India 2008: Dance of the little people

Taking the Tambaram-Beach local at 10.50 can give you some idea of how little the economic and welfare policies of our neoliberal greats, starting with Manmohan Singh, P.Chidambaram, Anbumani Ramadoss and Montek Singh Ahluwalia have touched some Indians.

Dancing on the train

This picture of a mother and two children, one of them an infant (only the elder child is seen, in the foreground), is a portrait of the little people who keep falling through the net in one of the fastest growing economies on the planet. As commuters, many talking on their cellphones watched, the woman kept tapping a listless beat on a plate on the moving train and the child performed simple tricks; at the end of each set of tricks, it went around with the begging bowl. Presumably, tens of thousands of such mendicants traverse the length and breadth of this country in the great Indian railways everyday.

I wondered what they thought of all those jumping stock exchange figures on the business channels on television, the slick advertisements for (junk) food, the flashy cars, the credit cards, the multi-crore villas, and all those beautiful people. The images of white clad netas and fiery vote-seeking orators is old hat anyway. They know that is a complete farce.

It is unfashionable and contrarian to tell a fellow Indian today that all the talk of superpowered India with its 9 per cent GDP growth is just hot air for some Indians. Of course, that is not to say that no progress has been made, or that poverty has not declined. There are fewer people, perhaps, who go on a hungry stomach, but there are still tens of thousands of people who can’t get enough food, who cannot eat the right food, have only rudimentary shelter, virtually no healthcare and who can’t afford to go to school.

If all that was not true, why would a HIV positive widow in a Madurai hospital want to sell her baby for a hundred rupees, after trying to abandon it in a cradle and be prevented from doing that by the security?  


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