Monday, April 27, 2009

Surprises All Around

I was traveling from Erode Bus Stand... which is just a district headquarters in Tamil Nadu, with much larger and a lot better organized Bus Terminus than that of Kolkata (Calcutta) on Saturday 25 April to a suburb of the town to meet some of my relatives. The bus was pretty crowded and I had to stand. When the Bus Conductor (In India the driver of a bus does not disburse tickets as in the case of many other Western countries.) came to me, I asked for a ticket to "Agrahaaram", my destination, and asked him how much it was. He said, "Two". I said, "Pardon! You mean it is two rupees." He replied, "Yes, it is two". I got a shock. Some of the governments in India...specially my own state West Bengal boasts of dropping the tickets by even 50 paise (100 paise = 1 rupee; 50 rupees = $ 1) and make big announcements. And there the lowest rate in a bus is 4 rupees. But here, in another Indian state the cost of travel is as less as 2 rupees. May I know who eats up two more rupees in West Bengal?

I have traveled sufficiently in the last seven days all over Tamil Nadu. I noticed something very important. Most shops had list of items available in their shop (even the street stalls had this), and the cost of each item on a large display board. If India thinks of "Right to Information", efforts like these must be promoted, supported and copied in all other places. This tells the customer even before getting into the shop what he or she will have to pay for a particular item. So, the customer has the right to choose!

Practically every evening I have been eating in smaller hotels in Madurai town or elsewhere. I have also visited tens of shops in the last week. In some of the shops I found a display board which read, "We do not employ and Child labourers". That is quite interesting. With so much of emphasis on eradication of child labour in India unless Governments insist on displays and actual implementation of such eradication, things cannot improve, and the dream "Education for All", will just remain a dream.  I have not seen any child labourers till now. I enquired my nephews if shops employ children as labourers. They replied that it is very rare and it involves so much of fine imposed on shops that people are afraid. But, still in many places domestic child labourers are prevalent, and commercial child labourers do exist if the police in a particular police station area is corrupt.  However, they opined, "it may not be as much as in West Bengal or many other north Indian states."

I am really happy on the one side that some states in India are taking very pro-active steps to curtail social evils, while I am really sad on the other hand to see that many states remain blind enough to let such evils grow into deep cancerous wounds.