Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Sad Case of Ramprasad Pandey

This is the sad story of Ramprasad Pandey. He sells cut papayas in Churchgate, sitting under a pretty-looking gulmhur tree. On a good day he makes Rs 600 (Rs 18,000 a month), on a bad day hardly Rs 100. But the agents of the police, the municipal corporation come and take away Rs 100 a week as an unofficial tax as they fall within their area of jurisdiction. That's Rs 800 less every month. Ramprasad doesn't know law so he pays up without grumbling. He buys papayas from the wholesale market at Rs 20 per kg, and he sells them for Rs 40 per kg on an average. So that's Rs 9000 shaved off his income. From the balance Rs 9000 Rs 1000 goes in bribes, Rs 3000 goes to an assistant who transports papayas, leaving him with Rs 5000 a month. With this he has to manage himself, his family in distant U.P. yet, he is better off than this guy I profile here nearly a month ago who works for Rs 4000 for 12 hours each day 7 days of the week.

It's all right for Manmohan Singh to harp about 7 to 9 per cent growth. Wherein he says platitudes such as, "We are rapidly moving forward. We have faith in ourselves. We have political stability. Our democracy is an example for the whole world. We are gaining in economic strength. Most importantly, we have confidence in our youth... I am sure that they will take our country to a new glory." But what has it done for Ramprasad? He is a broken man, most always in tears and blabbering against the corrupt establishments that extort his hard earned money. I will bring you more such abject poverty abounding within our own city walls. What then would be the case in the dirt-poor villages? Development, growth rate, per capita, are all mirages for them.

What gets Ramprasad's gall is after paying the police and the municipal authorities, when the municipality's trucks come to check for unauthorized hawkers, he still has to lift his papayas (no pun, please!) and run into the nearby building, while the official of the ultipalti (topsy turvy) leers from the front seat. Some unsavory joke this?


Grampa Ken said...

I have wondered over the past several years; will the great advances in Asian commerce lead these societies down the same path as we have taken in North America. I have hoped not but am concerned as I see on TV the same corporate neon signs spreading throughout.

Corporations have control in our social development here and materialism is a core interest. They persuade on the clothes, cars, homes and other products we possess, and how we interact socially. They are continually at work on us, starting at a very young age. The growth in size and influence of business is enormous world wide, and not to the benefit of all as so very many live with very little, with so many starving, sick and having little or no hope.

How can the world get it right?

Ken McIsaac

John said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for stopping by. Yes there's immense pain in people who have been left behind by the economic miracle, like the man profiled here.


ms said...

the person you have profiled represents the 40% in our country who will never reap the benefits of any progress. and if any "mumbaikers" read this, they will say that ramprasad should return to his native UP and let a "manoos" earn the 5000 bucks he is making. daily, i am reminded of this great economic divide. every major city is inhabited by a people who are "foreigners" when it comes to sharing space with them, but wonderfully "native" when they provide some much needed service. "everyone makes money in this country if they know how to", said by a govt employee. police extortion is rampant, then the "ultipalti" (municipalty!) wants its cut. recently i found out that the cost of any documentation includes "extra expenses". no one knows the exact fee for any official document. if we have heard about "americanisms" like "don't call me, i"ll call you", "no free lunches", "cheque is in the mail" etc, then we also have "indianisms", like "anything goes (sab chalta hai)", "we all have to eat (sabko khilaana hai)", "what's in it for me?". the govt can bleat about progress and the improved standards of living, but it is only true of those already rolling in money, who made their crores even during the time of global recession. poor ramprasads of this world. to parody a popular saying, "govts may come and govts may go, but the poor starve for ever".