INDIA CAN’T DO WITHOUT SUBSIDIES – AND IT WANTS TO TAX PROVIDENT FUND!

We are a nation where the urban poverty line is Rs. 47 a day while we think that the rural folks can survive at Rs. 32 a day and we arrived at this wisdom in 2014. When we had done so, we had graduated from the poverty lines of Rs. 27 in rural areas and Rs. 33 in urban areas. This is when you can’t arrange even a modest one time meal in Rs. 32.

This directly says the proportion of real poor, in qualitative terms, based on the average living conditions today, would be much higher that the projected figure of around 30% or less. When you go assessing this poverty mess keeping in mind ‘what should be and what is’, you see this is another equal India within India (or Bharat of the perennial India Vs Bharat debate).

Some 75% of Indians are without any health insurance cover. Majority cannot afford medicines for a sustained treatment regime, let alone the costly surgical processes. The attitude of doctors and support staff in the government run hospitals is even worse than scavengers. Finding good people there tougher than even finding God. People who can afford and can access, try to ignore the government run health facilities. And it across India including the metro cities.

Officially, India’s literacy rate is around 75%. But again, if we see qualitatively, it is the same old story of an equal sized Bharat within India. Our primary school system is languishing with deep holes and leakage in the ambitious Universal Elementary Education programme. Our higher education probably produces the maximum proportion of inept professionals and higher education graduates.

Our economy is consistently witnessing a falling gross savings to GDP ratio – from 34.6% in 2011-12 – to – 31.3% in 2015-16. One way to look at it would that people don’t have wealth in that proportion to save – something that is, naturally, very random and without substance. Or it means people are saving less.

But that doesn’t mean the government should use to a stick to discipline people – like the proponents of the EPF tax proposal including Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said – as a report the Economic Times put forward – “The government had justified the move by saying that it was meant to steer private sector employees towards a pensioned retirement by discouraging lump sum withdrawals, especially for, as experience suggests, conspicuous consumption.”

The finger is being pointed at it rightly – that who is the government to discipline us with our personal preference. Yes, it is good for us when we save more – but then, on a macro scale, it is good for the nation’s economic health as well. But, in the name of that, taxing a man’s life’s savings can never be justified especially when you give people dreams save taxes and build a corpus by investing in the Provident Fund scheme.

And from where this thought of ‘disciplining’ the salaried taxpayer came? When you have such ridiculous poverty lines, when you have millions poor to feed, when you have millions poor to heal, when you have millions poor to educate?

India and Bharat cannot become synonymous until we address these existential questions. Subsidy is now addressed as a ‘burden’ in the lingo being used by the economists but this ‘burden’ is lifeline for India’s millions poor who find it hard even to earn Rs. 47 or Rs. 32 a day.

The government is duty-bound to serve them first – with honesty – with integrity – with consistency. Taxing the middle class with another ‘tax burden’ would not serve any purpose here.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TWO DECEMBERS, AIIMS METRO STATION AND ‘OPEN SKY ROOF’

Two Decembers – two years – two random clicks – 2014 and 2015 – same AIIMS Metro station – same hospital (All India Institute of Medical Sciences-AIIMS-Delhi) – India’s biggest and probably the most superior hospital in the country – the hospital with the common perception that it is either for the ‘high and mighty’ or for those who cannot afford any other option and are cursed to bear the apathetic doctors and support staff of the hospital – and same story symbolic of homelessness in India and ‘open sky as roof’ in North India’s chilling cold..in a Delhi that has now a government which boasts of being a government of and for the common man..

DECEMBER 2015

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20151220_210927

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©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey

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DECEMBER 2014

AIIMS 2014-1

AIIMS 2014-2

TWO DECEMBERS, AIIMS METRO STATION AND ‘OPEN SKY ROOF’

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

DEVELOPMENT PARADOX: BULLET TRAIN AND SHAKURBASTI SLUM

The paradox of these two words that represent the two extremes, two hostile paradigms of development, sums the essence of the two most intense news developments these days – bilateral agreement with Japan on India’s first high speed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, that we also live to call the ‘Bullet Train’ corridor – and the daylight, inhuman demolition of shanties in Delhi’s Shakurbasti area by Indian Railways.

We may go on endlessly debating if India needs or doesn’t need a ‘Bullet Train’ – but when we see such developments that need huge investment (here it is INR 98000 crore, at this concept stage, and may well end up with higher figures when it is finally done) in the context of the fact that India is still home to countless slum habitations throughout its length and breadth, including its national capital Delhi, we are forced to question the relevance of such massive projects when resources should ideally be invested first in uplifting poor people.

But like it happens, everyone in the policymaking class is busy extracting mileage here with the Shakurbasti demolition incident (with visibly poor or non-existent relief measures for those displaced) – Aam Aadmi Party, BJP, Congress and everyone else, including Indian Railways, the massive Indian government outfit that reeks of corruption and inefficiency in its operations and is headed by a Rail Minister who selects only positive tweets to retweet, sifting away all those negativities. But can he?

As per Census 2011 figures, the slum population in India has gone up to 65 million from 52 million in 2001.

And the primary responsibility of any government in India should be bringing this figure down first. Bullet Trains, that anyway are nowhere near to the primary needs of rail infrastructure in India, may come later.

Because these 65 million are the just the ones who bothered to get counted. There would be, and there are many more than this figure and that should always serve as reminder for the mammoth task that lies before us – to uplift millions from poverty, to mainstream them into society – as society in a democratic country like India – the way it has been enshrined in our Constitution.

We are committing criminal offence by leaving many of our sisters and brothers out in the open, to face difficult and life threatening circumstances – like we did so in the Shakurbasti demolition case. We forced thousands out of their homes without thinking of the cold, inclement weather, without thinking how they would battle it out without roofs over their heads.

Yes, there are many parameters and their indicators that rightly vouch for India’s rising global prominence – the world’s youngest nation, a nation with large middle class that is slated to become the largest, among the world’s largest economies, the world’s fastest growing economy, the favourite marketplace of the world’s companies after China, the example of successful democratic transition from a colonial past, and so on.

But unless and until we don’t work on to bring uniformity in lives of ordinary Indians, we will consistently face such dilemmatic propositions on development – the paradoxes that force us to think what we need first – that how should we prioritize elements of governance in a fast moving economy that still has the maximum headcount of the world’s poor.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..SILVERLINING

THE SILVERLINING

In these figures lies the silverlining.

Yes, it is true information-technology or communication revolution through deep tele-density cannot achieve the purpose alone.

But it is equally true that India cannot achieve the objective until it is technologically equipped to reach out to its masses – bypassing the ‘middle meddling’.

India needs to ramp up the process now and have to be consistent with the process – something that we can rely on more logically if it is weaved with involvement of global companies and thus many countries.

Big multinationals like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Qualcomm or even India’s Bharti are ‘big lobbying powerhouses’ that would ensure ‘straightness” of the process to keep their profits ‘straight’ and linearly up.

And they would ensure that at any cost when they get such a big market – the youngest nation in the world with 65% of its population below 35 – the population segment that is the first user of the products of telecom revolution and internet spread.

The UN Broadband Commission report (The State of Broadband) released on September 21 ranked India at 131 in ‘fixed broadband’ connections category and at 155 on ‘mobile broadband’ connections. These figures are significantly lower than what they were in earlier rankings – 125 for fixed lines and 113 for mobile connections.

But when seen relative to high telecom reach in India – to almost 80% of the population – and with 81 crore Indians below – the combination represent an unparalleled business opportunity.

The report says 18% individuals use internet in India (as in 2014) and the household penetration rate of internet is just at 15%.

So, the companies – the telecom operators, the internet outfits like the social media companies and e-commerce firms, the media outlets and everyone else – has a huge pool to capture.

India’s is already the biggest market of smartphones and is expected to have around 170 million annual of them annually shipped by 2018.

Reports also say India will have 500 million internet users by the end of 2015. And obviously most of the internet traffic would be mobile.

It is here that opportunity lies and it is here that India needs to trade cautiously to direct its politics.

Like carrying Doordarshan is mandatory on satellite channel platforms, government can make it mandatory for every operator to provide a ‘government devised’ communication channel to every subscriber – on telecom technologies – and on internet technologies. In fact, government can devise a communication package that works with mobile phones even in absence of internet connections.

India doesn’t need CSR activities but the ‘communication channels’ provided by the telecom firms and internet vendors.

Harsh Mander writes in his book – ‘Art, culture, poetry and films have a huge role to play in this (uplifting India’s poor). There are no people in the world who are as close to their cinema as we are.’

Quite logical. Add to it the most logical and most ‘pervasive’ communication tool – internet – through mobile phones.

Experts say India need huge investment to uplift its masses. Mander puts it at 10% of GDP. Other estimates also put it at such unprecedented level that it becomes impossible for government to implement that.

India needs industry partnership there.

And industries are ready to invest in India – in its huge market – on its human pool – a market with its middle class larger than Europe. A Financial Times report has put India as the favourite FDI destination surpassing China and the US.

That would provide the government the desperately needed platform for ‘insightful collaborative efforts’ to reach out to every citizen individually.

Yes, it is going to be a mammoth exercise – connecting hundreds of millions of dots – but it is the most practical way to do it.

The government needs to provide information first – and then must ensure it with follow ups – and furthering the process to weave an ecosystem intended help the last citizen of the country – through direct cash transfer – through more and more accounts – through government schemes and more importantly how to own those government schemes – through direct disbursal of every resource – ending the culture of meddling institutions like Gram Panchayats, community health centres, district monitoring committees and so on.

And the government needs to ensure that the distribution reaches to the more needy sections of the population – and not just to the middle class. The government must ensure the equitable flow – from its burgeoning middleclass to its ‘citizens-in-need’. It is good that this high tele-density reaches even to many poor – living below the global poverty standard.

These are just some of the thoughts. The universe of them to traverse is vast – and so are the opportunities.

Other parts of the write-up:
WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/why-modis-digital-india-push-in-silicon-valley-is-important/

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..LET’S CONNECT DOTS
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/why-modis-digital-india-push-in-silicon-valley-is-important-ii/

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..LET’S CONNECT DOTS

LET’S CONNECT THE DOTS

At least that is what we can expect. This much, at least, we should expect now.

India is not about the debate between choosing a socialist or a capitalist system. In fact, with China blatantly following the Capitalist model, while stubbornly preserving its dictatorial precincts, the lines of debates on models of socioeconomic systems of countries is fast becoming irrelevant. A country needs to follow (and follows) what suits it best – based on its ruling dispensation.

India’s democracy needs multinational companies of the world to assist its governments in uplifting masses out of ignorance and poverty.

Yes, no corporate entity does charity. No one is going to uplift masses – hundreds of millions of them – out of poverty and social humiliation – out of sheer goodwill and driven by the chaste purpose of philanthropy.

But they will do it once they find the market – to sell their products – and since their main products are basically ‘channels of information – in any and every possible way’ – they will find an unbeatable (and unavoidable) market in India.

Rulers of China’s autocratic system are not going to budge from their iron-curtain stand on ‘internet freedom’ there. China’s one-party system ruthlessly crushes any dissent – however small it is – and tightly controls, filters and regulate every communication channel – including traditional media and new media.

That effectively rules out a market of 150 crore people beyond reach of the global information-technology giants. In fact, all of them have watched China in anticipation and their growing frustration and realization is forcing them to look towards the next big frontier – as is being said – India.

India, the second most populous nation with over 125 crore people is ‘the holy grail’ for these companies that they no longer need to unlock. Populations of China and India in absolute terms make them lucrative markets because such large population bases offer huge markets – the sizes of which can easily outmanoeuvre Europe and even America.

And India is in better position here – ready to take off – provided its policymakers act in time – and act in unison with the requirement.

A BBC report says India is projected to have the world’s largest middle class by 2030 – 475 million of them.

That is almost four times of Facebook’s India users – at 132 million now. Reports say 90% of them come from ‘internet users on mobile phones’. And according to a TRAI report, India has already over 1000 million mobile phone subscribers. So, there is a big market to catch – a market that can potentially help the government in reaching out to its citizens directly – if the government establishes ‘insightful collaborative efforts’ with telecom operators and other information-technology companies.

‘Insightful collaborative efforts’ – desperately needed to reach India’s illiterates – 287 million of them – maximum in the world – 37% of them – and these are just ‘quantity’ illiterates – quality illiterates are much higher in number.

‘Insightful collaborative efforts’ – desperately needed to reach India’s 49% poor rural households (as the socio-economic caste census says) – poor rural households with 92% of them running on less than below Rs. 10000 a month.

‘Insightful collaborative efforts’ – desperately needed to reach some 363 million Indians living below the poverty line – a poverty line that has always remain controversial – a poverty line that continues to humiliate us with its latest round that fixes urban and rural poverty lines at Rs. 32 and Rs. 47 a month – poverty lines that says the real poverty in India is much beyond the official figure of 29.5%. People like Harsh Mander, in fact, put it as 70% and that is quite logical.

‘Insightful collaborative efforts’ – that also desperately need to direct the energy of 65% of Indians below 35 years – 65% Indians that make India the youngest nation in the world demographically.

And India’s telecom revolution is reaching to them – with over 100 crore connections in July 2015 and they day is not far when India can claim absolute tele-density.

And the infrastructure behind this vast tele-density can prove a major tool in connecting people to the government – to aware them – to enable them – to empower them.

To continue..

Other parts of the write-up:
WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/why-modis-digital-india-push-in-silicon-valley-is-important/

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..SILVERLINING
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/why-modis-digital-india-push-in-silicon-valley-is-important-silverlining/

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..

Irrespective of various raging debates over Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ push in the US, in Silicon Valley, endorsing or criticising his approach, we need to accept that he has triumphed in bridging a ‘much felt but always ignored’ policy gap in India’s governance to administer connect to the most potent technology to uplift Indian masses.

And we need to accept that with élan.

Yes, expecting change overnight is nothing but daydreaming.

But what is important here – the process to connect the dots to begin the process – and that can begin now with such initiatives.

Technology, particularly information and communication technologies, can prove the biggest social levellers in a country like India, the world’s largest democracy, where scores of people still live below the poverty line – reeling under pressure of social and financial disparities.

And ‘no access and suppression’ of information’ are major factors in this.

A ‘Digital India’ that intends to build a robust information highway taking technology to every village in India – will empower every citizen of his or her position and rights in the system – in the society.

A ‘Digital India’ that envisages an ‘information highway’ connecting people will provide its citizens with the information that they are kept away from.

‘Effective’ end use of ICT can prove effective in eradicating problems that beset and drag India – like widespread corruption and all-pervasive culture of different meddling institutions and middlemen in the process – thus eating into distribution of resources – from governing circuits to beneficiaries.

Access to information empowers people – and communication ecologies like social media tools and other internet based platforms have the potential to spread concerned issues like some wildfire. We have seen it – especially in the last years of the last decade and it is an ongoing and deepening process in this one, and going by the trend – it is slated to record an upward ride in the near future.

We saw the vital role played by social media (and internet) in the global ‘Occupy’ movement, during the Arab Spring that swept many Arabic countries and in making ‘Guy Fawkes masks’ universal symbol of mass protests. We know how significant the social media was in shaping the hugely popular 2011 anti-corruption movement in India. Twitter has become the fastest platform to break any news and not just people but credible organizations, too, follow it religiously now. After all, it has a ‘most’ famous tag line to go with that says the news of ‘the US marines killing Osama bin Laden’ was broken first on Twitter.

What social media (and internet) do?

They multiply sources of information.

Yes, it does create chaos. That is its natural corollary.

But the art, the game, is in taming this chaos.

If India does so – the task of addressing livelihood issues of intended beneficiaries would become much easier – and so in tackling the inherent associated vices.

We all know the leaks and pilferages in the public distribution systems – not just in the PDS shops in regular drought relief packages – but in almost every wing of governance. The malaise of corruption is so deep that the rot has now effectively spread to corporate and private sectors. We all experience the trauma daily.

Much of it is due to non-availability of channels to claim directly what is rightfully ours. The ‘middle meddling’ consumes much of what is yours. Then there are millions who are not aware what is theirs. Then there are other millions who know of their rights but they cannot raise their voices or don’t know how to raise their voices.

An information highway that connects people directly with the government – or repository of resources – reducing the number of layers that is there to keep them deprived – would be the beginning of the process to address the most pressing issue that we face in the world’s largest democracy – uplifting millions from heaps of poverty, illiteracy, exploitation and ‘ignorance’.

Companies like Google or Twitter or Facebook or services like Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, Twitter, blogs and content sharing sites or the overall internet infrastructure – coupled with deep penetration of telecommunication services – can provide India a channel to address its citizens as directly as possible – bypassing the middlemen – the ‘middle meddling’.

India runs huge (and hugely) subsidized schemes for its citizens-in-need but we all know, due to the different layers of ‘meddling institutions and middlemen’, most of it is siphoned off.

Opening bank accounts to transfer cash directly, instead of giving subsidized items, can be a much more potent empowering tool if people can get in touch with regular account-related updates through their mobile phones. Farmers would, naturally, get good price for their produce if they have access to information of different markets where they can sell their product. They would be much more empowered the day they start negotiating to sell their product on their own and are not limited to the local community marketplace or its different middlemen.

India’s citizens-in-need, millions of its BPL population, would feel more mainstreamed when they know what is theirs and from where they can get it directly – without any leakage – without any pilferage.

Narendra Modi’s ‘Silicon Valley push’ matters because India has this grave need to address these ‘deadly loopholes’ in its governance systems – touching social systems and lives of over 125 crore people.

And it is good that these big technology companies of America are ‘rightly’ seeing some ‘greener business pastures’ in these ‘over 125 crore’ people.

China is a ‘no go’ zone for them and if India successfully translates what Modi laid out yesterday, it will be a win-win situation for all the parties involved.

Indian citizens would get the ‘much needed’ information access and these companies and would see their revenue going up multiple times. And Narendra Modi would be able to claim brownie points on it.

To continue..

Other parts of the write-up:

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..LET’S CONNECT DOTS
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/why-modis-digital-india-push-in-silicon-valley-is-important-ii/

WHY MODI’S ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ PUSH IN ‘SILICON VALLEY’ IS IMPORTANT..SILVERLINING
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/why-modis-digital-india-push-in-silicon-valley-is-important-silverlining/

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SECC AGAIN REAFFIRMS THE HUMAN CHALLENGE

The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released by the government reaffirms the underlying fact again that, in spite of the political speak, it is a winding road ahead. It is an underlying fact that runs across the strata of the social fabric of the country.

Sample this – of the total 17.91 crore rural households, 5.37 crore have landless owners. They derive their livelihood from ‘manual labour’. So, some 30% of our rural households need immediate attention for a sustained livelihood.

What aggravates the scenario is the prevalent illiteracy in these households.

According to the tables of SECC, 4.21 crore (23.5%) of the households have no literate adults above 25 years, i.e., a male in a stable earning age. And being illiterate means these households are devoid of the most stable earning tool when land is not there, i.e., education.

So, 30% of them, in rural India, they don’t have the primary needs to earn livelihood, i.e., land and education.

The need to support them should be on the primary agenda of any socially-engaging political dispensation – especially in a populous country like India.

The class, that cuts across different states of India, needs genuine support from our policy-makers, going beyond the political rhetoric.

And these two figures are just the beginning.

SECC, that is not final yet, with data from some districts are yet to be uploaded, gives us many worrying indicators that once again reaffirm the scale of human challenge in the world’s largest democracy.

Especially, when we have a legacy of controversy on deciding poverty line – especially when we have, so far, failed to count our poor the way society needs – and not the way economists and statisticians propose.

Especially, when we have rural poverty line of Rs. 972 a month – especially when the Rangarajan Panel report says those earning above Rs. 1407 in urban areas are not poor.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TODAY, I WAS NOT IN TWO MINDS..

COLORES INFINITUM

There are ways to fight the ways of life.

Every life has problems. No life is without its own set.

Yes, nature, degree and frequency of problems affecting lives vary from life to life.

The majority of humanity has more of them but even the privileged ones are not without issues in their lives.

Yes, the way to approach the problems, if differs for from life to life, is also dependent on the class and is affected by the concerned equations of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

One can face the problems of life by accepting their presence, reconciling with the situations of life while trying to find ways out or ways up.

Or one can refuse to reconcile the way life has become while trying to rebuild the life.

I met this rickshaw-puller again today. And while he was not in queue, with his rickshaw parked away, I preferred to go to him.

It was a similar ride to what I had on the other day – but on a positive, confident note. While walking to his rickshaw today, I was not in two minds, unlike the other day.

Collage-Rickshawpuller-May28, 2015

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

EVEN IF I WAS IN TWO MINDS..

COLORES INFINITUM

Like it happens every day with them, they were calling to pull attention as I got down the Delhi Metro station. It was the hottest day of May so far, over 45 degree Celsius.

It was routine, calling passengers like this, but the rickshaw-puller on that day pulled my attention. He was a lanky fellow, lean and thin, extremely skinny. His bones were visible on his long and thin body. And he was underage too, certainly below 18.

His rickshaw was nearest to me so it was natural I would go him but after seeing him, I was in two minds.

It was more due to his physical structure than his age. I was in two minds that how would he pull the rickshaw and how would he climb up the patch of the track with a passenger ?

I am anti to underage labour but not the way it is in rulebooks. In fact, underage workers are prevalent and it is a burning truth about India and many societies in other. And it is not wrong. The first preference always goes to the survival instinct. And the primal survival instinct is to survive each passing day by first having food and a place to sleep.

And it is true for societies across the world. We may debate the age of underage workers. In India, education of children up to the age of 14 years is state responsibility. Children up to 14 years of age cannot be employed, except in ‘family enterprise’ and ‘entertainment trade’. Children above 14 years can work based on socioeconomic profile and survival needs.

This rickshaw-puller was around 16-17. Yes, like it happens he was not sure of his exact age. And like everyone, he had all the rights to make ends meet of his life. The family support for education goes up to at least 20-22 years of age but it is empty sociological theory for many. Education is still a distant dream, an ignored entity in the list of priorities of millions.

They know only one thing – somehow to survive the day – while thinking for the next. And it is true in societies across the world.

The rickshaw-pullers, originally from the hinterland India but toiling in big and metro cities, are a prime example of this social order, an order that is complex and multi-layered.

And like everyone in the society, this rickshaw-puller, too, had every right to survive the life, to meet the basic needs of the day and to think of the day coming next. There are many including me who feel heat pangs even if the window is of 10 minutes while the people like this rickshaw-puller earn their livelihood under the open sky, be it in the scorching heat of May or June or in the rainy days of Monsoon.

I was in two minds that how would this extremely lanky fellow would pull his rickshaw along with me. I was also thinking that I had no right to deny him his livelihood because if it was not me, he would carry someone else to earn his living.

The two minutes of dilemma gave way to saying yes to the rickshaw-puller. I was thinking he would not be able to pull the rickshaw easily and I would get down wherever required, i.e., on the upslope of the track. Also, as is the case with me, I was thinking simultaneously about my write-ups while taking the rickshaw-ride to my workplace. Public transport is my favourite for the reason that it provides me with time and ideas to think further about my written work.

While lost in my thoughts and looking all around, I asked the rickshaw-puller if he could pull me and if he went to the school.

He confidently said yes but what he said on my second question I could not understand. His language was not totally comprehensible but I could grasp from his words that he was around 16-17 years old and driving rickshaw at this age was his compulsion.

Soon he proved his words – about pulling the rickshaw. His speed was even faster than many well able-bodied ones. He was pulling rickshaw efficiently and easily. And he carried me to my destination in less than usual time.

I felt relieved – on the fact that he pulled rickshaw like any other rickshaw-puller, like any other able-bodied person. He did not show the problems I was thinking about. I was thinking to offer him some extra money but why I didn’t offer him I could not say.

But after leaving his rickshaw, I was feeling good that, somehow, even if I was in two minds, I took the right decision and didn’t deny a person the chance to add to his share of daily earning.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAY DAY OR NO MAYDAY: RAHUL IS MAKING NEWS FOR GOOD REASONS THESE DAYS

“Today we pay tribute to the millions of workers whose hard work, sweat and tears have gone into building our nation. No country can aspire to greatness without ensuring that the people who build the nation are partners in its prosperity and success. That those who work in our factories, in our fields, at our construction sites, in our mines and in enterprises big and small across our country are assured dignity of labour and a decent quality of life. That their children too have opportunities to choose the life they want to live, and a chance to excel and prosper. Let us renew our resolve today to strive for an India in which every citizen rich or poor, farmer and labourer, irrespective of the circumstance of their birth can hold their head high and live and work with dignity and honour.”

Rahul Gandhi said this today, on May Day, on Labour’s Day, or on International Workers’ Day. And while saying so, he extended the revival plank of his party, the Indian National Congress, of being pro-poor and fighting for the cause of the farmer.

He is on an India tour these days, protesting the land bill ordinance. In his meetings and outreach programmes, he alleges the Narendra Modi’s government of being anti-poor and anti-farmer. He is alleging that the Narendra Modi’s government is pro-corporate interests and is working to usurp the rights and land of farmers and the poor of this country. He is saying that the ordinance route was taken as the government was not sure of its chances in the Parliament.

Yesterday, he was in Vidarbha, the place of Kalavati and Shashikala and countless others; the place where Rahul ate at Kalavati’s house in May 2008 (in Yavatmal’s Jalka village) and mentioned her later in his famous speech in the Indian Parliament during the trust-vote Manmohan Singh’s government.

He trekked 15 Kms of it. He is there to reach out to farmers and poor. Unseasonal rains have destroyed crops in around 2 lakh hectares, as the government data show. The real figure is expected to be higher, like the farmer suicides, over 1000 this year, in affected regions across 14 states. Some states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have seen many farm suicides in these months.

And the National Democratic Alliance’s government has already re-promulgated a land ordinance that is vociferously opposed by the political opposition as well as some allied within the government.

A changed Rahul sees an opportunity here – of Congress’ revival – and of taking on Bhartiya Janata Party.

Yes, a changed Rahul Gandhi.

Post his latest sabbatical, Rahul looks politically active and more aggressive. And the BJP is taking it seriously, hitting back. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s response in the Indian Parliament yesterday can be seen this way. Firstpost quoted him saying – “Yeh sujh-bujh ki sarkar hai, isme koi galat fahmi nahi rahe (this is a government of solutions, there should be no misconception about this). Booted hona better hai. Booted out hona khatarnak hai (It is better to be booted. Getting booted out is very dangerous). Yesterday there was criticism (by Rahul) against the Prime Minister that he spends time abroad. At least we know where he is. Is India taller in the community of nations today than it was a few years ago or not? I was surprised when I read over the last few days that compared to the developed world, whether it was Iraq or it was Yemen or Nepal today, it is India which is now being considered as a global leader even in areas where we could not manage our own affairs earlier – disaster management. The Congress Party would realize when the Prime Minister of India goes abroad even for two days or three days, he performs a national duty. There is a difference between performing a national duty and disappearing for a jaunt. Therefore, you must realize the difference between the two. What is the kind of commitment to politics that you suddenly disappear for months together and then you come back and say that I will pick up an issue every day merely because it will make my presence felt.”

So, Rahul Gandhi, after his leave of absence, is more certain of his future than ever it seems. Probably, he has introspected and meditated about it.

Hope, the changed streak is there to stay – and words of his May Day speech, that are clearly backed by a pro-poor approach, should be backed by an intent that is natural.

And yes, he has to find the solution to the ‘Robert Vadra riddle’ and convince the countrymen about it. It should happen soon. There is indeed a mayday like situation there.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/