Thirty million people are slaves, half in India

LONDON: Some 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude, a global index on modern slavery showed on Thursday.

Almost half are in India, where slavery ranges from bonded labour in quarries and kilns to commercial sex exploitation, although the scourge exists in all 162 countries surveyed by Walk Free, an Australian-based rights group.

Its estimate of 29.8 million slaves worldwide is higher than other attempts to quantify modern slavery. The International Labour Organisationestimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour.

“Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa andSouth Asia,” the report said.

“Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through ‘marriage’, unpaid labour on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education.”

The Global Slavery Index 2013 defines slavery as the possession or control of people to deny freedom and exploit them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception. The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.

According to the index, 10 countries alone account for three quarters of the world’s slaves.

After India, China has the most with 2.9 million, followed by Pakistan (2.1 million), Nigeria (701,000), Ethiopia (651,000), Russia (516,000), Thailand (473,000), Democratic Republic of Congo (462,000), Myanmar (384,000) and Bangladesh (343,000).

The index also ranks nations by prevalence of slavery per head of population. By this measure,Mauritania is worst, with almost 4 percent of its 3.8 million people enslaved. Estimates by other organisations put the level at up to 20 percent.

Chattel slavery is common in Mauritania, meaning that slave status is passed down through generations. “Owners” buy, sell, rent out or give away their slaves as gifts.

After Mauritania, slavery is most prevalent by population in Haiti, where a system of child labour known as “restavek” encourages poor families to send their children to wealthier acquaintances, where many end up exploited and abused.

Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon have the next highest prevalence rates.

At the other end of the scale, Iceland has the lowest estimated prevalence with fewer than 100 slaves.

Next best are Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Finlandand Denmark, although researchers said slave numbers in such wealthy countries were higher than previously thought.

“They’ve been allocating resources against this crime according to the tiny handful of cases that they’ve been aware of,” said Kevin Bales, lead researcher and a professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at Hull University.

“Our estimates are telling them that the numbers of people in slavery – whether it’s in Great Britain or Finland or wherever – in these richer countries actually tends to be about six to 10 times higher than they think it is.”

Walk Free CEO Nick Grono said the annual index would serve as an important baseline for governments and activists in the anti-slavery fight.

“This kind of data hasn’t been out there before,” he said. “It’s a multi-year effort, and next year we’ll have a much better picture of where slavery is and what changes there are. If you can’t measure it, you can’t devise policy to address it.”

Countries with highest absolute numbers of slaves Country Estimated slaves India 13.9 million China 2.9 million Pakistan 2.1 million Nigeria 701,000 Ethiopia 651,000 Russia 516,000 Thailand 473,000 D.R. Congo 462,000 Myanmar 384,000 Bangladesh 343,000 Ranking by prevalence of modern slavery per head of population Rank Country Estimated slaves Population 1 Mauritania 151,000 3.8 million 2 Haiti 209,000 10.2 million 3 Pakistan 2.1 million 179.2 million 4 India 13.9 million 1.2 billion 5 Nepal 259,000 27.5 million 6 Moldova 33,000 3.6 million 7 Benin 80,000 10.1 million 8 Ivory Coast 157,000 19.8 million 9 Gambia 14,000 1.8 million 10 Gabon 14,000 1.6 million Source: Global Slavery Index 2013, Walk Free


Recipe for self-reliance

Sex workers in Kolkata’s Watgunj area are shifting to alternative livelihoods after undergoing culinary training from professional chefs

She was all of 21 when her husband dumped her and her brother-in-law sold her to a pimp in the red light area of Watgunj in south Kolkata. Forcefully pushed into the sex trade, battered and bruised for almost 13 years, Piyu, now aged 34, is expecting to start life afresh.

Piyu is not alone. Called ‘Sonar Bangla’ — the self empowerment group (SEG) comprising 10 sex workers from the red light area of Watgunj — is set to receive culinary skills from the chefs of the premium city-based Kenilworth Hotel. Supported by the NGO Apne Aap Women Worldwide, some of the other sex workers from the area are organising themselves into SEGs to explore possibilities of alternative and sustainable livelihood options, including stitching of ladies outfits and making jute and paper bags.

“I was pushed into this trade by my brother-in-law. Initially, I used to earn good money but now that I am growing old, no client prefers me. I do not have any income and my landlord is forcing me to vacate the house. I have four kids aged 12, 11, 10 and five. But they cannot stay with me because of the poor living conditions I am in at present,” Piyu said. She is now pinning her hopes on the cooking lessons for earning a decent living.

Since 2008, the Sonar Banglagroup has been cooking mid-day meals for some schools in the locality. The women have also taken orders from some factories and offices in the nearby areas, said Anupam Das, state coordinator for Apne Aap in West Bengal.

While there was initially a lot of stigma attached to it, over the years things have been improving, he said.

According to Ruchira Gupta, founder and president of Apne Aap, the training support by a premium hotel chain will help the women run their business in a professional way — from standardising their food products, to pricing and marketing them.

“Though we have been cooking for the last few years, the sales are dependent on the kind of orders we get. There are days when we earn Rs. 500-1,000, but there are also days when our hands are empty. We want to get a regular source of income so that we can support our children and eventually move out of this place,” 35-year-old Pratima Mondal said.

Apart from imparting cooking lessons to the sex workers, Kenilworth Hotel will also facilitate setting up of food joints in various parts of the city to help market the food cooked by the women. “We are looking at setting up food joints on trolleys for them. Initially we plan to set up five-six such trolleys in various parts of the city. Each trolley will entail an investment of about Rs. 40,000. This apart, we will also provide working capital support of about Rs. 10,000 to start their venture,” said Raju Bharat, chairman and managing director of the Kenilworth.

Based on the success of the venture, the hotel will look at scaling up the project. “Once we are confident about their management skills and are ensured about the quality and hygiene of food, we might consider branding these food joints. But that will require us to have day-to-day control over operations to ensure quality,” he added.

According to Mr. Das, there are over 1,000 women engaged in sex trade in the red light area of Watgunj and another 10,000-odd in the Sonagachi red light locality of Kolkata. Apne Aap has managed to rehabilitate 350-400 odd women and girls in both these areas put together either by linking them to schools, helping them to earn alternative livelihood or by facilitating entitlement of government subsidies and low-cost housing, he said.

Countrywide, nearly 15,000 women and girls have been linked to alternative livelihoods, Ms. Gupta said. “Some women have started tea shops and small grocery stores, while others have got jobs as gas station attendants or as security guards in Westside,” she added.


Andhra Pradesh, and not Gujarat, leads in eliminating poverty

Success Story of September

Even as Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, hard sells his “poverty mitigating development agenda,” Andhra Pradesh has silently out beaten his State by dramatically halving the number of poor over the last two years from 176 lakh to 80 lakh, the latest National Sample Survey Organisation data has revealed. Not just Gujarat, no other Indian State comes close to this rate of poverty reduction from 21.1 per cent to 9.37 per cent during the period 2009-10 and 2011-12. If it looks quite surprising for a short two-year period, the figures for the longer seven-year term, from 2004-05 to 2011-12, are equally impressive with poverty rate dropping by about 20 percentage points, against the Indian average of 15 percentage points.

And if one goes beyond and looks at the last 20 years, poverty is down by a significant 35 percentage points.

Two other States that come second and third to AP are Tamil Nadu and Gujarat but both these States took seven years to halve and nearly halve the number of poor. Some experts now compare the AP’s poverty rates to those of China, stated to have lifted more people out of poverty in the last 30 years than any country in history.

Divergent views

How did AP achieve this feat? Is it because of poverty alleviation programmes? Or is it owing to schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee programme or agriculture growth? Economists however have extremely differing views both over the figures put out by the NSSO and the manner of achieving poverty reduction.

For eminent economist and former member of the Planning Commission, C. H. Hanumantha Rao, the reduction in poverty in Andhra Pradesh was to be expected. “I am not surprised at all, given the way rural income has grown with wages being pushed up significantly from schemes like MGNREGA and agriculture growth rate. The 4 per cent growth in agriculture may still be elusive but in some years it was close to 3 per cent.”

This growth was satisfactory over the years and the welcome feature was that it came from crop diversification, Prof. Rao said. Wages in rural areas have gone up to such an extent that farmers were complaining of shortage of farm hands, though it is debatable whether payment of wages has led to creation of productive assets. Income levels have gone up also because farmers diversified into sectors such as dairying. Migration to urban areas is now not so much of distress- driven but for better opportunities and living conditions. Äll these factors appear to have contributed to reduction in poverty, he explained. He found the NSSO data credible.

But for another economist, Dr. Vamsi Vakulabharanam of University of Hyderabad, the NSSO finding is to be taken with a pinch of salt. “A dramatic reduction of poor by 90 lakh in two years is usually to be treated with great scepticism. There are serious problems in comparing data of 2009-10 with 2011-12, as the former was quinquennial survey on more than 100,000 households where as the latter was based on small sample of annual survey which may have significant sample bias. Drawing inference from such small survey is seriously problematic.”

Moreover poverty line used in these computations was totally arbitrary based on Tendulkar Committee recommendations that have become controversial for using money value of the indexed urban poverty line in 2004-05 to calculate rural poverty, he said. The current poverty line based on this committee has no basis in any real consumption requirements of the poor, calorific or otherwise. “This entire exercise seems like a publicity stunt on the part of the government and the Planning Commission.”

Evil of forced marriages

A charity advises women and young girls to set off airport metal detectors to give them more time to seek help from the authorities

A number of women and girls in the U.K. at risk of forced marriage have avoided going abroad by concealing spoons in their underwear at airport security, according to a campaign group.

Karma Nirvana, a Derby-based charity that supports victims of forced marriage, advises people who ring its helpline to hide a spoon in order to set off metal detectors at British airports. The group says its advice has prevented some women from being spirited overseas.

Last week Ministers warned that young people were at the highest risk of being taken abroad for a forced marriage during the school holidays. The government’s forced marriage unit received 400 reports between June and August last year, out of an annual total of 1,500.

No one knows for sure how many Britons are forced into marriage each year. Estimates range from 1,500 to 5,000. More than a third of those affected are thought to be aged under 16.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager, said that when worried youngsters ring the charity’s helpline, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear.

“When they go through security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry.” The government wants teachers, doctors and airport staff to be conscious of the issue of forced marriages over the summer break.

Campaigners fear official statistics on the number of forced marriages of U.K. citizens are just the tip of the iceberg, partly because children do not want to report their parents to the authorities or have little idea where to go for help.

Aneeta Prem, founder and president of Freedom Charity, said: “Nobody knows what the true figure is because so many young victims are terrified of coming forward. But it is definitely much, much higher than what is reported.”

Freedom Charity has produced an app for potential victims of forced marriage or other abuse. It is also aimed at friends of those women who may be at risk and professionals such as teachers. Since the app was launched in March, more than 1,000 people have contacted Freedom Charity using the technology.

The Karma Nirvana charity usually fields 6,500 calls a year from around Britain. This year, it has already reached that number.

Potential solution to Caste Problem

The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, Milind Kamble, founder of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), and Chandra Bhan Prasad, its mentor, says:

I am at Nariman Point, the heart of corporate, super rich India. At a time when the talk is of inclusive growth, my guests today are two faces of genuinely inclusive growth in India: Milind Kamble, founder of Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), and Chandra Bhan Prasad, its mentor. Two Dalit leaders, who don’t claim to be victims, who don’t claim victimhood, and who don’t ask for doles, reservations, favours, no complaints. So, are you oddballs? Are you trying to change the script?

CHANDRA BHAN PRASAD: This has been the Dalit tradition—Ambedkar rose on his own, so did Guru Ravidas. There are thousands of such examples in history where Dalits have stood up and risen on their own. So there is nothing unusual about us. What has happened during the past 50 or 60 years is that the state’s welfare measures or methods or reservations got slightly misunderstood and also slightly misused by the “victims”.

Did it work well for the victims or not?

CBP: It worked well, but it has outlived its potential and power, now something else has to happen.

Milindji, you are charting a new course. You are organising Dalit entrepreneurs in this Dalit Chamber. Is there really a large enough number of Dalit entrepreneurs in India?

MILIND KAMBLE: Yes, there are. If I quote from the Census carried out by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), 10 per cent of MSMEs registered with the Government of India are Dalit-owned, which is about 1,64,000 across the country. Most of us fall within the ambit of MSMEs, there are a few who have grown into large enterprises. That is the situation.

Who are the largest? Tell me about a few.

MK: The largest enterprise that is part of our Chamber is of Rajesh Saraiya, who is from Sitapur district in Uttar Pradesh. He is currently based in Ukraine and his companies are registered in London, Ukraine and six other countries. He has a presence in Mumbai too. He is the biggest Dalit entrepreneur whose businesses have a turnover of Rs 2,000 crore.

That is almost half a billion dollars. Tell me about him.

CBP: He went to Russia on a scholarship to study engineering. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he did odd jobs to continue his education and after completing it, joined (Laxmi Niwas) Mittal’s steel company as a translator. He figured out the tricks of the trade and started dealing with steel, first with the Tatas. Today, he is worth over $400 million, owns four Mercedes Benz cars and is only in his forties. Then there is Kalpana Saroj who worked for Rs 5 a day in Mumbai in 1975 and today she owns Kamani Tubes.

I believe the silencer in the Tata Nano is produced by a Dalit entrepreneur.

MK: Yes, indeed. Not just the silencer, there are other parts as well. The perception that the country has about our community that…

…they are victims, the prey.

MK: There is a view that Dalits are the jamaais (sons-in-law) of the government. This is not true. As you said, there is (a Dalit entrepreneur) who makes silencers for the Nano, one Sushil Kumar in Ghaziabad supplies (motorcycle) stands to Hero, in Pune there is one Gokul Gaikwad who supplies parts for Tata Indigo, in Sangli there is Sadamate Industries which supplies parts to Forbes Marshall, to Bajaj.

CBP: Bajaj Pulsar has three parts supplied by Dalits. If they stop supplies to Bajaj, Hero, Honda, Tata Motors…

…the companies will close down.

CBP: No. The vehicles will stop running for want of parts.

MK: This way, we need to change perceptions.

You wish to change the story of


MK: Yes. Many have emerged from their circumstances and established businesses.

CBP: In Uttar Pradesh alone, 50 big hospitals are being run by Dalit doctors. Some of them were manual labourers in their childhood, during their high school and intermediate days.

The fact is, these Dalits became doctors because of reservations.

CBP: Yes.

So we cannot undermine the value of affirmative action.

CBP: Certainly. Affirmative action has given Dalits a launch pad. A launch pad is a launch pad. You need that to take off. Ambedkar gave you the launch pad. Now don’t run on the launch pad, take off.

So are you saying economic reforms and globalisation have been positive developments for Dalits?

MK: We welcome it. It has been a very positive development in India’s economic growth story. Earlier, there were only few companies that used to make cars, two-wheelers and spares, because only they had the licence. As the licence raj was dismantled, new players entered the market. The existing firms had their vendor-base fixed, and the dealings used to happen only with them. As new players entered, there was a need for new vendors, new suppliers, a new supply chain and that is how more entrepreneurs got an opportunity.

CBP: Also, earlier there was a notion of one product under one roof. Because of economic reforms, globalisation, you can’t produce everything under one roof. You will have to outsource work. Most of the Dalit entrepreneurs of today are beneficiaries of outsourcing.

Outsourcing of manufacturing.

CBP: Yes. Along with globalisation came Adam Smith to challenge Manu. So that’s why for the first time, money has become bigger than caste.

So markets have become bigger than caste, bigger than Marx.

Yes. Bigger than caste, bigger than Marx, bigger than everybody because in this marketplace, only your ability is respected.

Chandra Bhanji, you say that money has challenged caste and Marx, and you spent your youth as a gun-toting Naxalite.

CBP: Yes…I think I was a fool.

You were an actual Naxalite, a part of the underground. Tell us that story.

CBP: I was a young man then, studying in JNU and I thought we must change India. Then, somebody said the gun is the best thing to overthrow the system, and I said I will be part of it.

And JNU is a place where the CPM is considered a dangerous right-wing party.

CBP: Yes…and I went in the field and saw violence is no way to change society. It is now outdated to have a view that a weapon or a people’s army can overthrow the present regime and trigger a revolution. So I got disillusioned and I thought everybody makes mistakes, and I too made a mistake.

You came back from there and made a complete turnaround?

CBP: Yes. Earlier, I completely went by ideas and thoughts that I was told. Later, I started thinking and saw changes. When I saw a Dalit in Bahadurgarh manufacturing cranes with a polytechnic training, I thought India is changing. When I saw a Dalit in Khurja running the biggest sweet shop and people buying sweets from him, while knowing he is Dalit, I thought India is changing. Now Dalits in several parts of India are running good restaurants. People are eating there. So I thought India is changing. So I thought let us go with the change.

Milindji, you came to the city, to Pune, started your venture. Were people still reminding you of your caste? Or were they ignoring your caste?

MK: In Maharashtra, your surname often gives away your caste. Look at my name: Milind Kamble. Kamble is a known Dalit surname. In the business I work in, construction…

…you have a turnover of Rs 80 crore.

MK: Yes, across all the businesses I am engaged in…So in the construction sector, over 80 per cent of the labour force belongs to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The work involves hard labour, which is possible only by us, which is why, we did not see discrimination.

…And you were an engineer, an added qualification.

MK: Yes.

Let me put this metaphorically. If market is a better equaliser than Marx, is the market a better equaliser than Mayawati?

CBP: Most certainly. So far, we held a belief that only an individual can liberate society. Now we see that there is an economic process, that capitalism is changing caste much faster than any human being. Therefore, in capitalism versus caste, there is a battle going on and Dalits should look at capitalism as a crusader against caste.

…As a force multiplier.

CBP: Yes. Dalits don’t succeed in villages. Dalits don’t succeed in traditional trades where you have a wide gadda and a white pillow. That’s why we say bring in FDI in retail and destroy this traditional system where Dalits can’t even step in.

This caste-denominated monopoly over money and over transactional benefits…

CBP: Yes. That is why I say, what man failed to do, capitalism is doing. Let us go with capitalism that is changing caste faster than your reforms.

Milindji, you speak of empowerment and that June 6, the day on which we are recording this, is going to be a turning point in the history of Dalit evolution. Why do you say so?

MK: Today, we are launching our own venture capital fund of Rs 500 crore and it will be an alternative fund registered with SEBI. This is India’s first social impact fund that will cater exclusively to enterprises run by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. We, the entrepreneurs from the community, are endeavouring to make a mark on the business landscape—and many are making a mark. Today is a day when we are making a mark on the country’s capital markets.

Your slogan is, Dalits should become job givers, not job seekers.

MK: Yes.

CBP: And every follower of Bhimrao Ambedkar should become job givers, not job seekers.

Tell me, how did the two of you meet? Chandrabhanji is from a backward region in Uttar Pradesh—Azamgarh—and Milindji is from Maharashtra.

CBP: I went to him and saw that he had formed DICCI and is uniting Dalit entrepreneurs nationwide. His interest was that there should be business advocacy among Dalits. I have only one interest: to survey Dalit entrepreneurs and calculate the tax they pay the government and show that the taxes they pay are far greater than the money the government spends on the welfare of the Dalits. I asked him, can I join you? And I joined him.

When I heard you say that—as I also have my mind conditioned by stereotypes—I thought you were about to say that all the tax Dalit entrepreneurs pay the government, should be spent back on Dalits.

CBP: We are saying that Dalit entrepreneurs are giving more in taxes to the state than what the state is spending on Dalits. We want to prove this. I am not a businessman, I am a writer. That’s how we came together. Our interests match. The nation should know that Dalits are not only takers, they are givers.

Did people laugh at you when you started this (DICCI)?

MK: Yes. When we began this, people felt that he is out of his mind. What is this SC/ST chamber of commerce and industry? Can there be anything like that? Can people from our community become businessmen? This was the mindset then and people laughed at me. During the period 2003-2005, we formed DICCI. In 2010, we organised our first trade fair in Pune. It was then that we got the attention of the media and word spread nation-wide that Dalit entrepreneurs have formed a forum. Last year, we organised a trade fair in Mumbai, at the Bandra-Kurla Complex.

For non-Mumbaikars, BKC is the new banking district of India.

MK: Yes. We organised a trade fair in which 150 Dalit businessmen from all over the country exhibited. Adi Godrej was present at the inauguration and among the visitors were Ratan Tata, Sushilkumar Shinde and Sharad Pawar and many others. After that, those who laughed at me and doubted my endeavour, even the Dalit entrepreneurs who used to hide their caste until then, when they saw that DICCI had forged an alliance with Corporate India—50 corporates came there—the hesitation ended and today it has become a platform throughout the country. There are DICCI chapters in 17 states, and our membership has swelled to 3,000.

Chandra Bhanji, you are a traveller, an analyst, a writer, a scholar. Do you see Dalits and even tribals changing as you go through the countryside?

CBP: Yes, the biggest change that has occurred and which I thought would never happen in this country—that food sources have become common for Dalits and upper castes. Earlier, Dalits mainly ate millets…

…what is called coarse grain

CBP: That was a low social marker—this is Dalit food or cattle feed. Now Dalits and upper castes and OBCs have common sources of food—wheat and rice. And jeans and T-shirts have become new weapons of emancipation. I see in villages Dalit youth sporting jeans and T-shirts. Something is happening in the countryside. Dressing well, eating well. They are also migrating from the countryside to cities like Mumbai and Aurangabad and Ahmedabad and elsewhere. Something new is going to happen in a month or two. A big Indian company is going to form a joint venture with a Dalit entrepreneur to produce a common product. This will shake the old consciousness. This would show how India is integrating, how a new process has started.

…And how capitalism is achieving what Marx and Mayawati could not?

CBP: Yes. Capitalism cannot survive without finishing feudalism and destroying caste. It is in the interest of capitalism to destroy caste, and that is happening, whether we like it or not.

You keep saying that the ideological mentor of DICCI is Montek Singh Ahluwalia. That will alarm many people because he is supposed to be a man of the Washington Consensus—anti-poverty, anti-poor, etc.

CBP: Montek is a friend of Adam Smith and Adam Smith is an enemy of Manu, so therefore, Montek is our friend.

Enemy’s enemy is your friend. What happens to this discourse on poverty—that you need a direct attack on poverty, that poverty is the problem, poverty is there forever, poverty has not come down…?

CBP: People who are working on poverty have a better life than people like us, because if you work on poverty, then you fly. You work on poverty, you live in five-star hotels. If you work on poverty, you are in touch with big foreign funding agencies. So, talking poverty makes you strong, makes you rich.

I say sometimes in my cynical moments that we Indians have invented a new ideology, it’s called povertarianism. And then central principle of that ideology is that poverty is my birth right and I shall make sure you have it.

CBP: The benefits are enormous. The fellow who sells poverty himself leads a rich life.

Now your alma mater, JNU, is the Dalal Street of poverty, rather povertarianism.

CBP: JNU creates people who see every human being incapable of rising on his own. That is JNU’s DNA.

Milindji, If JNU is the Dalal Street of poverty, you are now aiming for this (the real) Dalal Street. Where does the inspiration come from?

MK: The inspiration behind DICCI is the economic thought of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The second is the black capitalism in America.

It says so in your mission statement.

MK: Yes. I asked my friend how was it possible that Barack Obama could be President of the United States? A black man in the White House! So he told me, there are thousands of “business Obamas”, that is why you have one Obama in the White House. There are thousands of black entrepreneurs in the United States who have made their presence felt on Wall Street. Till the day Dalit entrepreneurs make their presence felt on Dalal Street, let growth be how much ever it is, it won’t be sustainable.

Nobody could have put it better than that. Milindji, thank you very much, it has been so inspirational to have this conversation with you. Chandra Bhanji, you are a wonderful mentor. Fortunately, you picked the right cause. Had you stayed on with Naxalites, you might have been a bigger problem there.

IT Hub with the highest child labour

Even as the Union government has passed legislations and implemented special programmes to tackle child labour, the tentative Child Labour Survey Report 2011-2012 reveals that child labour is rampant in the State with over 51,108 children working in the State in both hazardous and non-hazardous sectors.

Successive governments have vowed to eliminate child labour by setting several deadlines, all in vain.

Interestingly, the report, which has the estimates of children working between the age group 9 and 14 years, states that the largest number of child labourers in the State are in the State capital — Bangalore (Urban) — with as many as 11,277 children working in the city. The districts with the least number of child labourers are Shimoga, Udupi, Hassan, Chickmagalur and Dakshin Kannada, all reporting less than 50 child labourers each.


Except for Uttara Kannada and Kodagu, the survey was done by the Labour Department with the help of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The survey however, is yet to be approved by respective district collectors / deputy commissioners.

A Labour Department source attributed the concentration of child labour in Bangalore (Urban) to employment opportunities available in the hotels and dhabas in the city. The source also said children of migrant labourers, who come to Bangalore from other parts of the State, also end up working in the city. “Due to surprise raids by the Labour Department and increased awareness about child labour legislations, child labour [has] become invisible, making it harder to trace. Cases of child labour employed in households for domestic work are particularly difficult to trace.”

The official also pointed out that sometimes it was difficult to establish the relationship between employers and employees as children don’t work full time or work along with family members.

Success story for June: Veg-Pack for Rs 99

District officials have launched a unique scheme of providing nine vegetables at Rs.99. This was done to provide some solace to the customers from the rising prices of vegetables. Get a bagful of vegetables for Rs.99 only is the catch phrase.

The bag will contain nine varieties of vegetables – one kg of potatoes, one kg of tomatoes, one kg of onions, one kg of water gourd, half-a-kg of ladies finger, half-a-kg of ivy gourd, quarter-kg of chillies, drumsticks and an assortment of leafy vegetables and all for ‘Just’ Rs.99.

Launching the offer, Vijayawada Central Congress MLA Malladi Vishnu said that this was initiated with the help of farmers to control the rising prices of vegetables and to stabilise the situation. “It was first initiated in Hyderabad on Tuesday and launched today over here,” he said. An officer from the Rythu Bazar said that this would not have been possible without the cooperation of the farmers. “We have entered into a pact with the farmers to supply us the vegetables at Rs.2 less from the board price to bring price rise situation under control,” he said.

According to the bazaar board price, the assortment of nine vegetables in tune with the quantity would cost Rs.125 and the farmers are supplying at Rs. 99. The variation is set to be between Rs.18 and 25.

Big hit

The offer will initially be for 15 days, and they will extend it depending on the market scenario, said the MLA. The offer appears to be a big hit, as the farmers at the Swaraj Maidan Rythu Bazar sold over 200 bags in the very first hour of business, on the day of the launch.

India’s Growth rate

When they think of India, many people still have the shining image of it as a rising economy, one of the four most promising in the world, in fact. As one of the BRIC countries, along with Russia, Brazil and China, India’s rise from a long history of poverty raised hope for the rest of the developing world. So it’s startling when Fareed Zakaria recently asked on CNN, “Is India the broken BRIC?” In the same vein, Jim O’Neill, the most important global economist at Goldman Sachs, and the man who coined the term BRIC, considers India the biggest economic disappointment with its 5 percent fall in growth since 2010.

What makes the disappointment worse is that since the early 90s, as Western media and business people were jetting back and forth between India and China sizing up these two growing economic giants, business magazine covers, famous economists and top CEOs at conferences were saying, “India is the one to watch, not China.”

How did so many brilliant prognosticators miss so badly? As economists ponder what went wrong, the Gallup data gives telltale clues on the human side. Economics comes down to millions of individual workers and what they experience at work. The worker’s story from India is discouraging. A staggering 33 percent of employees are what Gallup scientists refer to as “actively disengaged,” meaning not only are they miserable at work, but they walk the halls and petition their colleagues to be as miserable and discontented as they are. On the positive end of the spectrum, a tiny 9 percent of Indian employees are engaged. These are the people who build new products and services, generate new ideas, create new customers and ultimately spur an economy to create more and more good jobs.

The workplace tends to be symptomatic of society as a whole, and here the picture is just as gloomy. India’s state of mind is severely troubled right now. Gallup’s World Poll, currently in its eighth year in the field, finds more Indians than ever are “suffering” — 31 percent — while fewer are “thriving,” just 10 percent. This is among the worst in the world.

When any society reaches a low point of well-being with a sizable number of people suffering, it is in trouble. When the quotient of suffering sharply rises (as it did in Libya before the Arab Spring and is happening today in Egypt), social turmoil often results. The street rioting over sexual harassment of women in India — an endemic problem that the government and judicial system turned a blind eye to for decades — is another warning sign.

What will happen next? Officially, India is being upbeat about its economic projections, with a forecast of growth between 6 and 7 percent for 2013 after falling below 7 percent for the past two years and generally underperforming since 2008, according to a recent story in the New York Times. In the Gallup data, 36 percent of the Indian population rated economic conditions as “good” or “excellent” in 2012, as compared to nearly half (46 percent) who thought so in 2008.

Of course, we are rooting for India’s economic uptick, but the human side needs deeper examination. In many ways India is facing a crisis of the soul. When only one person out of 10 is thriving, and around that number feel engaged at the workplace, it indicates that the vast majority are not reaching a desirable level of fulfillment — far from it.

A nation’s soul is the sum total of all interactions between all people in that society. Every moment lasts a few seconds and is positive, negative, or neutral. In those moments, people may make very tiny decisions that, as they accumulate, can profoundly change their day and even the rest of their lives. An old adage says, “Miss a bus, and you change the rest of your life.” In our world of unprecedented interconnectedness, that axiom may need updating: “Miss a bus and you change the rest of the world.” With India’s vast population, there are trillions of interactions per year. If they swing too far to the negative, the society’s soul is suffering a malaise.

Analysts point to large-scale problems, such as the widespread corruption that persists in Indian government, local and national, and the failure of reform parties to gain a strong political footing. But we think the story of moment-to-moment experience counts the most. What if every interaction with a bureaucrat brings expectations of obstacles, red tape or a bribe? What if every woman walking out alone expects catcalls, whistles and physical intrusions from men on the street? What if domestic violence and rape go hugely underreported and when reported lead to minimal consequences for the perpetrator?

India needs to come to terms with its soul sickness, and slowly, haltingly, it seems to be. Most Indians are lodged in the slot of low expectations. The Gallup data shows a surprising complacency, because despite the alarmingly low level of well-being, around 60 percent of Indians between 2006 and 2011 said that they were satisfied with their standard of living. The bubble seems to have burst since then, however, with that figure dipping below 50 percent in 2012.

There is something important here that India’s leaders — and all global leaders — must consider: A nation’s soul precedes its human development. Organic human development will not occur in India if the majority of everyday experiences are negative. Even so, India’s resilience and optimism — along with its resignation in the face of problems going back for generations — gives hope that the country will look to its soul. A great culture can only persist by doing so. We are pained to deliver gloomy news, but our deepest feeling is that the most spiritual nation on earth, and its largest democracy, can find a path to reform, with the well-being of its people held out as a primary goal.

Starvation and Hunger

“When India achieved independence, more than 50 years ago, the people of the country were much afflicted by endemic hunger. They still are. Since India is often considered to be one of the great success stories in tackling the food problem, the belief in success has to be scrutinised in the light of the grim reality that we can observe.”
 Amartya Sen, speaking on Hunger in India at a public hearing on the Right to Food, New Delhi, 10 January 2003
Millions in India cannot afford a single meal a day. Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs in our nation, the government, the officials or the system?
Corruption exacerbates poverty in most of rural India. The money that the central/state government earmarks for poverty eradication is cleverly pocketed by politicians, corrupt government officials and some village leaders.
A classic example of this would be the NREGA, the flagship programme of the UPA government. The scheme promises 100 days of work and is a lifeline for many rural families. Even though this programme is a success in many parts of the nation, the promised wages are not delivered to the families in other parts. It may shock you that India has more than a third of the world’s hungry people. More than half of the Indian children are undernourished. Against the popular perception among slogans like ‘India rising’ and ‘Incredible India’, India’s condition is not much better than that of the dark continent, Africa or specifically Sub Saharan Africa with countries like Mozambique, Sierra Leone etc. To add to these all, the FCI (Food Corporation of India) is one of the most corrupt divisions of the central government.
There are three main public programmes to ensure the food security in India; the Public Food Distribution System (PDS), the Integrated Child Development System (ICDS), and 100 day-employment guarantee system under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). For the school children’s food security in particular, the government provides meals to all students at schools under the Mid-day Meal Scheme.
As mentioned earlier, these programmes did not turn out as expected with allegations that the food grains sold in PDS are of sub standard quality. Meanwhile, leaders like Mayawati continue building statues as people in UP are dying from hunger due to drought. Any comment on that will launch the tirade of accusations that she is targeted just because she is Dalit. The national media is also, by and large ignorant of the fact and cover articles only on food festivals and restaurants, ignoring the state of hunger.
We can’t blame anyone squarely for this condition of the nation. Poverty, hunger, corruption, societal ills etc are all ills and form a part of one viscous huge cycle.
The child care centres, popularly known as Anganwadis are mostly open only 6-7 days a month when they are the primary facility to provide immunization and supplementary food for the children under age of six and pregnant women at village level, thus expected to work 30 days a month.
Public discourse and action at the grass root level are the need of the hour. All these supported duly at both the state and central level will lead to the destruction of that viscous cycle. It’s all about making the poor and hungry step on the economic ladder, momentarily forget about climbing it.
There is no immediate instant and viable solution to this problem but a sustained inclusive growth happens to be the answer.