The main assets of the poor are their hands and feet and their only product is their daily labour, the most perishable product as it lasts only a day. Economically the poor are labour, one of the factors of production. All the capital assets in the world are generated by the labour of the poor. And yet the poor all over the world lived and died in penury.
All that they wanted in their life was to have enough to eat, to clothe, to have a house and education for their children; but they hardly had any of these before they vanished into oblivion. They were the slaves of the rich and powerful. At the same time most of their works are converted into permanent assets which generate regular income to the rich and powerful who owned those assets. It is high time that we positively recognize and acknowledge their contribution to our life by giving them at least all the basic requirements to lead a decent human life: Roti, Kapda, Makkan and Siksha: Basic Economic Justice.
The poor are necessary for the survival and thriving of the socially and politically rich and powerful. Therefore the rich and powerful always have a hidden agenda to maintain enough number of the poor people for their own survival and development. The rich and powerful include not only the individuals but also the political, social and religious institutions. A large number of poor is required for the survival of one rich man: Invisible Injustice.
The sweat and blood of the poor is converted into highly valuable assets like buildings, roads, railways, shipyards, aerodromes, shopping centres, factories, dams, powerhouses, raw materials like coal, iron ores and ores of other metals and above all the most essential food items for humans and fodder and feed for animals. They worked almost naked in cold and heat, day and night, in rain and storm and slept at night in shanties in the slums or on the foot path. Without their labour nothing of the present civilization would have been built. Conversion of raw materials into various products is done by the physical labour of the poor. Even intellectual labour is supported by the physical labour of the poor. The poor are mere manual workers and all the manual works are done by the poor.
There is a biological pyramid in nature: microbes, plants, animals and humans; so also there is a human pyramid. The poor form the foundation of the human pyramid. For the upper structure to remain intact the basal structures are needed. The economic structure is also pyramidal; the greater the wealth one has, the higher is his position, and vice versa. The poorest of the poor form the bottom-most part of the human-economic-socio-political-pyramid while the richer will be on top of the lesser rich. Greater the physical work of a person lower will be his position in the human-economic-socio-political-pyramid and vice versa: Invisible Injustice.
Human society in spite of century’s long democratization remains still a highly hierarchical. Practically there is no difference between the ancient kings and the present day ministers and heads of administration. Decisions are made unilaterally by the top most influential men in the hierarchy.
The top man in the society retains the full authority and the decision making power; the subordinates just remain mostly silent. Don't we often hear the members of the political parties saying, "Let the high-command decide etc." A religious head retains absolute power to decide and to pass judgment not only on religious and spiritual teachings, but also on matters purely economic, social, political and even scientific. The topmost persons in political and religious institutions are like ancient kings and feudal lords who had absolute power over the life of their subjects.
The pyramids are the oldest monuments we know. They are the tombs of the kings whom the people of that time worshipped as gods. They were built by the slaves. Who built the pyramids? of course those slaves. But the credit goes to some kings who ordered them to be built. Who built the Taj Mahal? Everyone says "Shah Jahan". But the truth is it was built by slaves or the poor people and the artisans; Shah Jahan may not have touched even a single stone. In the same way these days we ask the question, "Who built this or that beautiful building?" The answer is always, "So and so engineer built this building.” Actually the engineer never built it; he only made the design; even blue print drawings were made by the draftsmen.
Huge distinction is made between manual works and intellectual work; greater disparity in the remunerations assigned to both: Invisible Injustice. But without the physical work nothing of intellectual and spiritual can survive.
Wars are one of the means to acquire assets like land, oil fields, mines, raw materials for industry, economic and commercial domination. Wars are always started by the king or political leaders to create an emergency situation. During war time the common people are used like tools. They lose their democratic rights. At the end of the war the people who really suffered and made the sacrifices will be left out. All of them lived and died in poverty and hunger while the rich and powerful lived in plentifulness: Invisible Injustice.
The following is a list of questions asked by a friend of mine in a panel discussion on “Poor and Poverty”.
1. “We are cultivating about 175 million hectares of gross cropped area. The land has to be ploughed or dug up, harrowed, various crops are to be planted once, twice or thrice a year; the same area has to be weeded, protected against pests and diseases, harvested, threshed, etc. If the poor are not there who will cultivate our land?”
2. “Rice cultivation is a highly labour intensive occupation. We are cultivating about 37 million hectares under this crop. If the poor are not there who will plough and puddle the paddy fields? Who will raise the seedlings in the nursery and transplant them? Transplanting is an extremely excruciating and back breaking work; who will do all the works in paddy production? The poor.”
3. “ The total domestic animal population in India, consisting of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, horses and others is 512.05 million besides 895 million broiler and 230 million layer chickens. Who will do all the dirty works in thousands of cattle sheds and poultry farms if the poor are not there?”
4. “We have 5.23 million hectares of plantation crops of which 3,12,210 hectares are tea gardens. Who works in all these plantation crops? The poor.”
5. “About 80 millions of hectares in our country are earmarked as forests. An army of labourers are needed to do all the works in forest areas. If the poor tribals are not there who would do the various types of works related to the forests?”
6. “Indian railway has 1,15,000 km railway network and owns 19,000 trains; about 12,000 trains are running at a time to carry over 23 million passengers per day connecting about 8,000 stations. It runs more than 7,000 freight trains carrying about 3 million tonnes of freight per day. Who does the loading and unloading of goods? Who maintains the tracks metre by metre? Who does the cleaning, repairing and other odd jobs in about 2,50,000 thousands coaches? the poor.”
7. “We have a 92,851 km long highway system besides and a huge network of non-highway roads. Who will do the repair and maintenance of these road system metre by metre if the poor are not there?”
8. “We have 497 cities and 7935 towns as per census in 2011, built brick by brick. If the poor are not there who will build them? Who will prepare the billions and billions of bricks that are used for building these cities and towns?”
9. “We have about 3200 major/medium dams and barrages constructed up to 2012. Who built them and who are the people maintaining them? Of course, the poor.”
10. “We have 1376 Star hotels and lakhs of rest houses and crores of eating places. If the poor are not there who will do all the daily chores like washing, cleaning, cutting vegetables, cooking and serving food to millions and millions of customers?”
11. “We have nearly six thousand kilometres of coastal area and 48 million hectares of lakes and rivers for fishing. If the poor are not there who will fish in all these areas day and night?”
12. “As per 2013 statistics we have 182 million vehicles moving throughout the length and breadth of the country. They need to be cleaned, repaired and driven around. If the poor are not there who will do such works? Most of the drivers in our country are poor.”
13. “We have millions and millions of things to be loaded and unloaded every day into bullock carts, trolleys and trucks. If the poor are not there who will do the loading and unloading?”
15. “India ranks first in the leather production. Tanning is one of the most tedious and dirtiest jobs. If the poor are not there who will do all works in leather industry?”
16. “We produce large number of beautiful carpets. If the poor are not there who will do all the works from cleaning wool to weaving carpets?”
17. “Millions of rupees worth fireworks are produced every year in India. If the poor are not there who will make them?”
18. “Billions and billions of beedies are made in our country. If the poor are not there who will collect the tendu leaves, process them, transport and make the beedies?”
19. “We have trillions of square meters of roads and residential areas to be swept and cleaned every day. If the poor are not there, who will sweep and clean them daily?”
20. “We have millions of tons of garbage being churned out from the towns and cities every day. If the poor are not there, who will collect and dispose them?”
21. “In our country we have a system of domestic workers for doing all kinds of chores at home. If the poor are not there who will do all the domestic works daily?”
22. “We have millions of tons of fish, poultry and meat products to be cleaned and prepared for marketing. If the poor are not there who will clean the fishes, poultry birds, pick up eggs, slaughter the animals, clean the carcasses and prepare the meat in the lakhs and lakhs of slaughter houses and fish markets? Who will dispose the slaughter house wastes? the poor”.
After raising the above questions he concluded, “Hence the rich and well-to-do have a moral duty to pay adequately and to ensure their balanced diet, sufficient clothes, minimum housing of 600 square feet per family and education at least up to 12th standard. That would be only a minimum justice to the poor.”
(The writer is Retired Professor, Environment & Natural Resource Management with Justice, X I M. Bhubaneswar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Published on 12nd December 2016, Volume XXVIII, Issue 50)#