An untouchable Dukhi (an out-caste, played by Om Puri) approaches the village Brahmin to request him to set an auspicious date for his daughter's upcoming wedding according to the Hindu astrology. The Brahmin promises to perform the task in exchange of Dukhi slaving over household chores in return.that's the storyline of sadgati, a film directed by satyajit ray. around us, every day, we see enough evidence that poverty in india is indeed as devastating, if not more, as that found in sub-saharan africa or in any of the most wretched places on earth as many pundits say it is. how do we fight it? mainly through the central and state governments' poverty alleviation schemes- shouldn't the word schemes instead of just scheme tell us how successful we've been in fighting poverty until now? why do we need more than one scheme if the first one worked? or the next one? or the one after that? experts say there are thousands of them now, exhibiting various stages of morbidity. almost but never dying. and then coming back in new avatars and names, with the same old resilience and....frailty.
Already ailing and weak due to a recent fever, Dukhi agrees and begins with cleaning the Brahman's house and stable. When he is asked to chop a huge block of wood, Dukhi’s anger increases with each blow. Working in scorching sun, hungry and malnourished, the he dies. The corpse lies close to the road used by the Brahmins to go to the village well. The untouchables shun it for fear of police investigation. What can be done with the corpse of an untouchable that no one will touch?
the latest poverty alleviation scheme, the nregs, much touted as one of the most radical, always reminds me of the movie sadgati. the weak need to perform to deserve a break? like the villain in a typical masala film makes the heroine dance to buy the hero's freedom? in my view, that attitude is disgustingly cynical, because at its core lies the brahminical conviction that the poor and the wretched of indian society feign wretchedness. because poverty in india is not like poverty elsewhere. it's sub-human, as the experts keep telling us. so why don't the proponents of poverty alleviation schemes like the nregs postpone their enthusiasm and their experimentation until it reaches human levels?
today, one political party in india has come up with an idea that promises to bring poverty to human levels. i congratulate the telugu desam pary for seeing sense, at last, in the idea of a dole for the poor. for even bringing that idea into public debate, even if the tdp wins this elections or not, the party deserves a generous round of applause. finally, the death of the poverty alleviation scams may have arrived.
i'd like to say more, but later perhaps. my earlier posts on the dole are here.