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India's Untouchables

BY: Nuray | Category: Politics | Post Date: 2009-12-15

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India's 21st Untouchables: By Nuray Omar

In my visit to India form November 29 to December 4, 2009 being a member of WANIFRA (World Newspaper Congress) that was held recently in Hyderabad I was struck by the contrasts in Indian society between those composing the poor and those of the rich. In Hyderabad efforts are made to modernize the new city part with wide street, highways, big construction buildings and huge mauls. In contrast the old city in Hyderabad remains the abode of the poor who are viciously being encroached upon by the rich. The rich are achieving a modern technologically advanced India and are progressing at the expense of the dead corpses of the poor.

It is very unfortunate that a country such as India which has so much potential to advance in many fields for possessing natural resources and skilled manpower ignores the question of poverty and the misery of a new class of untouchables of our modern era. Just like traditional Hindu society only the upper class enriches itself and has the privileges in society. Those left behind who for some reason could not keep up with the progress would become the new untouchables or the lowest of the low in India's modern society.

In the Bhagavadgita, the Hindu song Divine the intermixture of castes is condemned. In chapter I verse 43 Arguna says: Through these evils bringing about an intermixture of castes, the age long caste traditions and family customs of the killers of kinsmen set extinct. In this manner the new Brahman capitalists of modern India refuse the intermixture of those people with less money and less opportunity thus treating them as out-castes that are thrown in the street of Hyderabad and elsewhere with no jobs, food, clothing or food.

As India progresses, more people fall into poverty and 230 million people are undernourished and 40% of the children under the age of three are underweight. The slums are increasing at a drastic rate on outskirts of Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and other cities otherwise considered as modern. It is tragic to say that there is money to be made out of poverty; and the capitalists are so cruel that they are now selling poverty in order to maximize their profits. The Oscar winner movie -Slumdog Millionaire-, a 2008 British film directed by Danny Boylke, written by Simon Beaufoy, and co-directed in India by Loveleen Tandan broke box-office records by propagating the slum poverty and projecting it to world. It was filmed in India telling the story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai. It was a farce with the suffering, pain and miseries of the poor on display.

Currently the economic turmoil has hit the world; the rich continue to enjoy a life of luxury while the masses suffer even more. The bailout at the expense of public money is being carried out to maintain the status quo of the rich and protecting them from falling into the mass of poor. From the owners of multinational companies to bureaucrats, they are all enjoying the luxuries during the downturn at the expense of taxpayers' money. Now about 78% of the population spends less that Rs. 20 a day, while the wage rate of workers in the organized industrial sector is among the lowest in the world.

Despite the technological and industrial progress in India, it lags behind in social services, such as health and education. India, the world's largest food grain producer, also has the world's largest hungry population. The agrarian question has not been solved as farmers commit suicide and women sell their bodies so that they can eat bread and butter. The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ranked India a poor 66th among 88 developing and transitional countries. In some parts of India people faced drought like conditions on the basis that there were no food grains available for them.

One tragic scene which I could not take out of my mind was the figure of an emaciated dying old man in the streets of Hyderabad without food and clothing. He was so helpless and excreting in the street. People were passing by going on their day to day life without giving him any attention. To them he was no different from the loose running cows and pigs in the streets that in comparison to him had their stomachs full.

The phenomenon of begging in the streets by these untouchables is sad as they are aggressively being excluded from all city life, employment, leisure etc. To India the most important thing is to advance ahead in society. Whoever can get hold of money and make business whether a Hindu, a Muslim or an animist is treated like a god. The one who cannot follow the demands of the capitalist system is excluded aggressively from society nor is he/she accepted to be part of it or live in it. His or her only choice is to die slowly.

In the recent past, the boom benefited only a small minority. Now, during economic recession, the rich continue to enjoy the luxuries of life while the poor have to labor to guarantee the rich their luxuries. The future unfortunately is for those with money accumulated in their pockets seeking more profits. To this end in order to make speedier profits, rapid mechanization will mean less labor and more comforts. With double increase in the productivity of machines, the working hours will be reduced by half and more people in the street.
As is already happening worldwide, industrial growth can, and is taking place with virtually no increase in the demand for labor. Improved agricultural implements and expanded availability of tractors and mechanical threshers and harvesters, has meant that there has also been little growth in the demand for agricultural labor. Since most of the population growth in India is taking place amongst those who will have the least skills when entering the job market India is being flooded with either completely illiterate or poorly schooled youth or children in a stagnant or perhaps even shrinking job market. The social consequences could be simply devastating - and to some extent hints of this impending crisis are already visible in the slums of Indian metros.

It is high time that conscious social organizations and parties and all other concerned organizations and citizens understand this problem in all its depth and assist India's poor peasantry and young and growing urban population to construct a more just society by delegating wealth equally.

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