Yesterday, a friend wished to post a comment on the much-discussed article that made the headlines in The New York Times. Some readers thought the article was newsworthy, others expressed their furore over the skewed perspective, and yet others posted counter-comments. The following is one which was written, but was not published, since all comments were being screened by the newspaper.
March 13, 2009 2:33 pm
In response to Editor’s selected comment # 167:
“Glad to hear your husband visited India. However, am amazed at the one-sided observations: Of the four months he spent there, he saw “people simply cut wires to hook into the electrical grid… “: Did he pay a visit to the electricity Bill Payment Centers (especially in the major metros), where there are long-winding queues of men and women, who do take time off from their work, or from lunch-hour to go pay their bills?
Daily power outages do not prevail in all parts of the country.
A woman who “stands up for herself” would be killed; yes, while Indira Gandhi stood up, she was “killed”, no doubt… but that has been not just her fate, but the fate of many leaders (in India and even in our part of the world and elsewhere)… incidentally, Indira Gandhi was India’s Prime Minister (stood up not just for herself) for several terms… of course she had ups and downs, but that’s history. (I am not particularly her fan.) The point is there are several strong women in the history of India – both, on the political front, as well as in every household in the country. The current President of India is Mrs Pratibha Patil, a woman – educated and an accomplished sportswoman.
Despite the high incidence of the infamous female infanticides, if women were so easily killed (as your husband may have observed), India would not have such a high population (over a billion) and the ratio of women to men is certainly not low at 930 women:1000 men. It is not as “simple as that” to kill women in India… incidentally, a woman, who (almost) could not read nor write, was even leading one of the largest states i.e. Bihar, as their Chief Minister (circumstances notwithstanding) – and a totally male-chauvinistic state at that.
You’re right about the tax evasions (even among the ‘elite’ and people in power), hence the advertising to “beg people to pay their taxes” comes as no surprise. Even Rabri Devi’s husband was chased by the Income Tax Officials a decade ago.
And here is the very same Rabri Devi… almost an illiterate, happily married (not forced into it at the age of 14) who is the mother to 7 daughters (no less) and 2 sons… who has the “wisdom” and “guts” to comment on the ‘historic’ budget.
You’re right in drawing attention to the hospitality of people towards your husband, despite their poverty. Tourists and visitors (especially the fair-skinned) often have a fan following of poor kids and street urchins, in cities (or at touristy attractions) smiling and laughing around them, begging and chasing them for just a pencil or pen, while their tummies are probably growling with hunger.
Well, the whole point is the government certainly can do much, instead of filling their own coffers. It’s not enough to throw your hands in despair and say, “where do we begin”… Education is not an “impossible luxury”. The government can provide incentives to those who are educated, to teach or provide a basic education to just one other poor soul. Instead of having to scavenge from garbage cans, those who do have homes, could have just one homeless child come around everyday for one small meal – provide two rotis or a bowl of rice with a vegetable (or soup). In fact, come over to learn your ABC’s (K, Kh, Gh), learn the basics of hygiene, and grab a sandwich, for good measure! It really isn’t too much… many families waste and throw away so much food after every meal, that they can well-afford to part with a sandwich a day! How do you think those garbage cans get filled with wasted food that putrefies in there… followed by epidemics of diseases. So, the bottom line… no, the government has to take a lead, and so should those who have been blessed with far more than they can enjoy in their own lifetime… as their “giving back to the community”. They spend loads of money building schools for the rich and elite (so with their IB diplomas they can apply to schools in the US or UK). Those families are charged steep fees (no different from private schools here). How about schools in rural areas with nominal fees – a buck a day – nothing fancy, just the basics at least? Yes, they’re probably hoarding that for their future generations. Well, the future will take care of itself, if the present is provided for… even partially. Please follow my comment #206. India is a land of paradoxes (clichéd). Your observations may be true, but there is certainly another side. Something must be done to resolve the poverty issues… soon! Thanks.”