Sunday, September 16, 2007

Let’s beg for a change!

Discover your inner economist, please

Almost a month back, most of the leading national dailies carried a very sombre study, undertaken by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) as a headline. But then this study, which featured some very disturbing facts and figures, was uncustomarily not adapted and afterwhile followed up by any media house. It thus got buried under other applicable and inadmissible news. The study for sure does not sound as any goods the economic planners and for sure is a great blotch upon the national economic planning. The study titled, “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihood in the Unorganised Sector” reports that almost 836 million people (mainly comprising of SCs, STs, OBCs and Muslims) sustain upon a meager sum of Rs. 20 per day! Though the report affirms that, technically 77% of the entire population is above the poverty line (which is slated at Rs. 12 per day), it is no hidden fact that with such freakish ‘poverty definitions’ the statistics present a rosy picture.

Nevertheless, for the poor they remain a perennial nightmare. This apart, the study also underscores another glaringly grotesque economic case of 395 million people: (constituting almost 90% of the entire workforce) nearly 80% makes around a measly Rs. 20 a day and is bereft of any form of social security!

It is for sure that we as a nation have failed in terms of provisioning economic liberation to a silent majority. I specifically use the term ‘failed’ simply because there are copious cases in international development theory (and practice, if ever there was one in economics!) of nations who have been able to successfully raise the purchasing power and standards of living of scores of people in much less time span. Agreed, that Indian case is an unique one with huge diversities and myriad complexities. But then again, 60 years is no less time. The bigger irony is that today, the beggared lot that dots all areas of all metro cities is better-off than the unorganised worker communities.

And it is also important to be appreciative of the economic actuality that, today begging in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and the likes, is more remunerative than working in the unorganised sector. It is extensively reported that a beggar can end up earning upto Rs. 100 on a good day and any where between Rs. 20 to Rs. 50 on a ‘not-so-good day’. Furthermore, there is lot of other things that they receive in kind like food, clothing and etc, which makes the average earnings of the beggars in metro placed much above than those employed in the unorganised sector.

Truthfully, I feel terrible while I write all this but then I guess readers would excuse me by reading into more of my anguish and disquiet than anything else. It is essentially even more frustrating to apprehend that there are 836 million among us who cannot afford to read what I have authored now in this opinion piece, at the given cover price, which in my opinion is at a record low price, by all economic rationality and business reasoning!


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