Home > India, Indian Economy, Politics, Social Trends > Learning to live with hawkers

Learning to live with hawkers


In every Indian town, there is always space for an English medium school, a play ground for Western sports, money for Western auditoriums, stadiums, theaters.

Mere paas democracy hai!  |  Creative, publisher credits embedded. Cartoon date - April 2008

Mere paas democracy hai! | Creative, publisher credits embedded. Cartoon date – April 2008

Several realities need to be grasped at the outset. India is not China and you cannot get rid of hawkers in busy parts of Kolkata by doing a mini Tiananmen Square. The hawkers have been earlier successfully removed without serious violence because they knew they would be able to get back. The latest move recognises this, even though the motive, with an eye on elections, is insincere. There is no point in playing around with words like “sunshine” and “sunset” in headlines because Operation Sunshine-I has not and Operation Sunshine-II will not work. It is not an available option. Conversely, regularising hawkers is no real solution to the unemployment problem or poverty. Left unchecked and carried to its logical conclusion, hawkers will cover not just pavements but entire carriageways. (via Subir Roy: Learning to live with hawkers).

This is the nicest thing he's given us, so that he can come once every five years to make an election speech.

This is the nicest thing he’s given us, so that he can come once every five years to make an election speech.

Poor should not be seen or heard

Subir Roy’s tone, from the heart of India’s English-speaking, urban, middle class sees hawkers as a ‘necessary’ evil. China is the epitome of this economic approach. And India is moving down that road – quite fast.

The biggest block is when the establishment loses touch with the people. For Indian instances, look at modern Indian city planning. In each new Indian township, there is always space for an English medium school, always space for a play ground where Western sports can be played, always space for Western style auditoriums, stadiums, theaters, etc. The Indian State is spending huge amounts of money on the Commonwealth Games.

But there is a funds constraint for Indian sports like polo, kabaddi, wrestling, unarmed combat, etc. Why is it that (almost) all the mandis in every city (at least I have lived in) has come up in pre-Independence India. No modern township sets up a mandi.

If the poor insist on being seen and heard, then throw them a few bones!

Why bother? Do they matter?  |  Ajit Ninan cartoon; source & courtesy - indiatimes.com; dated January 10, 2010

Why bother? Do they matter? | Ajit Ninan cartoon; source & courtesy – indiatimes.com; dated January 10, 2010

The poor are such a bother …

From Davos to Delhi, the rich, the famous and the powerful never talk of infrastructure for the poor.

1. In no road broadening proposal, are public toilets included in the infrastructure, in any city. The rich don’t need public toilets – and hence none are built.

2. While the Government puts its most powerful bureaucrats, tramples on all and sundry to acquire land for large industrial projects, how come such resolve in never seen in acquiring land for landless agricultural labour?

3. Instead of giving various tax-breaks and crafting municipal laws for large malls and shopping plazas for the rich, how about building reserving some road space for hawkers. After all, hawkers are the lowest-cost retailers – and will drive even a Walmart out of business. Indians consumers love hawkers – and hawkers resist all Government attempts to kill hawking.

4. How about temporary housing ‘infrastructure’ for poor, migrant workers, who pay exorbitant prices for shanties in slums. How come no rich lobby ever talks about such infrastructure?

The poor ... preferably, not to be seen ... definitely, not to be heard!

The poor … preferably, not to be seen … definitely, not to be heard!

5. How about some increase in public transport? Why does everyone talk about more road space – and so little about public transport. Instead of the Bandra-Worli sea-link, Mumbai could have put some 3000 electric buses on the road. Mumbai traffic would have been vastly better off with these 3000 electric buses instead of the Bandra-Worli sea-link.

6. Why is Bangalore still without a decent rail based public transport system? Why is Bangalore bus service so sparse – while everyone talks about the traffic jams in Bangalore!

All these ‘infrastructure’ projects will lower the urban costs, make urban economics low capital, and benefit the poor. Is it that I am afflicted by selective amnesia that I don’t see media coverage of such ‘infrastructure’ or is it that the poor don’t matter anyway.

Of course, Government sponsorship of such projects will immediately increase costs and bureaucracy. Such ‘infrastructure’ should be funded, built and based on users’ payments. But then, isn’t it always better to do a joint private-public project? That way the Rich and the Powerful are both on the same side!

Against the poor.

Big Money and Big Power - married to each other!

Big Money and Big Power – married to each other!

Return of the Raj

The one thing that the British Raj did better than independent India was build massive ‘edifices’ in their last 60 years. This helped them to hide the enormous poverty and misery that the Raj created.

In Mumbai this has created a conservation industry. Of Colonial buildings! Rudyard Kipling’s bungalow is more important that Lokmanya Tilak’s! Don’t even mention the Chaphekar Brothers! May Mumbai’s Buddhist caves go to ruination.

Among India’s chatterati, glitterati, the papparazzi, there is barely concealed longing for a return of the Raj. This hides a deeper malaise. The need for an Asuric Raj, which will build gleaming towers, glass and chrome plazas, shopping malls for the rich.

But we are not going to let this bother us!

Are we?

About these ads
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,016 other followers

%d bloggers like this: