When I talk to friends, the words worried, scared don’t come in the discussion. Careful is the word that is generally discussed in my age group. But lately, anger and frustration are some of the words that are now used often. Yesterday, a friend, Raju, said that he felt that people like us who are sitting in lockdown under the comfort of homes and cushion of money have become desensitised! Another friend Suya, alias Suhas was even more frustrated. He heard the news of 16 migrant workers who got crushed under a freight train. He discussed this with his family. His son in law, a young businessman, was frustrated and was very angry. He let his anger out and wrote down his feelings. I am sharing this note with you.
I have given the gist in English below.
The death of these migrant workers has shaken the young man to the core. What was their fault? These were daily wage earners who got stuck in a place thousands of km away from their native places. Is it a crime to feel like going home? Poor fellows were walking back home, along the railway track, as there was no conveyance available. Here he does not want to blame any system of governance or the government. Migrants felt that they have even lost the right to go home. One of the ladies gave birth to a child near Jalgaon on her way back home. How sad is the situation? There are rules and regulations, which is fine, only if people survive.
The note written below is by my friend Suhas. It is in Marathi, so as usual, I have written the gist of what he has said, in Blue.
Trying to keep democratic traditions, most of us behave like invalids- maybe we are mentally invalid. No government has understood the difference between giving support to the fallen, and to remove the felled dead bodies. The war against Corona cannot be fought by this invalidated society by taking away the poor migrants, or those who are breaking social distancing while purchasing the vegetables. These could as well be those standing in the queue for alcohol as if there is no tomorrow. To take these people away is not the way to fight this war. If we can not find the right way, then we should be prepared to remove the dead!
He is a healthy person and runs his business. All of us may be giving help to deserving people. But these numbers are so large, and he feels helpless. Friends at least give these poor your real tears!
It is a real heart-breaking banter from the young man. Let me tell you he is a modern man. He and his wife had trekked to the Everest base camp. He has completed Iron Man!
How has the world reached this situation? Which direction will this take, and when will this be over? Many questions come to mind, and we realise that there are no answers.
Have things changed suddenly? No, they have not. The world always had a disproportionate distribution of haves and have nots. In the day to day grind of living, we all have no time to look at these things. We do discuss these things, sitting or on our terrace with light music in the background. There is, of course, a barbeque counter keeping great food going. In between our Dom Perignon’s and Teachers or Chivas Regal, we need to get the conversation going. So, we discussed the plight of daily wage earners. We sometimes discussed the slums and boasted how aggressively Dharavi, of one million people a square Km, is fast developing into an entrepreneurial hub. Bollywood comes up with movies like “Gully Boy”, showing that a Dharavi boy can become a rap hero of Mumbai. We go to the cinemas and pay a thousand rupees per head to see such movies. These things do not change Dharavi.
I am using Dharavi as a metaphor, but these types of zopad pattis have existed since independence. Their number has been going up, the number of people living in each Basti is up all the time. I do not think that any human being likes to live in the squalid conditions that exist in these colonies.
We need to to understand the reactions of the young man above and that of my friend Raju. Our day to day grind has desensitised us to the difficulties faced by these people. We have learnt to let this happen in the background, continuing to live our life. Our “earbuds” are always in place, avoiding the din generated by the plight of these unfortunate people.
Briefly, we will see why this has happened. Let me assure you these issues are there the world over. In China, “old china” is always well hidden behind the great Chinese Wall of each megapolis. The most advanced and developed country the USA has 3.3 crores (33 million) people who have till date registered for the Government dole of US $1000/ pm as the current situation hits them. The US has a population of 330 million, and 10% of them have registered. Children and the elderly are not in the workforce, so the real number of force is 15 crores. So, 22% of the American workforce are daily wage earners who have no income currently. I am surprised that in one-month, finances of so many people are shattered. It means that poor people are poor whether you are in India or anywhere in the world, including the US!
India’s reasons for poverty are well known. The main reason being the plundering of wealth by the British. In the first forty years of independence, Indian experiments with Socialism/Communism made things worse. On top of that appeasement policies sent the population control policies to a toss. We have been boasting of “our large force” of people. At 33 crores, the US cannot reduce poverty, how could a country of 130 crores, with low per capita income levels could do it?
The pandemic brought all these issues out. Well-endowed people have some time in hand. I am happy that some of us have started thinking about the poor. The young man must be sensitive at heart and is not afraid to display his frustrations and anger. He gave path for his tears to flow like a river. I am sure that in future he will do something great for the society and will make us proud. His nervous energy will not let him be a silent spectator to the conditions of the poor! All the best young man!
India needs experts in various fields, but we need more people like this man to alleviate the situation of the poor in our nation. Somewhere, somebody will hopefully start this silent revolution of making the poor as the inclusive elements of our society. I pray to God that this reaction will become a chain reaction as we have in the atomic fission. I also hope that it will spread all over India and the globe.
I want to share some good news with you. Another friend, Anil’s sons, run a large construction business in Pune. Projects had come to a total halt, like everything else. While speaking to him the other day, he said that since their projects are in the rural zone, they have received permission to resume the work. I asked him, “From where you would get people?” He said, “Pramod, we had decided to retain all eight hundred people during the lockdown. We helped them with money and food, stay, and whatever was needed. Only twenty odd people went home. It is a routine yearly holiday when migrants go home. But these people have said that as soon as the transport starts, they will be back.” Great job Anil by you and your family. 👏👏👏
Young man, please do not lose heart. There are good people around. Many of them do not blow a trumpet that they have done something for society! I am sure that people are taking advantage of today’s situation for introspection. Raju you have a lot of social contacts, utilise them. Forget the politics, do it for society.
Suhas, you and me, the retirees, can help the poor at least in our ecosystem. If each of us can support 2 to 5 people, in our COEP group, we would be helping 700 people regularly. It is doable!