Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Inequality has many faces...

Though P Sainath's article is about CEOs and the Wealth of Notions, but what struck me was this portion.

    "This week's big news is that Mumbai has topped Maharashtra's HSC results with a pass percentage of 76.67. That should not surprise us. The metro's schools and facilities outclass those of other regions. True, even this time, the State toppers are not from Mumbai. They are from Wardha (in Nagpur division) and Amravati. Both in Vidharbha. But at 47.5 and 51.08 per cent, the overall pass percentages of those divisions are dismal. They are way below the State average of 64.25 per cent. And both have fared worse than they did last year.

    Here's one reason why. Vidharbha, always electricity starved, saw 12- to 17-hour power cuts at the time the children were studying for their examinations. (It's a region where schools re-open weeks late to avoid exposing children to excessive heat.) The great metro of Mumbai was spared this "power crisis." (Some of the well meaning did write articles on how to be a good citizen and use your air conditioners more efficiently.) In one estimate, a 15-minute power cut in Mumbai could give Vidharbha two hours of electricity. Half that would have helped the students with their examinations. Further, malls and multiplexes lead Mumbai's biggest power guzzlers. But this is the city of 25,000 of India's 83,000 dollar millionaires. Not only home "to the largest number of affluent individuals," as an American Express study puts it. But also having "the fastest growing affluent population in the world." So the darkness is banished to zones such as Vidharbha — which produces more power than the other regions of Maharashtra.

    ....That rubs in an old truth. Merit = accident of birth + electricity. (And maybe a dash of geography.)
It is an appropriate example of the skewed distribution of opportunities, of how inequalities - and "merit" - get created.... of the suicidal "siphoning-up" economy we live in...

Cross-posted at: How The Other Half Lives


csm said...

sainath is at his scathing analytical best.

what startled me, was the ratio he metions of 32000:1 between the top and bottom earnings.
if we divide 13.5 crore by 32000, it comes to Rs 4200 per year = Rs 12 a day.

while the stats of populations living on less than $1 a day and $ 2 a day are bandied about, 'Rs 12 a day' leaves me speechless.

Madhukar said...

I valuue Sainath, because even when he is rhetoric, it is backed by data and analysis...

one can disagree with the ratios and figures - but the gist remains...

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Supratim said...

Isn't it amazing that P Sainath's solution is loadshedding in Mumbai to power Vidarbha, instead of saying we need to build more power plants?

It is amazing that even today, we want to distribute scarcity, rather than create capacity or surplus!

Couple of other points to consider:

1. Maybe Mumbai sucks in so much electricity because of its burgeoning population (including slums) who can pay for the power? So, a scarce commodity is flowing to the area of max demand and price. Basic economics.

2. I don't know whether Sainath (and you) are aware that multiplexes and hypermarkets, etc are charged at a rate that is much higher than even industrial power?

3. I think it is in very poor taste to equate electricity supply to Mumbai with failure rates in Vidarbha. What was the pass rate in Vidharba before the current power crisis hit?

You laud Sainath for his data and analytics. I find his data inadequate and his analysis corrupted by rhetoric and ideology.

Sometimes, Prof, you should use your own head as well.



Madhukar said...

Thanks Supratim, for your suggestion - which I guess you perceive as not "corrupted by rhetoric and ideology" - (about using my head")!

Maybe I am biased, but my belief is that an "informed heart" is alway better than an "un-informed head"

Supratim said...

At the risk of sounding patronising, I do find you more balanced and more data-driven than people like Sainath. You may have your blind spots : ) (and, who doesn't, including me!!!) but, on balance, you are generally balanced!

But, what the heck is an "informed heart"? And, how would rate that against a "partially informed stomach"? Heh ..... : )

However, I do notice that you did not respond to the points I raised. Only side-stepped them. What ARE your views?