Thursday, October 8, 2015

Contradictions and wages

Sri Sathya Sai Hospital, Whitefield, Bangalore
A friend, an ex-colleague of mine had called me up to meet together for a lunch. We had agreed to meet at InOrbit mall in Whitefield. From my office, it is a walking distance of 10 minutes. As I like to walk, I did not let go of this opportunity. I had to pass by Sathya Sai Hospital, a well-known super specialty hospital to reach the mall. There I noticed a bizarre thing. On the footpath, attached to compound wall of this hospital, there was a make-shift, cloth wrapped, temporary shop of medicine seller, selling medicines made out of various spices with a banner claiming to cure all kinds of ailments. There was a loud speaker too to attract the attention. Well, if the patient is cured with the treatment inside the hospital, will he come out and try these medicines or will this be the first stop for him? I did not know how it worked but for a moment I thought India is incredibly contradictory as we have ancient medicines and the state of the art health services made available in one place.



Inorbit Mall, Whitefield, Bangalore
I went on to meet my friend and proceeded for lunch. There, for two person’s meals, we paid a price with which a small family would buy grocery to last for a month. After the lunch, a walk inside the mall gave me a feel that this is a better facility than many of the malls I had visited in US, Europe or Singapore. I again felt contradiction as we hit the street outside we are very much in India with all of its hallmarks. This mall had all international brand stores. Among them there was an arts and crafts shop too. The shop-keeper there was sitting with his legs stretched out on two chairs as if he is not expecting any curious customer to come-in, forget the business. I was thinking how they survive, while my friend was gossiping about office politics.

When I was walking back to my office, again in front of Sathya Sai Hospital, few village men asked me how to reach ‘Kailasa Palya’. I was puzzled for a moment as I had not heard of that place. Seeing my confusion one of them uttered another word – ‘Victoria Hospital’.  Suddenly I was smiling and I corrected them. They needed to go ‘Kalasipalya’ and helped them to board the bus. I could make out that these villagers had brought a patient along with them, they had come to get him treated at this Satya Sai Hospital which is a free service hospital built by Sai Baba. But the rush and waiting periods are so long, many have to return without success of getting admitted here so they were leaving to Victoria hospital which is run by the Govt.

Traffic congestion in Bangalore
When commuting in Bangalore is an adventure for a healthy person, how the deceased would suffer in the crowded public transport system? I really felt bad for the patient. I know more than half population of this world is poor, struggle to make their ends meet. Many are happy to have single meal a day. And when they suffer from ailments, they have to travel miles to the likes of expensive city of Bangalore to get back to their health.

When will this change and when will they do better? Not when some rich donate money, though it helps to some extent. A good society should not depend on few people’s philanthropy. And no use blaming Govt. as they represent the broader society that is us again. Another thing to note is, facilities develop when the affordability in the society goes up. Did you know that Whitefield was a sleeping village fifteen years ago? I had to travel more than 5 km to find a Tea shop on the day I got my offer letter from a company in this area in 2001. Now it is transformed into a modern suburb. Most of the people working in this locality earn well, so you find everything under the Sun here. That is because the spending power of people living here went up and the facilities followed them.

Wages are increasing in rural India too, but they are unevenly spread. When they, from laborer in the fields to construction workers get better wages, life style improves in the villages too. Those villages may not become another Whitefield but become better places than they were before. That would put a halt to those suffering from ill health to arrive in Bangalore, suffer in traffic and experience hell.

If things are going to be expensive as wages are to go up at the bottom of economic pyramid, we should know that it is not entirely unwelcome. History has taught us that prosperity islands will fall out when there is social unrest. It is better to spread the prosperity. Not by donations but through wages as the benefits would reach far and wide. That is what happened in many developed countries so their incomes are at multiples of ours. As India’s economy expands, we will also see wages here going up all over the places. And that will get millions out of poverty, reducing the gap in access to basic facilities. I am hopeful of seeing it in my lifetime.