Going Poor

April 26th, 2010

The UID project, now rechristened Aadhaar, can be a means for many to corner more than their fair share of their welfare benefits. And, add to it the Census 2010 which is this time more comprehensive. Again, it could ensure that welfare benefits reach the needy.

But, does it really reach only the needy? Indians being Indians, my fellow citizens always manage to find ways to derive welfare benefits, they don’t deserve, through devious means.

The Census, which this time around is very comprehensive, helps the ‘State’ figure out who needs what and how much. But, the hunger of the people to get everything cheap, may spoil the party for the idealist.

Imagine a whole village, with a population of about 5,000, having everyone living below the poverty line! Yes, that’s what has happened in a village (that I know of) where everyone, including the biggest land-owning family is a BPL family. How did they manage that? No, not by bribing the enumerators.

This time around, they have managed to find a ‘legitimate’ way to corner as much of benefits meant for the poor as possible. In one instance, a couple claimed they have separated, though still living under one roof. They managed to get some legal papers to prove they were divorced. Their three children (not majors) too have ’separated’ from them. But, they too live in the same house, though in separate rooms in the house.

There, the enumerator is forced into recording them as four families, no less. The income of the family too is divided into a many bits and pieces. And, voila! They are poor. Now, they get subsidised rice, way below the market price.

An enumerator in the village, a teacher, now feels very rich. She seems to be only one who has not claimed any benefits. But, she is thankful that the cows and chickens in the village are not fighting to be counted among the poor. Fortunately, they don’t fight to be poor.

She has had to face angry men and women who threaten to beat her up if they were not counted among the poor. The teacher is a much happier person now.

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Want of Convenience

April 11th, 2010

It is not rare for a reporter to find himself/herself in a situation where he/she is made to feel like ‘persona non grata’. If you ask questions that give the ‘host’ a chance to speak what he wanted to, they may even give you a pat on the back and smile at you… or even hug you.

The public sector undertakings are the funniest of the lot. At an event conducted by an association of technologists specialising in a certain field, a dignitary who spoke had many questions shot at him, and there were a few heated exchanges between the dignitary and some members of the audience.

The dignitary was speaking of the achievements of the ministry and that had irked the audience made up of people who work or had worked with some of the departments under the minstry.

After the informative talk, and the discussion thsat followed, when the dignitary was leaving, a few journalists gathered around him. And, the questions began to fly at him. When he began to get a little uncomfortable with questions, in stepped the PRO of a department. He told his boss: “Sir, sorry for the trouble. This event was not meant for journalists. They were not invited.”

But, any journalist peresent would have sworn that the PRO himself had sent out the schedule fo the programme. But, he had not mentioned that it was out of bounds for journalists. The next time he may have a post script added to the invite: “Journalists, to keep their mouths shut if you come.”

That could get him some brownie points and perhaps a promotion and pat from his bosses.

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