Ever since I was a child I have loved my Mumbai visits at my dad’s during summer holidays. I was always in awe of the magnificent city. Staying in a posh apartment opposite Queen’s necklace which offers a magnificent view of the big city made me feel that Mumbaites are mostly rich.
But my misconceptions about Mumbai , “the wonder city ” vanished since my last visit. Last time dad took me in a local metro to Matunga and a few other places(I forgot their names:-))
Here’s my experience:
I somehow managed to get a window seat in the crowded train. On the way I passed through small settlements and slums. That’s when I realized that beneath the masked glamour and luxury there is poverty and helplessness. It was painful to see narrow stinky overcrowded areas surrounded by dirt and garbage. The ‘houses’ were either tiny blocks of cube with made of bricks or merely sheets in the form of a tent. The houses or rather cubes lacked windows and the roofs (if any ) seemed leaky. I could see small kids doing difficult chores and some kids playing with sticks. The smell was unbearable and I had to cover my face with a handkerchief. How can people live here ? I thought and soon I was lost in a myriad of thoughts ….
No wonder India ranks 132 in the global inequality index.
I was reminded of what Nobel laureate Amartya Sen had said,
“Some Indians are rich; most are not. Some are very well educated; others are illiterate. Some lead easy lives of luxury; others toil hard for little reward. Some are politically
powerful; others cannot influence anything. Some have great opportunities for advancement in life, others lack them altogether.
Some are treated with respect by the police; others are treated like dirt. These are different kinds of
inequality, and each of them requires serious attention ”
India is full of paradoxes of this kind. While every second street in cities has a slimming center, people in most villages and slums suffer from malnutrition and poverty.
According to Oxfam reports
India’s top 10% of the population holds 73% of the wealth.
And It would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment company earns in a year.
Such statistics indicate the extent of deep-rooted inequality in India. You can find the entire Oxfam report in the link attached below.
For a moment I was grateful for being fortunate enough to enjoy the opportunities. But then I felt that it wasn’t fair. Why is it that some should enjoy all the wealth when most others are handicapped by poverty?
I’ve seen people complaining of the high-income tax they are supposed to pay. This system of progressive taxation was adapted to reduce inequality at least by a small fraction. Maybe you are taxed more but that is because you are capable of paying that amount so that at least a small, a very small amount can be used for the upliftment and empowerment of those in need.
“Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of those living in the slums? Have you ever thought of the kids who live there? There might be many untapped talents beneath the dirt of the slum. They also remain the most vulnerable to any natural calamities.What if I was born in one of those slums? Well, I have what I have because I was lucky enough to get the opportunities and because the society had been very kind to me . Certainly, you must be grateful for all the comforts you enjoy but at the same time if possible try to bring a change, however, small it might be to those in need. ” I told myself.
Like Harsh Mander said ,I wish for a day when no child will sleep hungry ,no child will sleep under the open sky ,no child will be sent to work instead of school and no person shall be subjected to violence or discrimination because of her identity ,no person will be denied free good quality healthcare ,and no old person shall have to work or beg to live with dignity.
We might need a big team for that Team India, a team of 125 crore citizens.
It’s high time we inverted the dictum of Darwin and worked for a society that would ensure the survival of the weakest and perhaps the sickest too.
And my thoughts were interrupted by my dad as it was time to get off.
A silent prayer…
“Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |
Save Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||“
Om, May All become Happy,
May All be Free from Illness.
May All See what is Auspicious,
May no one Suffer.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.