Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Capitalism and Honest Living

Now that the old government has been elected anew and inducted into the Parliament, I am starting to think if all this is going to make a lot of difference to the state the people are in.

I recently was talking to a farmer who incurred an electricity bill of more than Rs. 66000 and was asked to pay up under the threat of law taking its own course with dire consequences for him. This astronomical figure was the sum total of his electricity bill for the past 7 years or so. I was pretty surprised as to why this farmer hadn't paid his bill for such a long time, when I was sure that he had been doing well for himself pretty steadily all these years. On further digging more facts were revealed. He admitted he could have easily paid the bill all these years, but he was living on the hopes that a new government would take the typical socialist stand and just write off his bill amount under some new scheme and he would save some money. But as years passed, the government did nothing of the sort in his district. Although this same government floated lots of other dole out schemes. In the meanwhile his bill kept incurring additional interest, compounded. And this was the plight of fellow farmers in his village too.

Seeing no way out, they visited some government officials and petitioned them with their plight. In the end, the district administration relented and waived off the interest amount on the bill. This farmer in the end ended up paying Rs. 40000 approx.

While the people are not inherently lax in their duty and obligation towards their country, the false hopes that the government keeps giving them makes them want to take advantage of all available such options. One such welfare scheme floated by the government is the NREGA - National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme under which any person living in rural areas will get 100 days employment. Why is it just 100 days, why not the full 365 days ?? Is it because the government is aware that it cannot create jobs in enough quantity and is dispersing what it has to a larger multitude to keep them happy and garner more votes as it did this time around ?? Who will actually ask these rural people whether they are really satisfied with the scheme ?? Why only unskilled daily wages jobs for these people and why not skilled jobs too which are higher paying ??

On the other hand look at what capitalism does to the same category of daily wage workers. Every year millions of people migrate out of their poor villages towards the swanky towns and cities looking for a better place to work and live. The most visible example is that of the laborers in the real estate industry. I personally have worked with an NGO who teach the children of such unskilled workers. These guys toil very hard and put in a lot of physical work, that you and I won't be able to do without puking our guts out. After the initial coaxing they are very eager to send their children to schools, and that too private schools where they can interact with the teaching staff and be updated about their child's progress. One big factor for them also is that these children would typically be served a mid-day meal also. Their single aim seems to be see their child educated and with a more decent life than theirs. So why does the government school nearby not appeal to them - because it does not teach English. Its not as if they are richer than their rural cousins, but they realize that they stand a better chance at a more decent life if they work hard and not support themselves on government dole.

There are questions and then there are questions ?? Lots of cynics would say that its easy to raise questions. I disagree. It might be easy to raise questions. But it is difficult to do so in a sustained and coherent manner.