CAN THESE TEMPORARY MEASURES HELP DELHI? (II)

The first requirement to decongest Delhi is to draw a roadmap on how to decelerate Delhi’s population growth.

And it cannot be something like what China did while restructuring and developing Shanghai and Beijing, forcefully evicting people out of city precincts.

Delhi is magnate for people from across India because it gives best hopes to people to earn their livelihood when we compare the employment generation capacity of all the metros in India.

And that has been the major reason behind Delhi’s rapid population growth. In fact, if we see the population growth in Delhi without the migrants inflow, it comes out to be lower than the national average.

And they are most welcome. It is their Constitutional birthright to settle anywhere in India that supports their life.

So, what are the options that Delhi can adopt to decelerate population growth here.

The answer, though innovative in the Indian context, is nothing extraordinary. What policymakers need here is the vision to follow the roadmaps being followed with persistence (and patience).

Jing-Jin-Ji or Putrajaya are what India needs to look up to – in terms of what China is doing to decongest Beijing or Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur.

Jingjinji or Jing-Jin-Ji is a planned vision of China where it intends to establish a Megalopolis. China is working to develop Jing-Jin-Ji as an urban complex of superb economic growth.

But the underlying reason behind it is decongesting Beijing.

Jing-Jin-Ji, China’s National Capital Region, is going to be the answer of China’s Beijing woes – an environment nightmare. Beijing, like Delhi, is one of the most polluted cities. In fact, its notoriety precedes Delhi. Emergency alerts on extreme pollution levels have been a common feature of the city.

To tackle it, China is working on a multi-pronged strategy – developing areas in Beijing region to house industries and people – and shifting government offices out of Beijing. In fact, the municipal government of Beijing, that employs thousands of employees, is being shifted to a satellite town.

There will be infrastructure in place for industries and people to relocate, not far away from Beijing, developing the region as a whole. Once this starts happening, it will reduce population and thus the vehicular burden on Beijing.

To continue..

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

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CAN THESE TEMPORARY MEASURES HELP DELHI? (I)

Like it is happening elsewhere, in hubs of intense economic, and thus social activities, around the world, should it not happen in India, in Delhi?

Experiments like odd-even scheme of traffic rotation or phasing out diesel taxis or putting on hold registration of diesel vehicles, are these really going to work for a city of 1.85 crore people (18.5 million) and some 9 million vehicles?

Can these short-term temporary measures work for a city that attracts some 1000 migrants daily to the city from different parts of India?

Delhi is in a mess. Years of unplanned growth has led to this – that the Indian national capital is now the most the polluted megacity on Earth.

Unplanned growth, because our policymakers never considered what should be the limit to the city’s spread – in terms of its human habitations.

Now, even the geographical extremes of the city are real estate goldmine, with hungry prospectors looking to snatch that last piece of land he or she could have.

When, ideally, for a better quality of life, and for a world class city, our policymakers should have cared for its open spaces.

And a robust public transportation system was the first need.

Well, we all know how pathetic Delhi’s public transportation is.

And its failure led to massive increase in number of private vehicles in Delhi – multiples times of any other city.

These vehicles are now a major contributor in choking Delhi’s air – along with the other major culprit, the construction boom – that is again related to the mindless growth Delhi has seen.

Reducing number of vehicles on roads drastically, as the odd-even scheme intends to do or not allowing further real estate projects or banning diesel taxis or shutting thermal power plants are not going to help until our policymakers come with something practical, that is innovative as well – at least in the Indian context.

Delhi needs to think, talk and act sense on it.

And here Delhi means our policymakers.

To continue..

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

THE IPL DROUGHT

Okay, at the face of it, let’s accept that if at all there is any rush of sentiments left for cricket, it for the national level matches, and certainly not for the club tournaments like IPL.

IPL, a highly successful brand name, has been highly controversial too – with its fair share of fixing and betting controversies and ‘spill over’ dozes of glamour and entertainment. While sitting in a stadium during an IPL game, what you come across is deafening music and silly commentary that simply dilutes the thrill of cricket.

Anyway, I am not going to look into highs and lows of IPL here.

It is about the ‘IPL drought’ controversy here – IPL drought because by continued insistence on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra (20 in all – at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur grounds) – and thus wasting some 60 to 65 lakh litres of water water (some estimates say 70 lakh) – when the Maharashtra state government is failing to ensure even an abysmally low supply of 20 litres a day to the families in the drought affected districts – contributing thus to the misery of people already afflicted with the one of the worst drought seasons the state is witnessing – BCCI, the body governing cricket in India, is earning a bad name.

Do a simple calculation to see if it can be an eye opener for you.

The Maharashtra government has decided to supply 20 litres of water every day to each household in Latur, one of the worst drought-affected districts of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra that is facing the worst drought in 100 years. But the problem is, even this supply is so erratic, once in a week or 10 days.

The 65 lakh litres of water used (wasted) by the IPL management to keep the cricket pitches up and ready for the 20 IPL games to be played in Maharashtra can supply 20 litres water to 325,000 families. To say, to argue, it is nothing, not even a day’s water supply to all families in a district like Latur with around 2.5 million people.

But, there is this big ‘but’ – with the social horror spreading in Maharashtra with thousands of farm suicides – and when the Maharashtra State Water Policy puts usage of water of purposes like IPL last in its priority list.

When some 2500 water tankers are needed in the region, the government can provide barely 100-200. The rest are privately operated. The region’s water reservoirs have water level below 5% – somewhere it is as low as 1%. There is no water for sowing. People are not able to take bath for days. Basic water needs like sanitation have become a luxury.

People are dying, they are committing suicide. According to a data-set, Maharashtra saw over 3200 farm suicides last year, while Taliban killed 3400 in the same period.

When seen in the context of all these, this use (or misuse) 65 lakh litres of water, that the BCCI says is not potable and therefore can be wasted, becomes a criminal offence.

Branding is all about strengthening your symbolic perception in people’s psyche and it happens with variety of factors – communication, action and obligation – and BCCI is failing here on all these three parameters. Its persistence on holding the Maharashtra leg of the IPL matches will associate a socially evil tag to IPL – the worst drought in Maharashtra’s history. So far, every communication coming from the BCCI camps and cricketers have only deepened the feeling that BCCI has no obligation towards the people of this country even if it claims to be the custodian of a people’s game.

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

BRICK KILN WORKERS: MUCH CRY BUT THE MISERY CONTINUES

A report by the International Labour Organization (Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour-ILO) on profits earned by the industries exploiting the forced labour coming from the poorest sections of the Indian ‘populations’.

The report says: “The annual revenue generated by a bonded labourer working in the brick kilns of India amounts to US$4,355. This value, when multiplied by the percentage of bonded labourers in the brick kilns, puts the annual revenue contribution of a brick-kiln bonded labourer to the total revenues generated by bonded labourers in South Asia at US$653.”

The report identifies some sectors including the brick kilns as such industries earning profits from the ‘bonded labour’. The other industries that it mentions are carpet weaving, rice and sugar cane industries.

In economically poorer regions with high unemployment, the standalone or small brick kiln operations do not operate on bonded labour but the condition is different for the larger players operating a number of kilns over a large geographical area requiring the manpower on absolutely low or almost non-existential wages or for the brick kilns operating in areas with short supply of manpower.

The forced migration of the labour due to poverty helps them in keeping their manpower in a consistent supply mode, in the ‘bonded labour’ conditions, where they extract the output mercilessly, even from the children.

Just a quick Google search with tags ‘bonded labour + brick kilns + India’ returns with a number of reports from credible research works and media outfits, right from the page-1, supporting the findings in the ILO report:

Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour – ILO – May 20, 2014 (The one that pushed to do this exercise.)

17 bonded labourers, their kids rescued from brick kiln – TNN Times News Network – May 9, 2014

Bonded labourers rescued from brick kiln – Times News Network – February 12, 2014

Why India’s brick kiln workers ‘live like slaves’ – BBC – January 2, 2014

Slave labour in Indian brick kilns – Union Solidarity International – October 9, 2013

No Bonded Labour anymore? Really? – ActionAid – May 16, 2013

A smart way to prevent bonded labour – ILO – May 3, 2013

Toddlers freed from brick kiln bondage – CNN – March 20, 2013

Bonded labour: Brick kilns biggest culprits, says report – Hindustan Times – September 8, 2012

Bonded Labour in India: Its Incidence and Pattern – ILO – 2005

And there are really too many, crying out loud, but not able to make much difference. The misery continues.

The brick kiln workers in ‘bonded conditions’ are taken in as faceless identities and they never know when they would get out. And most of them never realize the meaning of words or phrases like ‘freedom’, ‘bonded labour’, ‘slavery’, ‘labour laws’ or for that matter, ‘human rights’.

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

BRICK KILNS: WHERE WORKERS ARE NEVER TREATED AS ‘WORKERS’

Those having the roots in rural India know it well – the brick kiln workers. What drew my attention to them was an International Labour Organization report on profits earned by the industries exploiting the poverty of the people forced to work in out of their financial misery.

The report identifies some sectors including the brick kilns as such industries earning profits from the ‘bonded labour’.

The other industries that it mentions are carpet weaving, rice and sugar cane industries.

Brick kilns are a regular feature throughout the India dotting the country’s landscape. Cities and towns have them on outskirts. And for villages, these are regulars, employing the folks from the lowest strata, the unskilled labourers.

In my childhood, I used to marvel at the efficiency of carving a simple-designed brick from the mud and heating the soil to make it a solid red-coloured block. Some of my family’s land was contracted to a brick kiln owner and I had some chances to visit there.

I used to question others why they were paid so less and why they used to live like that – soaked in dirt with no moments to take rest. And the condition has not changed much since my childhood.

It was a small operation and there was nothing like bonded labour as much as I could gather then. Yes, people working there were living in abject poverty and were ready to grab whatever earning opportunity they could have had through their physical labour.

But as I grew up and started getting the real sense of the social vulnerabilities of India’s societal formations through my associations and collaborations with some NGOs, I could gauge how deep the problem was.

Standalone or small brick kiln operations do not operate on bonded labour in economically backward regions as the labour is available but the condition is different for the larger players operating a number of kilns over a large geographical area or for brick kilns operating in areas with short supply of manpower to do this labour intensive work that badly affects the health of the workers.

Workers are still paid shamelessly low and the large operators need constant supply of cheap manpower to maintain their business on a consistent running mode.

And to ensure that, keeping the labour ‘bonded’ somehow is the ‘safest’ option for them. And given the poverty of the brick kiln workers, they get it done easily. And these mercenaries do not care if the worker is an adult or a child. The forced migration of the labour helps them in keeping a tight tab on their workforce that they never care for.

Being a ‘worker’ demands the conditions on ‘labour laws’ to be met but they are never treated as the ‘workers’. They are taken in as faceless identities and they remain so as long as they remain there, with no exit options to exercise.

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

SLUMS THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA WAY: NOTIFIED, RECOGNISED AND IDENTIFIED

..Though ‘slums are the places where dwellings are unfit for human habitation’ the Government of India recognises..

Recently, The Hindu had a report on India’s slum population quoting the latest Census of India figures.

Naturally, it said the slum population in India had gone up to 65 million from 52 million counted by the last Census in 2001.

Focus of the story was the slum population had a better child sex ratio of 922 girls for every 1000 boys than the urban India average of 905. It also said the average family size of 4.7 in slums was in line with the average urban family size in India.

Signs of progress! Okay, maybe, when we see the figures as pure population statistics.

But this huge growth in slum population over the decade, almost 25 per cent, belies it and cautions us to see the figures more as the signs of unplanned rapid urbanization.

‘Slums are residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation’, the report says quoting the Census of India. Now the direct corollary to this definition is the slums must not exist in a civilized world of the socialist, secular and democratic Republic that India is.

There must be efforts on war scale to undo the concept of slums! Daydreaming, isn’t it?

Okay, it cannot happen in one go and for a country like India with limited resources, it can only come in phased manner with sincere efforts spread over a period of time.

Sincere efforts, floating promises and a multiplying slum population with every count!

The government that says ‘slums are unfit for human habitation’ readily categorises slums as ‘notified’, ‘recognised’ and ‘identified’ the report says quoting the Census of India categorisation.

‘Notified’ and ‘recognised’ slums, that are unfit for human habitation according to the Census of India definition, are accorded legal status, and ‘enjoy’ some civic amenities.

‘Identified’ slums, ‘unfit as well for human habitation’ are ‘kept’ devoid of any legal sanctity though they too are recognised ‘officially’ in some form as the precondition to be categorised as an ‘identified’ slum is it has to have ‘at least 60-70 tenements with at least 300 people’ as the report says. These ‘identified slums’ are not extended ‘legal protection and municipal services’.

The catch is, according to The Hindu report based on the Census of India 2011, the largest chunk of slum population dwells in the dwellings of the ‘identified’ slums that are lowest in the ‘hierarchy’ of slums in India (where every slum is defined as ‘unfit for human habitation’).

Now, this ‘largest chunk’, one million of which are in Delhi, India’s national capital, claimed to be world-class city, cannot even ask the Government of India to provide them with that elusive sewage-line or water pipeline or electricity connections.

Human misery notified, recognised, identified the Government of India way – strangely familiar – predictably strange – in the socialist, secular and democratic Republic India that is busy discussing ‘requirement of toilets and temples in India’ these days!

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

THE UNSKILLED AND SEMI-SKILLED INTERNAL MIGRANTS HEADED TO THE BIG CITIES: JOURNEY ON AN UNPREDICTABLE NOTE IN THE ‘GENERAL CLASS’ INDIAN RAILWAYS COMPARTMENTS

Unskilled and semi-skilled migrants are the largest chunk of the internal migrants in India who migrate in search of livelihood options.

Unskilled and semi-skilled internal migrants in India, leaving their homes in desperate search of the elusive earning option that they could not get at their homes, begin their journey on an unpredictable note, without any planning, much like their journey.

Some of them take to the roads but for most, the Indian Railways is the only option.

Indian trains have an unreserved class, also called the ‘general class’, offering cheapest fairs, and almost no amenities. Anyone who is even slightly capable of meeting some ends would never want to board these ‘general class compartments’ of any train.

Most of the Indian trains are notorious but the general class compartments can effectively be put in the ‘horrible journey experience’ category when they chug from and to the poorer or poorly governed states; states providing the rest of the India with unskilled or semi-skilled manpower. Most of them are daily wage earners. Unorganized occupation units like construction, private transportation and small time vending employ almost of the lot.

Though the labour law sets rules of engagement but it is never followed in such manpower sectors. People, for whom the law is enacted, can’t read even the newspaper properly. Their only concern is to survive the coming day. It is silly to expect that they would raise voices to say that they are not being paid the basic minimum wage as defined by the statute.

And they pack the general class of these Indian Railways trains which are devoid of even the basic amenities.

Take a walk on a major railway station like Delhi, Mumbai or Howrah and you can see the large queues struggling to enter the general class compartments of the trains heading to the states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and some other poor states. Police force is employed to manage the swelling crowd that overcrowds the trains packing them many times beyond the capacity. Some stampedes in past have killed many.

But they have no other option than to board these compartments.

For them, life is restricted to the environs of the general class compartment of the Indian Railways trains – neglected, marginalized, overburdened, and ignorant!

And this symbolism continues with their lives in the big city India.

They do carry hope when they board the train but it is not the kind of hope that the passengers boarding the air-conditioned coaches of the same train carry. Their hopes, most of the time, don’t fall even in the category of the hopes carried by the reserved sleeper class passengers, a class having slightly better amenities than the unreserved general class.

Also, the sleeper class is known as ‘second class’ in common man’s terminology. That, invariably, leaves the ‘third class’ notion and ‘treatment’ for the ‘general class passengers’. Isn’t it?

These internal migrants of India do carry a hope when they leave their homes or when they return to their homes.

Yes, they carry just one hope, the hope of survival that they would be able to find something to do there, to earn, and to live further. Their agenda of life is limited to a day or set of a few days only and keeps on changing. The glitzy metros with their blitzy environs are just like the air-conditioned class of the train they just pass through but do not even notice while heading to the cramped ‘general class’ compartments with ‘third class’ amenities.

They toil on the city roads and in the city environs during their working hours and head to the city slums or look for a corner on the road pavements to complete their day for the next day.

It is a dark aspect of the internal migration in the sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic of India.

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

‘FORCED-BY-CIRCUMSTANCES’ MIGRATION OF MILLIONS

INTERNAL MIGRANT WORKERS IN INDIA

Migrants face denial of basic entitlements including access to subsidized food, housing, drinking water, sanitation and public health facilities, education and banking services and often work in poor conditions devoid of social security and legal protection. Positive impacts of migration remain unrecognized.

— Overview of Internal Migration in India, UNICEF, 2012

The 2001 Census said the internal migrants were 30 per cent of the Indian population (309 million). According to the (National Sample Survey Office) NSSO 2007-08 findings, the proportion came down to 28.5 per cent. But 17 million more left their homes for varied reasons taking the count to 326 million. The estimates are for every type of migration – rural to rural, rural to urban and urban to urban. Another significant sociological indicator comes from the Census 2011 data. For the first time in 90 years, since the Census 1921, the Urban India added more to its numbers than the rural India. And the rural to urban migration has a significant stake. P Sainath equated this with ‘distress migration’ in one of his articles.

According to the NSSO 2007-08 findings, employment was the major reason behind migration of the male population. 29 per cent of the rural males and 56 per cent of the urban males migrated in search of the livelihood options.

And Rahul Gandhi’s Girish is just one ‘nameless faceless’ man among the millions of the migrating lot who face exploitation, poor working conditions and a poor life as the report puts it.

The trend implies a darker aspect. This migrating lot, basically the unskilled and semiskilled working class from poorer or poorly governed states, is in such a miserable conditions of survival that it opts for a life of exploitation hoping it can give some desperate earning options to meet the basic requirements like food and medicines of the family left behind.

Imagine the deplorable conditions millions of Indians are living in.

They survive on virtually nothing and that makes them tough and rugged. Those who survive the flirtations of hunger and shelter can tolerate any persecution, so be it the life where one shares a cramped room of 8 feet by 8 feet with 8 other fellow migrants in a heartless and hypercompetitive Indian metro like Delhi or Mumbai. It is not the IIMs way of making ‘workers’ rugged, workers who face problem of plenty. It is how the life makes one rugged where choices are non-existent and only the will to live further makes one to take the next step in life.

Though the government has enacted a Right to Education Bill making provision of educational facilities to every child a mandatory act, education is not at all a basic requirement of life for this migrating lot. Millions of them are still living in the dark-age mentality where more number of the male children means increased number of the earning hands in the family.

Members of this migrating class don’t have a dream when they leave their homes. They are well aware of the situation awaiting them in the metro India where they will be cornered in some slum locality or at the outskirts of the city.

Many can’t even afford that.

Delhi, India’s national capital and a city that boasts of maximum increase in per capita income, shows it. Take a random night drive crisscrossing the city, from its posh colonies to the slum localities, from its office spaces to its marketplaces, and one can see migrants surviving their day-to-day lives on road dividers, on footpaths, on railway stations, on hand-pulled rickshaws.

And Delhi is not the standalone case. Almost every big city in India will take you across a similar canvas of predicament.

There is no denial to the fact that skilled and highly skilled workers, too, are migrating but they cannot compensate for the negativity that owes its genesis in the ‘forced-by-circumstances’ migration of millions from the lower bottom of the social pyramid.

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

RAHUL GANDHI’S KALAWATI AND RAHUL GANDHI’S GIRISH

Personification of speeches – it’s an art, distilled to the finesse of characterization and intended to establish a bond with the audience. In politics, and the sort of politics Rahul Gandhi talks of practicing, this art needs to go beyond the realms of art.

The words need to perform here. The words need to get their person in time. The words need to push the act to the action.

It is mastered not just by the masterly use of the written words, but also needs the emotional connect with the subjects.

Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly tried to sound pro-people by using real life examples and anecdotes. But the ground reality of the real life metaphors that Rahul tries to convey and symbolize through his speeches fails the very intent.

The ground reality of Rahul’s real life metaphors fails Rahul.

And by allowing that to happen, Rahul fails the real life metaphors that he so passionately talks about; that he so sincerely looks to propagate.

In 2008, a non-descript Kalawati was immortalized when Rahul Gandhi had passionately spoken about her in a speech in the Indian Parliament. He had linked prospects of Kalawati’s empowerment with progressive policies like the ‘India-US Nuclear Deal’.

India is dotted with millions of Kalawatis – living in poverty, burdened, miserable, vulnerable. Kalawati got ample attention and help after Rahul made her a central figure of his speech.

Yet, Kalawati remains, after five years, just one of the millions Kalawatis – miserable and burdened. She still works as a contract labourer and finds it hard to feed the family of eight. Had Kalawati thought of this sort of immortalization?

Has Rahul Gandhi pondered over it? We are yet to know that.

And now, Rahul gives us another personification of his thoughts, this time in a migrant worker, again some non-descript Girish, much like Kalawati.

Rahul, like Kalawati, talks passionately about Girish. Rahul talks of optimism and aspirations of the youngster who leaves his village to make a living in a big city.

There are millions of Girishes in India. And sorry Mr. Gandhi, their migration is more out of compulsion than out of excitement to make it big. They realize they are going to be a part of the grinding machinery that squeezes them out and at the end of the cycle, they return back to their shores as lesser men than what they used to be.

The majority of domestic migration in search of livelihood in India is a sorry story because it adds to the burgeoning population of big city slums and not to the living spaces of the rising multistory buildings. We cannot be proud of that Mr. Gandhi because this population group would never want to leave its roots if it gets its livelihood there, in that non-descript village.

That non-descript village needs its script Mr. Gandhi.

Have you thought over it?

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