Home > Environment, India, Indian Economy, Politics, Social Trends > Remember the ragpicker. Infrastructure for the poor – II

Remember the ragpicker. Infrastructure for the poor – II


India’s historic cost competitiveness, was based on self-employment and not on jobs, tenancy, etc.

While the rich get heard ... the poor struggle!  |  Image source & courtesy - wsj.net  |  Click for image.

While the rich get heard … the poor struggle! | Image source & courtesy – wsj.net | Click for image.

Try as I might, I could not get any sense from her that those who recover recyclables from our garbage and sort them out perform a highly useful social function, which householders do in developed countries by sorting out their own garbage before passing it on. What is needed is to do the sorting elsewhere and thus help improve the lives of those who do it for us and are absolutely at the bottom of the social ladder. Besides, we need to understand while we have a right to a clean and pleasant environment, they have a right to receiving help, which can improve their lives, so that they do not have to scavenge to keep body and soul together. (via Subir Roy: Remember the ragpicker).

Indian infrastructure

This is the second in the infrastructure series of posts. Anyone who is tracking India (or the Indian economy), know that the hot topic among the Indian ‘richeratti’ is infrastructure. The rich and powerful keep pointing at China, the Asian Tigers and at practically all countries to ‘show’ how infrastructure is the most important.

Is it time for them to get a better deal?  |  Photo: A.Muralitharan; source & courtesy - thehindu.com; on Sunday, Jun 01, 2008  |  Click for image.

Is it time for them to get a better deal? | Photo: A.Muralitharan; source & courtesy – thehindu.com; on Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 | Click for image.

In the choke-hold of Western politico-economic constructs, hides the linear path of concentration of wealth for the few and ‘full-employment’ for the rest. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few – and the other are fobbed with jobs. People are bounced from job to job – or promised lifetime employment, depending on what is convenient.

In such a system, infrastructure means – for the rich, the powerful. Glitzy airports, swanky malls and hotels, plush conference centres and smooth highways. It is another matter that the poor will also gawk at these edifices – which is anyway half the aim.

The other half is to maintain status quo.

The poor are the future of India

As this post (linked and extracted above) points out, the poor rag-pickers are delivering a very important service – just like hawkers are. Or service providers like electricians, plumbers, domestics are. Many of these service providers have been shut out of the economic mainstream – and work on crumbs. What the poor really do not need are handouts – but a level playing field. Either the Government stops favoring the rich with subsidies and /or cheap infrastructure – or the poor should come at the head of the list.

Have you noticed how projects for the rich – for instance, take five-star hotels, industrial projects seem, to get endless supply of water. The poor have to stand in a line at a community tap – and scrap for a few bucketfuls. Less than 10% of the rich people (farmers, industrialists, etc.) seem to be getting nearly 80% of the water in India, which the poor are thirsting and begging for.

The Rich have it ... the poor don't get it!  |  Image source - Reuters; courtesy - green.blogs.nytimes.com on June 10, 2009, 9:41 am  |  Click for image.

The Rich have it … the poor don’t get it! | Image source – Reuters; courtesy – green.blogs.nytimes.com on June 10, 2009, 9:41 am | Click for image.

Low cost India

Europe, Japan and the Asian Tigers used favorable exchange rates against the US dollar to propel their growth rates – an (artificial) advantage that India did not have. For India’s historic cost competitiveness, was based on self employment – and not on jobs, tenancy, etc. For all those who are worried about ‘nation-building’, who cannot sleep in the night, thinking of India, should look at India’s poor.

It is the poor who will have to be taken care of.


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  1. Janak
    January 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Dear Mr. Sanghi,

    I work with a trade union of waste collectors in Pune. We have been working with the ragpickers, waste collectors and itinerent waste buyers. If you would like to share any information in terms of work or welfare, please feel free to contact me on janak.hvkkpkp@gmail.com

  2. Janak
    January 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Dear sir,

    THis is just a reminder with reference to my earlier comment. If you are interested in the work of ragpickers do feel free to contact me.

    Thank you

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