Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are we independent enough?

Rahul, not our royal clan member, the 12 years old boy is happy and look forward of this wonderful day, August 15, 2013.  He scantly remembers the Independence Day that he got handful sweets at school when his parents were alive.  Now, he is not bothered of handful of sweets and is not ready to peep in any government school to enjoy flag hoisting and sweets, because he has to fill three stomachs on daily basis.  His grandmother and two of his own sibling living in Delhi slumps are waiting on his income generated from garbage collections.

He has a daunting task on daily basis to collect at least three sacks of garbage and sit on a suitable place to segregate them into plastics, papers, card boards, cans, etc.,   He need to make sure that he would sell them for at least 200 Rupees to make sure that his family is safe for next two days.  But then, 200 Rupees is always luxury for him as he rarely reaches his target.

August 15 is always a great day for him and his fellow garbage hunters.  They can collect more plastics, card boards, cans, etc.  Last year he was able to sell for a massive 500 Rupees and bought some clothes for his family members as independent day gift.  This year also he is waiting with more sacks to complete the flag hoisting at Red Fort. 

"Measuring poverty is a difficult task. There are diverse views about what constitutes poverty. But whatever definition we may adopt, it cannot be denied that the pace of reduction of poverty has increased after 2004," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was reading from his written speech.  Rahul, with his sack on head as sun shade wondering when this leader will finish his speech to start his garbage coll

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Aslam, a senior resident of a railway platform wall ‘hole’ that he occupied in a crowded Kolkatta railway station is looking for some good collection from patriotic citizens who can add more pennies to his gang of beggars.  His gang is nothing but his family members and some orphans who roam around this famous railway station.  He happened occupy the hole on the platform wall, which is anyway the most dangerous place to reside amidst of frequently computing trains, never interested to venture in begging until he lost one of his legs on a road accident.  He has been wandering for years to get a suitable place to stay and found the hole is perfect and no competition for him.        

Often he was expecting some benign hearted persons to rehabilitate him with a job suitable to him, and fortunately found none.  He tried his best and finally settled with his begging business and happy with the income.  Begging is his family business and trained some orphans and accommodates them in nearby holes. 

He woke up early morning and prepared his gang to be energetic to spend all day in order to collect as much as money possible.  He has given each one of them a plastic national flag to insert in their shirt visible to all people.  His Independence Day, August 15 is always worth to his efforts.

Aslam got up from his hole and strolling on the platform with his clutches to measure the crowd.   His eyes were drawn to the newspaper stall in the railway station.  There was a news poster with the picture of President Pranab Mukarjee with his statement calling people to elect ‘stable government’.  Aslam smiled at it and wondering if he can get a voter ID using his platform hole as a valid residency.

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Muthu, the roadside vendor, prepared his peanut bags well before this day.  Despite of frequent rains in Chennai, he was able to dry the peanuts sufficient enough to fry.  Also collected pure sands dried enough and alerted his 10 years school going son to be with him on this day.  He had already paid the ‘occupational cost’ to the local goon as bribe to place his cart and sell peanuts in front of Udayam theatre complex at Ashok Nagar.

He knows that common Indians prefer to watch movies during Independence Day.  Common Indians found more freedom on this day to enjoy along with his friends and spent whatever money they have.  Udayam theatre is a perfect place for Muthu as it has four movie theatres with total seats of more than 1,500.  There will be five shows on this day and he expects to sell at least 50kg worth of fried peanuts.  It will be a good day for him to make fortune of money enough to take care of his son’s education for next one year (in a government school).   He doesn’t want his son become like him and trying his best to give a better study environment as a poor father.  His wife Kamala also sells Jasmine flowers alongside of his cart to make some money. 

Muthu family’s Independence Day starts briskly with good sales and were praying to all gods not to allow the rain and spoil their business.  At his right side, there was a tea stall with some benches for his customers.  The tea stall has a television set connected with a local network channels.  Being Independence Day, the tea stall owner prefer to show his patriotism by tuning to a news channel that is repeating the flag hoisting ceremonies and speeches from Delhi and various state capitals.  Muthu was enjoying the channel in his free time and his eyes are brightened to see our Tamilian, the finance minister P Chidambaram in Rajya Sabha speaking to members.  He was happily announcing that about a 140 million people have been "lifted above the poverty line" during the UPA regime. 

"Our claim actually is, we have lifted about 140 million people. Wherever you draw the line...You take the poverty-wise population, you take 
the income-wise population, stratify if, draw the line anywhere you like. 

"Draw the line anywhere at two dollars, at three dollars and then, what was the population below that line 10 years ago, what is the population below 
that line today...The difference is about 140 million people," Chidambaram was thundering on the channel. 

Muthu turned to his son and asked, what is the dollar conversion in Indian Rupees?

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