Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A DIGNIFIED STRUGGLE TO LIVE: The Short Story of a Long March….
She is weak, frail, old, poor.. but returning to her place of work every single morning! I know very little of her, and she hardly knows me. But, because of her will to survive, and that too with dignity, I hold her in great esteem.
She occupies a place on the ground adjacent to the BP petrol-pump near the Green Park bus stand. She carries her wares in a sack and spreads these around on the ground. These are mainly pouches of chewing-tobacco, and similar things which the bus-passengers stop-by to purchase from her. Last year she used to bring these in a small wooden box which she was able to carry on her head. Now, with her health failing and the eyesight poorer, apparently she is no longer able to carry the box.
I came across her the first time about 5 years ago, while returning from the market together with my wife. We stopped to buy some ‘chana’ (roasted gram) that I am fond of. On reaching home I discovered that the paper bag carried more than the matter for eating; there was inside also a 100 gm. weight. I had bought 200 gm. of material, and she did not notice her loss. I immediately rushed back to restore her the weight, knowing well that most of her customers bought in measures of 100 gms. only and that she would have great problems unable to do the weighing. She had a hand-cart (‘rehri’) at that time. With the passage of time, probably she could not push it any longer and started coming without it.
I started noticing her change of workstyle, gradually sliding down on the weaker side, and started giving her a banknote whenever I passed her by, touched by her great determination. The amount ranged between rupees 10 to 100, with no specific amount in my mind. She never asked me for anything, nor showed any expectation when I stopped by. I have not bought anything from her after she stopped bringing the hand cart, since from the goods that she now sells there is nothing I could use. I do not chew tobacco.
Her name is Harpyari, as she enthusiastically told me. Today, as I was photographing her, she smiled for a moment and then the smile vanished.
One of her customers, a guard at the petrol pump, arrived to buy something from her. To him I praised her for her fight against all odds – something which should be a lesson to all those who give up. He revealed to me that she was working not only for herself but also to groom two small grandchildren for whom no one cared. Their mother had died, and the father had become a drunkard. They have given her a purpose to live and she needs to earn more. Despite all this, I never saw her begging………
ON OUR SOCIETY
Recently, I had the opportunity of attending various events and seminars. Here, I am trying to make a connection between them, on some of the ideas.
Mr. Harpal Singh, Chairman Designate, mentioned about the skewed demographic pattern existing in
In response to this, during the free session, I complained that one of the main reasons for this was financial, the same being the dowry system. If this system could go away, less families would object to having daughters.
I also blamed the younger generation, the one in the age group 25-30 years. Couples in this age group are the ones who are not allowing the birth of the child conceived if it would turn out to be a girl. Females themselves cannot absolve themselves and say that foeticide happened without their consent. The birth rate statistics relate to the current generation; not to the past one.
CII Northern Regional Annual Conference
Mr. Salil Singhal, the outgoing Chairman, too touched on the same subject of female foeticide in this region. Again, I took an opportunity to say that incentives should be granted for that female child which is the first child born into a family. This would encourage the people to permit females to be born. This idea was dropped with the reply that the Government is already doing much for the female child. If so, why are people continuing to kill the female child pre-birth? Many accept the birth of a girl only after a male child has been born; not before. The point they missed was that I was talking of the girl as the first child; not of any girl child. Someone even went to the extent of saying that if such a thing happened the people would start killing the first male foetus as there was no incentive for it! What a thought!
ICRIER Seminar on ‘Food Security in the SAARC Region’
There were many learned speakers and participants in the seminar. The Chairman, Dr. Panjab Singh, a reputed agronomist, said that the farmer today is suffering at the hands of the trader. He said that if a farmer carried his produce of vegetables to the market, the trader made him wait till the evening before striking a deal. This meant that the only choice the farmer had was either of throwing away his goods or to accept the price as dictated by the trader. He had no choice of taking the goods back as they would only rot at his own place. For example, he said that if the farmer had one ton of material to sell, he got the price for one ton; if two tons, he still got the price for one ton. If the quantity was four tons he get nothing and would have to throw away everything on the road side. He pointed to Dr S.K. Roy, sitting in the audience, inventor of a low-cost storage-bin costing only Rs.2,500 at that time. This bin required no energy and yet conserved the vegetables for upto a week. The irony of the situation was that while Dr. Roy received a national award for his invention, nobody came ahead to produce it. Had such bins been available to the farmers, they would not have been at the mercy of the traders, rejecting the low price offered at the end of the day, and bringing their produce back to the village – to carry it again the next day.
Mercedes was happy having been able to sell 10 numbers of its latest model, introduced in India at a cost of Rs.54,00,000 each, on the very first day of the launch. 6 of these were sold in an industrial town! Just imagine these being sold in a town which has neither a proper airport nor roads wide and free enough for driving a Mercedes. The only reason why hundreds of Mercedes cars are bought there every year is just for showing-off the wealth. The buyers are the same people who would not pay better wages to a labourer of their region, but would prefer paying lower wages to the migrant labour from
I am reminded of what Chanakya wrote: ‘The trader is the trustee of the society; what he gains he should plough back for the society’s benefit’!
At the end, I would appeal to all those, who have a girl as their eldest child, to try to educate others who are newly-married and might be on the way to their first conception, not to deny the first child, if a girl, the right to be born.
Further, I would be happy if we could do something for the poor farmer. The nation cannot live without the farmer, just with the industry alone. I had made a suggestion for low-cost pilot food-processing plants to be introduced at the village level.
This could save much of the fruits and vegetables that get damaged in transit.