One morning in the life of some Indians
Kalu Miyan heard the good news from Rameshwar when he was sitting under a tree near the canal. For early morning rituals the villagers use this part of the grazing ground. Men come little after sunrise. By then the women return. Neither Kalu Miyan nor Ramu Chacha is aware that their village is among those in the country that has stopped open defecation. They had heard that the few broken bricks stacked in the corner of the village will eventually become the village toilet. They heard that some Babus (government functionaries) from the town had come to their village one day before these bricks were laid. That was before the rains came, and Ramu helped Kalu Miyan to till his land.
Both Kalu Miyan and Ramu Chacha sat on a light bedstead with Pavan, their village elder and heard on the radio the Pradhan Mantri from Delhi mentioning something about Swachh Bharat. Pavan, who knows some Babus in the town, told them that their village will have toilets. Villagers know that any construction takes time. The bridge on the canal has been under construction for some time. Ramu remembers that it had started when his youngest son Chhotu was born. Now Chhotu is living in Begusarai, some 50 km away from the village. He goes to school, where there are no classes. The boy, now ten years old, works at a shop and earns a livelihood.
Ramu Chacha has a radio on his phone. He bought it recently from the money he received in his bank account after the Babus came and opened bank accounts about a year back. In the past, only well off persons, such as Kalu Miyan and Pavan had ever visited a bank. Ramu and his family were elated when for the first time they entered a bank. One year before the bank Babus came for account-opening, they had gone to the local Panchayat in a village just a few kilometers north, to get themselves photographed and get their fingerprints registered. Their eyes were also tested. The Babus told them that all these details would be printed on a card that would come from the post office. Pavan told all of them to keep that card (called Aadhar) safely. But that was used only once when the bank Babus came.
Ramu Chacha heard on the radio that the Bara Adalat (Supreme Court) in Delhi has now addressed their concern. It is unknown to Ramu and his fellow villagers that the Aadhar card is wrong. It is wrong because all their information is stored on that card. But Ramu could not follow what was wrong in it. The details of the money that helped him buy the radio was also stored on that card.
Gagan, son of his elder brother, knows many things. He even goes to towns to walk with political Babus. Gagan explained to Ramu Chacha what privacy is and how the Aadhar system was breaching his privacy. Not only Ramu, but all villagers must thank the Bara Adalat for securing their right to privacy. This is what Rameshwar explained to Kalu Miyan while relieving himself in the fields. Maybe Kalu Miyan was suffering from constipation and did not seem thankful to the Bara Adalat.
When Kalu Miyan and Ramu Chacha were busy in a remote village in the morning, it was time for the senior Sarkari Sahib (government official) to get ready for work. He had just returned from his morning walk and barely had any time left to glance through the newspaper. He must reach office now before nine – a trouble that started when Narendra Modi came to New Delhi from Gandhinagar. Not only must he reach office on time, but there are also new slogans nowadays – “Make in India” and Ease of Doing Business. What hurts the senior Babu more is that his boss, Mr. Burden Remove Boast travels the world, gets photographed with Modi, tweets his achievements, and sends all papers to him, the Hump Ahmed. When well-paid officers from foreign companies visit him, the poor man has little option and maintains a smiling face. Like the man who laughs poor Hump can never express his problems to anybody.
On his table is a proposal for a big MNC, which is keen to venture out in the Indian market. As such there is no issue now that the confusing language kept in the notification has been done away with few months back. The Sahib knows of the brand and uses the same given to him by the Indian franchise of the company. The issue is one of level playing field. If the MNC opens its store, the poor Indian franchise will lose his revenue. Shouldn’t the Government act as a guardian for the Indian business person? Instead, the Prime Minister is busy going abroad and talking to these MNCs.
But Hump Sahib knows how not to bend easily. He has to ensure fairness for all. Leaders come and go, but Sahibs are constant. What can the leaders do without the Sahibs? And what is the incentive Hump Sahib may receive from the MNC? A mere thank you, one supposes. Now Hump Sahib is not interested in easing it anymore; let the Prime Minister keep shouting his Mann Ki Baat.
By the time Kalu Miyan and Ramu Chacha were ready to tend to their respective fields, and Hump Sahib had finished his second cup of coffee brought by his servant, it was time for anchor Rubbish Desai to call his stringer in Bihar. Rubbish wanted a big breaking story on how Modi’s Swatch Bharat data on toilets were rigged and how Kalu Miyan, Ramu Chacha, et al. were still using the village green. He has also lined up the well-known guest who will explain how this Government manipulates all information with active support from the highest office. Meanwhile, Rubbish receives a call from his reporter from the capital. The young lady has access to a senior Sahib, who tells her how the Government is slowly killing the Indian entrepreneurs to promote MNCs. With two news night top stories frozen, Rubbish went for his lunch at Machan where there is a Tunisian food festival to celebrate this year’s Nobel Prize.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)