rich and poor

The picture you see is one of our new 'classroom' in the Yamuna Project. Classroom is a misnomer even by our standards. Actually this space was a shed made for two jersey cows who have now gone to greener pastures. If you look carefully you will see that the walls are thatched and the floor terribly uneven and uncomfortable to sit on even with a mat. When we adopted this project, the first thing that came to mind was to try and level the floor by cementing it. It seemed reasonable. Ah Ha! But that is not the reality. We were quickly informed that getting even a brick in this place was illegal as this was hold your breath: the flood plain! You were only allowed to build with thatch and mud. Seems politically and ecologically correct and one would no have said anything if the 'law' applied to one and all. But that is not the case. The Akshardhama Temple and Commonwealth Games village are built on the flood plain of this very river, albeit on the there bank. So how does one circumvent laws. Simply by being rich and well connected. If you are poor it is thatch and thatch only.

All the children live in thatched structures where sizzling and freezing winds blow with alacrity. Only a plastic sheet protects from perpendicular rain, if the winds blow the thatched walls are no protection.

This is yet again another India Story where the laws are different for the rich and the poor. Actually one should say the laws are for the poor, the rich manage to circumvent it or pay their way through.

There is an amendment to an existing law on child labour which will, if passed, allow children to work in family enterprises to get an entrepreneurial spirit. These are not my words but those of a Minister in the Government. You need not be a rocket scientist to figure which children the law will affect. Not yours or mine but the million of children who are trafficked to provide cheap labour. What entrepreneurial spirit do you learn when you break bricks with your are parents who are bonded labour, fetch and carry with your construction labour parents or beg with your beggar parents. And then every industry that employs children can be tagged: family business be it carpet making, match stick making and eve housework! Maids do bring their daughters to 'help'! The children it will not affect are ours as I do not see anyone 'employing' ones kid in the family business.

No school for the rich runs in 2 shifts as it is well known and documented that children learn best in the morning hours yet boys from humbler homes go to school at 1pm in Government run schools. In spite of large tracts of land that could double or even triple the existing capacity, Government schools are still run in one storey tin roofed shacks. Who cares about poor kids. There is no need to give them an enabling environment to grow. They have no voice and nobody to take up the cudgels for them.  They will learn on uneven grounds and sizzling temperatures. That is the price to pay if you are poor.

The day may come where the not-one-brick rule will be broken with impunity and the vegetable fields will become a gated community for the rich and famous. Mark my words, it is only a matter of time.

And as none of the above affects us, except if you should chose to purchase a flat when they happen, we will keep shut. Our kids go to school in the morning, they sit in comfortable chairs and even an air conditioned classroom and they will learn the entrepreneurial spirit in some Ivy college in the US!