Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Sewers in India to social support in Singapore

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 10, 2009

Couple of things prompts me to write this post. When I asked my brother as to what did he thinks of my post yesterday, he said that it was fine but there wasn’t much value for him in it since it did not have continuity to it and it was just random thoughts. Today he shared one other post from another blogger called Mr Wong Says So who commented on a news item in Today newspaper and went on to explain how the Singaporean government thinks that $330 is enough for the needy and poor to survive for a month. So I decided to write more along those lines.

Thankfully, I am not in the business of determining the amount of money to be dispersed by the government to the needy. I am sure Dr. Vivian has trouble bridging what he believes and what he is expected to do and convince a parliament and the people at large. Now, in a country like Singapore where the concept of poor is very different from what the term means in a country like India, it is easy to point the finger at a person like Dr. Vivian and say how he could be so insensitive and expect a person to live with $330 a month. But if you are a little bit read and travelled, you understand that everything is subjective and relative. Perspectives drastically change with just adding or removing few variables into the equation.

What do I mean by that? In yesterday’s post, a complaint about a complaint by a reporter about squalid working conditions of under privileged people, we see that things are much worse in a country like India where a huge number of people are living on less than a dollar a day. When Dr. Vivian says that people should learn to be self-reliant and / or depend on the immediate family for support rather than the State, as otherwise we cannot run an efficient and lean government, he is stating what is rational and what is expected out of every citizen. But what about those people who do not have a base to begin anything to become self-reliant and how could an immediate family support when they potentially are in same or similar conditions. Naturally they turn to the State for support but then again, the government cannot be feeding everyone as that is not its function.

I define the function of the government as a facilitator for every citizen to become self-reliant and as an arbitrator of open issues and a guarantor to the weak and under privileged ensuring they get a level playing field. If this definition is adhered, I believe that every government irrespective of how rich or poor the country is, would be able to do justice to its people. In order for the government to do this, the most important thing to offer to the citizens to create level playing field is to offer education to one and all irrespective of whether they have to resources to study or not. Now, if a person refuses to acquire knowledge or skill and chooses to be lazy, then he / she deserves to be poor and under privileged. No amount of money from anyone is going to solve that problem. In fact the Dr. Vivian could declare that $330 is more than enough without doubt or guilt if he promises free education to everyone in the country who is willing to study. So goes in India. If the government steps forward to such people who clean sewers in hazardous conditions and tells them that they can acquire a skill (to clean sewers in a safe and hygienic way) or knowledge to pull themselves out of the rut they find themselves in to improve their lives. Governments who don’t do that will have sleepless nights and so would the needy and poor people


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