art of leisure? Or is it just women?