Friday, July 10, 2009

Who said we are not privileged?

Lately I’ve been thinking that we have pockets of privileged classes everywhere. Among the strong and also the weak. Technology has made the strong weak and the weak strong.

The men and women, who toil in the fields, grow the food that ends up on our tables. Men and women build the homes, offices, bridges and roads that we use. They are the strong ones who have the physical strength to work long hours in the sun with not much to sustain them.

Then there are the rich folks living in their high-rises and villas. Put them to work in a field or a construction site for half a day and they will collapse. Yet the strong labourer is weak in the real world. It’s the wealthy weaklings who have the power.

You would think that those with no power are crushed under the heel of those who have. You would be wrong, because the poorest of the poor enjoy the same privileges as the richest of the rich. They can build houses anywhere and illegal is made legal. All they have to do is get an audience with a powerful minister or member of parliament, touch his feet and weep on his shoulder.

We won’t talk about the wealthy because it goes without saying that their wealth buys them the privileges that the poor get with misery and a potential vote bank. The politician is the most privileged because he extorts from the rich to donate to the poor, so that he can be voted to power. Then he can rob the rich, the poor and the middle class.

Chimbel’s Indiranagar slum colony is a living example of a privileged class. If I want a ration card and have no proper documents of domicile I would wear out at least five pairs of shoes before I got my ration card. A resident of Indiranagar told me that she had no birth certificate and that her son’s name on his birth certificate needed to be changed. She did not even know which day she was born, so she selected a day, a month a year and within days she received a birth certificate and a ration card. They told her there would be a bit of a problem with changing the name on her son’s birth cert. Instead they issued her son a new one with his name duly changed.

I thought it was only the rich and the poor that are belong to the privileged class. I thought wrong.

There is a whole new class of people in between who can make the impossible possible. Largely found in the middle class groupings of society, this is the class of people who know people in the right places. All it takes is one telephone call to get one’s work done, or someone else’s work undone. They are the class of people with Contacts.

What about those who are not wealthy, not poor and not influential? They have right on their side. Also the judiciary and the entire system that can be made to work to right wrongs. It takes a while longer, cost more in terms of time and money, and it’s these who actually determine the direction the country will progress.

As it happened in the case of a householder in Mapusa who approached the Additional Sessions Court to: a) prevent a group of illegal gadda owners from dumping their construction material and garbage into a nullah and b) to order them to remove the debris and waste from the nullah. The gadda owners were incensed with the nerve of the householder dragging them to court when the nullah and road were public property and therefore none of his business. But the householder brought out a precedent set by the Supreme Court where any individual could act against persons and institutions that were causing damage to public property. The litigant here was not using influence to right a wrong. He was using the system to beat the system. Now that’s a privilege.

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