UnOrganised Indians

One finding of the Arjun Sengupta Commission’s final report, The Challenge of Employment in India: An Informal Economy Perspective, should make us balk, but more importantly, should guide our assessment of “India”: “77% of the population in 2004-05 had to make do, on an average, with no more than Rs.20 per per capita. But, as Jan Breman points out in an article in the EPW, officially people below the line are the ones who get by with Rs 12 per day consumption.

There is one piece of statistic that got a lot of Indians angry recently: Victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy were compensated on a par with victims of road accidents. There was indignation all around that Indian lives were being considered so cheap. If dead Indians are given the short shrift, so are alive and not-kicking Indians. Rs.12 per day?

If we go by international norms, that figure should be doubled or in purchasing power parity terms it should be equal to spending capacity of about $2 per day. Indians who get outraged seasonally, in tandem with TV anchors, should also be outraged by this fact, isn’t it?

But instead, as Bremen points out, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector or NCEUS’s reports hardly are acknowledged by the “Indian Establishment”. And one would presume TV anchors are part of the establishment; they often are heard saying “we” when talking about — well, the Establishment.

Arjun Sengupta and others, in fact, have published a paper in 2008 in the EPW which also needs to be read along with Jan Breman’s article. The title of it is India’s Common People: Who Are They, How Many Are They and How Do They Live?. The abstract should make people want to read the paper. The abstract is: “This paper attempts to define the common people of India in terms of levels of consumption and examines their socio-economic profile in different periods of time since the early 1990s with a view to assessing how the economic growth process has impacted on their lives. The findings should worry everyone. Despite high growth, more than three-fourths of Indians are poor and vulnerable with a level of consumption not more than twice the official poverty line. This proportion of the population which can be categorised as the “common people” is much higher among certain social groups, especially for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. There is also evidence to suggest that inequality is widening between the common people and the better-off sections of society. ”

So let the TV debates begin!

Karnataka politics on second gear

Is this the end of the road for the Reddy brothers? That they too seem to have decided is in the hands of god. Nevertheless, given the power of money, and they have a lot of it, it seems a bit far-fetched that the end is near.

But there's been one change that bodes well for Karnataka: a rapprochement between Siddaramaiah and the Janata Dal (S), read the Gowda family.

The united show put up by the Congress and the JD(S) in the Karnataka Assembly must be more worrying for Yeddyurappa than the constant sniping the Reddy brothers have made him endure.

Given precedent, one wouldn't be faulted to think that this bonhomie might be a short-lived one. There have been so many instances when the need for the JD(S) and the Congress to work in the tandem have been squandered. The result largely of bruised egos unable to let bygones be bygones. It was a very personal falling out, after all. I allude to the exit of people like Siddaramaiah.

That is why when a picture in the newspaper showed Siddaramaiah walking out of the Assembly hall in concert with H D Revanna, one can't help feel a bit relieved, hopeful.

The rise of the BJP in Karnataka is not only because of the squabbles between the secular parties. It would be naive to assume that, of course. But the disunity has definitely given the saffron outfit more than a edge.

Now, one is assuming that the Janata Dal (Secular) is secular because they are currently neither propping up the BJP government nor are running a government with the BJP. There are no guarantees either that they will not go back to being friends of the BJP in some future dispensation. The Gowda family are given to such swings – not wild by their standards.

There were distinct alternatives in Karnataka's politics with the rise of the Centre-right Janata parivar. The alternatives were for the people as well as politicians. The Left has been pretty small in the State. But the vice-like grip of the Gowda family over the Janata heritage has left no alternatives for ex-Janata stalwarts but to join the Congress.

Siddaramaiah, the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly is from the Congress, but was once the most promising leader of the Janata Dal. The bitter falling apart of the Siddaramaiah and Deve Gowda is one big reason that has stymied any chance of a joint anti-BJP front by these two parties in Karnataka. There are other reasons too of course, but Siddaramaiah as a prominent Congress leader is one big problem.

The Reddy's and their machinations have been crass and incorrigible enough for the Gowdas and the ex-Janata Congressmen to bury the hatchet. It will yield results for the two parties. More importantly the communal brigade will struggle to stay in power, if not be completely defeated.

Some might even think that the end of the loot of the State that the Reddys have indulged is the more important than the defeat of communal forces. That position isn't much of a problem as long as the saffron brigade is kept away from the corridors of power.

Delhi and back

This trip to Delhi was different. I didn’t go around like I’ve done on previous trips. This time I stayed at one place, mostly. Mostly because I did take a bus ride from Lodhi Estate to Ambedkar and back to Connaught Place – a Frederick Noronha inspired trip.
The rest of the time was two days were spent discuss journalism. All this thanks to InWent/IIJ.
It was pleasant gathering of many young and not-so-young people. Such occasions provide the opportunity to connect and communicate. I’m back with some new good friends.

Hello world! Again

Hello World, indeed! I trying to upgrade the WordPress version I seem to have wiped the database clean. That’s many years of data “cleaned up”. I’m not sure if I should be rueing this. Maybe it is time to start afresh.

Before I start inflicting the world with fresh insights, I must reflect on how severely I should do that. Let’s see. Maybe as I posts I can start a whole new conversation. A better one, this time, I hope.