Switzerland is going to vote in a few days. They are going to have a referendum about raising the minimum wage in the country to twenty five dollars per hour. More than 90% of their blue collar workers already receive more than that. The country is going to vote for the other 10%. To save the reader mathematical gymnastics, a 40-hour-week would translate into a monthly salary of around six lakh rupees a month.
I got this news on BBC a few days back, and have gone into deep depression.
It is not that I’m not happy for the Swiss working class, or that I do not wish them well. It is just that I am reminded of our own working class. The official minimum wage in India is between 100 and 115 rupees per month. Another quick calculation. Even if a factory hand were to get a monthly salary of five thousand rupees, it would take him/her six years to make what his counterpart in Switzerland does in a month.
This was not the reason for my depression. The reason for depression is to be found in the spectacle of the ‘great’ election that has been unrolling across the country for the last one month. In the context of the news from Switzerland, look at the news about our elections that has been saturating our news media.
Having watched snippets from dozens of channels in English, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam, and scanned the major English newspapers and periodicals, the impression one gets is that there are no major issues that these elections are being fought on. Oh I forget. There is one grand issue this election. Does Mr.Narendra Modi make Prime Minister? Really? Really?
Is this really our concern? Well, I wish he won’t become my Prime Minister. But – common sense dictates that most probably he will make it. I for one had predicted twelve years back that this man will become PM this election.
And, why ever not? How is he any less deserving of this success than any other politician in this country? And, pray, how is any other politician in this country any different from Mr. Modi? One would be hard pressed to name one politician in this country who is above having some Muslims raped and slaughtered whenever realpolitik requires that it be done.
It does not even have to be Muslims. It is just that they lend themselves to this purpose best. Thirty years back the Sikhs had served this function admirably. An occasional Christian has also played his/her part with distinction. There are plenty of other minorities – all shapes, sizes and descriptions. Everyone will have their day.
Who is responsible for an election where Narendra Modi is the only issue? I stop short of naming the media. The media in the country does not deserve to be credited with that kind of significance or influence. Suffice to say, the media practitioners in India have played their part in maintaining the unfortunate status quo. Even honorable exceptions are hard to come by.
Can’t really blame the ‘common man’. Educated, uneducated, rich, poor – he is just cattle. He will follow any piper who plays the flute. I am inclined to lay the blame at the door of the intellectual. They are expected to, supposed to set the agenda for the nation. Where are they? Let us go forth in the day light, lantern in hand, in search of the Indian intellectual.
So much so horribly wrong in the country, and over half a billion people vote for an election with no issue? Sorry, Narendra Modi is not an issue. He is just a tragedy waiting to happen.
Almost 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in less than two decades, but that is not an issue in this election. The middle classes have got this new rubric of ‘development’, which is all very well…….. But, why should development come cloaked in the blood of the innocents? What does it say for the population of a country when they actually choose this model of development, untouched by the barbarism that accompanies it? Tera bharat mahan. Not my idea of India, pal.
There is also this tiny little aside, where all this ‘development’ and ‘growth’ must happen at the expense of the labor force. They should be content with whatever ‘trickles down’ to them. Does all this business development have to necessarily happen through corruption and nepotism? And, yes, all of this business development is happening within the larger ambit of good old crony capitalism.
Why did we not have a single candidate who stood up and said: “Vote for me because I will make it possible for you to conduct your business and make all the money that you can make honestly”? Where is the candidate who will cut the red tape and make it possible to do big business without having to bribe everyone in sight? Why did Arvind Kejriwal not say this? If you can’t do this, I have made a mistake voting for you. Fighting corruption is all very well, but you also have to create wealth for the nation!
The developed countries are doing well for themselves because they have flourishing industries that create immense wealth for them. Their working class averages a minimum wage of around ten to fifteen dollars per hour. How many centuries are we away from the minimum wage in these countries and in Switzerland? As it stands, for ever.
Let us imagine an India on its road to prosperity. An India where the farmer can grow food and be paid well for it. When his land is taken away from him in the name of development and special economic zones, he becomes a partner in the profits that are to be made from that land, in perpetuity. An India where the factory worker gets paid well enough to live a middle class life. They make up a market that is about three quarters of a billion. The business men in this country will grow rich selling goods and services to this huge market. All of this will be done in honest and ecologically friendly manner.
Where are the politicians scrambling all over themselves to have the privilege of realizing this ideal? We have never had them, we don’t have them now. Will we ever have them? That is when we will have an election with real issues.
As for this grand election….. Like a more famous compatriot from this very planet agonized four hundred years ago….. All sound and fury – signifying nothing.