let them eat dignity

one dalit, one adivasi, now deceased, one muslim and no obcs in the 14 member national advisory council. ten member working group on 'food security' has one dalit and one muslim. upper caste india must be starving. five member working group on 'communal and targeted violence bill' has one muslim and one dalit. no obcs. the working group on 'tribal development' (9 members) has one dalit, and one adivasi, again the late ram dayal munda. and again, it seems like upper caste india needs development more than anyone else. what does the nac do? save the lives and, more importantly, livelihoods of those least represented in the nac. livelihoods are more important because saving them involves more money and power. lives, as everyone who lives in india knows, are cheaper.


interesting word: livelihood. you could be making wicker mats, earning enough to keep your family hungry for only half the year, and suddenly you could lose your livelihood, be displaced, because an sez grabbed the forest where you got your raw material. sad.

but there are more chances, 99 times more perhaps, that you could be displaced, gradually or faster, even as you continue to do what you've always been doing: making mats.

life is what mukesh ambani does or arundhati roy does: never going hungry. what you do is die slowly, or faster.

the problem is: the state and society recognize ambani and roy. even if their jobs were interchanged, and roy ran a petrochemicals company and ambani was a writer, they would still be recognized and rewarded. even if roy lived in antilla and ambani only visited it. but you'd not be recognized, except as a livelihood.

the word 'livelihood' is a package of insults. you're lazy, you're ignorant, you're without merit: that's what they imply when they say they want to save your livelihood. why don't they talk about saving you? you're dirty, you're useless, you're a burden. you're low caste.

most of the lower castes are livelihoods, hardly human. you're a livelihood, a noun in neuter gender. they're ashamed to refer to you by name.

you will continue dying even if your livelihood is 'saved'. you were dying since your father's time, your grandfather's time, when there were no ambanis around. you'll die even if there were no ambanis around, now. you were dying when people like roy, or her father or her grandfather were doing life, quite well.

your livelihood will die if the private sector expands, as it did when the public sector expanded. and if roy or ambani tell you that's wrong, they're wrong. the evidence of the last sixty years, of the last two centuries quite clearly doesn't support their arguments.

livelihoods will only bring you certain death, but saving them is big business for others, as i said earlier.


the idea of livelihoods for some and modern jobs, careers and professions for others fits in nicely with the varna scheme of things. the best experts on the new varna order in the country work in the nac. like in the old days when learned rishis played counselors to kings. listen to aruna roy explain what's dharma..er..dignity
Naurti is a great speaker; she understands issues and speaks concisely. We will always remember her for the set down she gave Surjit Bhalla the right wing economist in a TV talk show. He suggested that India’s rural employment guarantee act was money down the drain – a dole to every family would do better. She contemptuously suggested to him that if that was the case he should stay at home and twiddle his thumbs – she would pay him a daily wage (even if what she earned in a month would probably be less than what he earned in a day)! He blustered indignantly, as she asked him if he knew anything about the dignity of work.
naurti's dharma or dignity lies in digging trenches and filling them up. aruna roy's lies in working in the nac. surjit bhalla, the adharmi, seems to have forgotten that dignity is one's birthright. that it isn't about how much you earn but about how you earn it. how does it matter if some birthrights mean more money and others involve more sweat? that doesn't mean some are more equal, or treated with more dignity, than others. it only means some births were right, others weren't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not a Dalit but not a Brahmin either.

But I agree with all the points you have raised in this post. India is a very cruel country. It is cruel to everyone who is without power or money.

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