ನಮ್ಮೂರಿನ ಚೋಮ, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ಊರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲಿಯಾದರು ಹಲಗೆಯ (ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯ ವಾದ್ಯ, ಸಾಹಿತ್ತಿಕ ಭಾಷೆಯಲ್ಲಿ "ದುಡಿ" ಅಂತ ಹೆಸರು, ಕಾರಂತರ ಚೋಮನ ದುಡಿ ನೆನಪಿಗೆ ಬರಬಹುದೇ?) ಶಬ್ದ ಕಳಿದರೆ ಸಾಕು, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನು ಬಾರಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಹಲಗೆಯ ನೆನಪಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಸುತ್ತ ಮುತ್ತ ಇದ್ದ ಹಳ್ಳಿಗಳಲ್ಲೆಲ್ಲ ಅವನು ಬಾರಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಹಲಗೆಯ ನಾದ ಸಿಕ್ಕಾಪಟ್ಟೆ famous. ಮದುವೆಯಿರಲಿ, ಜಾತ್ರೆಯಿರಲ್ಲಿ, ಹಬ್ಬ-ಹರಿದಿನಗಳಿರಲಿ, ಶವಸಂಸ್ಕಾರದ ಕಾರ್ಯವಾಗಿದ್ದರೂ ಸರಿಯೇ, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಹಲಗೆಯ ನಾದ ಅನಿವಾರ್ಯವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ತೀರಿಹೋಗಿ ಸುಮಾರು ಐದು ವರ್ಷಗಳೇ ಕಳೆದಿರಬೇಕು. ಅವನು ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಮ್ಮೂರಿನ "ಚೋಮ!", ಕಾರಂತರ ಚೋಮ ಅತ್ಯಂತ ಮುಗ್ಧ ಮತ್ತು ಸ್ವಾಮಿನಿಷ್ಟೆಯುಳ್ಳವನು, ಆದರೆ ನಮ್ಮೂರ ಚೋಮ, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ, ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕ್ರಾಂತಿಕಾರಿ, ಕ್ರಾಂತಿಕಾರಿ ಅನ್ನುವುದಕ್ಕಿಂತ ತುಂಬಾ ಸ್ವಾಭಿಮಾನದ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿ ಅನ್ನಬಹುದು. ಯಾರು ತನಗೆ ಗೌರವದಿಂದ ಕಾಣುತ್ತಾರೋ, ಅವರನ್ನು ಮಾತ್ರ ಗೌರವಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದನು. ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ, "ದಲಿತನಾದರೇನು, ನಾನೂ ಮನುಷ್ಯನಲ್ಲವೇ?" ಎಂದು ಪ್ರಶ್ನಿಸುವಂಹ ಸ್ವಭಾವದವನು. ಅವನ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ವಿಶೇಷತೆಯೆಂದರೆ, ದಿನದ ಬಹುಪಾಲು ಭಾಗ ಸಾರಾಯಿ ಕುಡಿದ ಅಮಲಿನಲ್ಲಿರುವುದು. ಪ್ರತಿ ಸಲ ಊರಿಗೆ ಹೋದಾಗ ಯಾವತ್ತಾದರು ಸಿಕ್ಕರೆ, ಅವನ ಬಾಯಿಯಿಂದ ಬರುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಹೆಂಡದ ವಾಸನೆ ನನ್ನನ್ನು ಒಂದು ಮಾರು ದೂರ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸುತ್ತಿತ್ತು; ಈಗ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ adjust ಆಗಿದೆ ಅನ್ಕೋಬಹುದು :-). ಹೊಟ್ಟೆಗೆ ಹೆಂಡ ಬೀಳದಿದ್ದರೆ, ಯಾರಪ್ಪ ಬಂದರೂ ಹಲಗೆ ಬಾರಿಸುವ ಗೋಜಿಗೆ ಹೋಗುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಊರಿನವರಿಗೆ ಇದೇನು ರಹಸ್ಯವಾಗಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಏನಾದರು ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮವಿದ್ದರೆ, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನಿಗೆ ಒಂದೆರಡು ಪಾಕೆಟ್ ಕುಡಿಸಿದರೆ ಸಾಕು, ಅವನ ಹಲಗೆಯ ನಾದವೇ ಬೇರೆ! (ಹಳ್ಳಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸಾರಯಿಯನ್ನು ಸಣ್ಣ ಸಣ್ಣ ಪ್ಲಾಸ್ಟಿಕ್ ಚೀಲಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾರುತ್ತಾರೆ, ಕೆಲವು ಜನರಿಗೆ ಸಿಟಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಗುವ ಬ್ರ್ಯಾಂಡಿ-ವಿಸ್ಕಿಗಳ ವಾಸನೆಯೂ ಗೊತ್ತಿರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ, ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಗುವುದೆಲ್ಲ ಕಳ್ಳಭಟ್ಟಿ ಹೆಂಡ ಮಾತ್ರ, ಒಂದು ಗುಟುಕು ಕುಡಿದರೆ ಸಾಕು ಬೆಳಗಾಗುವ ತನಕ ಕುಡಿದವನ ಮಾತು ನಿಲ್ಲುವುದಿಲ್ಲ, ಅಂತಹ ಹೆಂಡ ಅದು!) ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ ಹತ್ತಿರದ ಪಟ್ಟಣಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಕುಡಿದು ಬಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿ ವಾಪಸ್ ಬರುವಾಗ ಕಂಡೆಕ್ಟರ್ ಮಹಾಶಯನ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ನಡೆಯುವ ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಮಾತುಕತೆ ಕೇಳಲು ಸೋಜಿಗವಾಗಿರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾತಾಡುವುದುಂಟು. "ಕಂಡೆಕ್ಟರ್ ಸಾರ್, ’ಕರೇssssಟ್ ತಿಕೀಟ್ ಕೊಡ್ರಿ, ಡೈರೇssssssಟ್ ನಮ್ಮೂರಿಗ್ ಬಿಡ್ರಿ (correct ಟಿಕೇಟ್ ಕೊಟ್ಟು direct ನಮ್ಮೂರಿಗೆ ಬಸ್ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಿರಿ)" ಅಂತಿದ್ದ. ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಕ್ಕಾಪಟ್ಟೆ entertainment ಸಿಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು.

ದೊಡ್ಡ ದೊಡ್ಡ ಜಾತ್ರೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನಿಗೆ ಹಲಗೆ ಬಾರಿಸುವ ಯರೂ ಸವಾಲು ಹಾಕುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಹಲಗೆ ಬಾರಿಸುವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನದು ಎತ್ತಿದ ಕೈ, ಯಾರೂ ಮೀರಿಸುವಂತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಕುಡಿತದ ಚಟವಿದ್ದರೂ ಹಲಗೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅವನಿಟ್ಟ ಭಕ್ತಿ ಅಪಾರವಾದದ್ದು. ಹಲಗೆಯನ್ನು ಯಾವ ರೀತಿ set ಮಾಡಿದರೆ ಯಾವ ನಾದ ಹೊರಹೊಮ್ಮಬಹುದು ಎಂಬುವ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಕಲ್ಪನೆ/ವಿದ್ಯ ಅವನಲ್ಲಿ ಅಡಕವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಸನ್ನಿವೇಶಕ್ಕೆ ತಕ್ಕಂತೆ ಹೊಸ ಹೊಸ ನಾದಗಳನ್ನು ಬಾರಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ಬರೀ ಬಾರಿಸುವುದೇ ಅಲ್ಲ, ಅವನು ಹೊರಹೊಮ್ಮಿಸುವ ನಾದದಿಂದ ಬಚ್ಚಿಟ್ಟ ವಸ್ತುವನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕಬಹುದಂತೆ! ಇದನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿದಾಗ, ಈ ಆಸಾಮಿ ಯಾಕೊ ಜಾಸ್ತಿನೇ ರೀಲ್ ಬಿಡ್ತಿದಾನೆ ಅನ್ನಿಸ್ತು. ಆದರೂ ಕೇಳುತ್ತ ಹೋದೆ, ಊರಲ್ಲಿ ಶಿವಯೋಗಿ ಅಂತ ಇನ್ನೊಬ್ಬ ಹಲಗೆ ಬಾರಿಸುವವನಿದ್ದಾನೆ. ಅವನು ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ನಾದವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬಲ್ಲವನಾಗಿದ್ದನು. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ಬಾರಿಸುವ ನಾದದಿಂದ, ಎಡಕ್ಕೆ ತಿರುಗಬಕೋ, ಬಲಕ್ಕೆ ತಿರುಗಬೇಕೋ, ಮುಂದೆ ಹೋಗಬೇಕೋ ಅಥವ ಹಿಂದಕ್ಕೆ ಬರಬೇಕೋ ಅನ್ನುವುದನ್ನು decide ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ಹೀಗಾಗಿ, ನಾದದ ಸಂಜ್ಞೆಯ ಮುಖಾಂತರ ಬಚ್ಚಿಟ್ಟ ವಸ್ತುವನ್ನು ಶಿವಯೋಗಿ ಹುಡುಕುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ನೋಡುವವರಿಗೆ ಇದೊಂದು ಭಾರಿ ಕುತೂಹಲಕಾರಿಯಾಗಿರುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ ಬಚ್ಚಿಟ್ಟ ಸೂಜಿ ಸಹ ಹುಡುಕಿದ್ದು ಉಂಟಂತೆ! ಉತ್ತರ ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಇಂತಹ ಜಾನಪದ ಕಲೆ ನೋಡಲು ಸಿಗುವುದು ಅತೀ ಅಪರೂಪ. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಕಲೆ ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅಪರೂಪವೇ ಅನ್ನಿ. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ನಿಜಕ್ಕೂ Excellenಟು.


ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನಲ್ಲಿದ್ದ ಜಾನಪದ ಕಲೆ ಅವನ ಜೊತೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವರ್ಗದ ಪಾಲಾಗಿ ಹೋಯಿತು. ಅವನ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಗೆ ಅದರಲ್ಲಿ ಅಷ್ಟೊಂದು ಆಸಕ್ತಿ ಇರಲಿಲ್ಲ, ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ಅವರನ್ನು ಒತ್ತಾಯಪೂರ್ವಕವಾಗಿ ಕಲಿಸುವ ಗೋಜಿಗೆ ಹೋಗುತ್ತಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಅಜ್ಜ ತೀರಿದ ನಂತರ, ಸಂಪ್ರದಾಯಕ್ಕಾಗಿಯಾದರೂ ಮಕ್ಕಳಲ್ಲಿ ಒಬ್ಬರಾದರೂ ಬಾರಿಸಬೆಕಲ್ಲ? ಹಿರಿಯ ಮಗ ಅಲ್ಪ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಗೊತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಕೆಲವು ನಾದಗಳನ್ನು ಪರಿಪೂರ್ಣಗೊಳಿಸಿಕೊಂಡು ಬಾರಿಸಲು ಶುರು ಮಾಡಿದ. ಯಾವುದಾದರು ಕಾರ್ಯಕ್ರಮವಿದ್ದರೆ ಊರಿನ ಕೆಲವು ಜನ ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಪ್ರೀತಿಗಾಗಿ, ಅವನ ಮಗ ಹೇಗೆ ಬಾರಿಸಿದರೂ ಅವನನ್ನೆ ಕರೆಯುವುದುಂಟು. ಮೊನ್ನೆ ಊರಿಗೆ ಹೋದಾಗ ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಮಗನನ್ನು ಭೇಟಿಯಾಗಿದ್ದೆ, ಚನ್ನಾಗಿಯೇ ಬಾರಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಸಂಗತಿಯೆಂದರೆ, ಕುಡಿಯುವ ಗೋಜಿಗೆ ಹೋಗುವುದಿಲ್ಲ! ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನದು ದೊಡ್ಡ ಸಂಸಾರ, ಅಜ್ಜನ ಹೆಂಡತಿ ತುಂಬಾ ಉದಾರ ಸ್ವಭಾವದವಳು, ಅವನಲ್ಲಿದ್ದ ಧಿಮಾಕು ಸ್ವಲ್ಪವೂ ಅವಳಲ್ಲಿಲ್ಲವೆನ್ನಿ. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನಿಗೆ ಹದಿನಾಲ್ಕು ಜನ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿದ್ದರು ಅಂತ ಕೇಳಿದ ನೆನಪು (ಎಷ್ಟು ನಿಜವೋ ಗೊತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ) ಆದರೆ ಬದುಕಿ ಉಳಿದವರು ಕೇವಲ ಆರು ಮಕ್ಕಳು ಮಾತ್ರ. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ತೀರಿ ಹೋಗುವ ಮೊದಲು ಕಿಂಚಿತ್ತೂ ದುಡ್ಡು ಉಳಿಸಿರಲಿಲ್ಲ, ದುಡಿದ ಹಣವನ್ನು ಸಾರಾಯಿ ಅಂಗಡಿಗೇ ಹಾಕುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ಹಣ ಇಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದರೆ, ಹೆಂಡತಿಯನ್ನು, ಮಕ್ಕಳನ್ನು ಪೀಡಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ. ಒಂದು ರೀತಿ ಐಶಾರಮಿ ಜೀವನ ಅವನದು. ಅವನ ಹೆಂಡತಿ ಮಕ್ಕಳು ಪಾದರಕ್ಷೆಗಳನ್ನು ರಿಪೇರಿ ಮಾಡಿಯೋ, ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಇಲ್ಲಿ ದಿನಗೂಲಿ ಮಾಡಿಯೋ ಜೀವನ ಸಾಗಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದರು. ಪಾದರಕ್ಷೆ ರಿಪೇರಿ ಮಾಡುವುದು ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಮನೆತನಕ್ಕೆ ಬಂದ ತಲೆತಲಾಂತರದ ಕೊಡುಗೆ. ಜಾತಿಯಿಂದ ಬಂದ ಉದ್ಯೋಗ. ಅದರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಅವರಿಗೆ ಅಪಾರ ಅಭಿಮಾನ, ಕಾಯಕವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸವೆನ್ನುವ ಪವಿತ್ರ ಭಾವನೆ. ಅವರಿಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತಿದ್ದ ಜೀವನದ ಅರ್ಥ ಇಷ್ಟೆ, "ಸಿಕ್ಕಾಪಟ್ಟೆ ದುಡಿಯುವುದು, ಬಂದದ್ದರಲ್ಲಿ ಹೊಟ್ಟೆ ಬಟ್ಟೆಗೆ adjust ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದು, ಯಾರಿಗೂ ಭಾರವಾಗದೇ ಇರುವುದು." ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ tension free ಜೀವನ ಅನ್ನಿ. ಆಸ್ತಿ ಮಾಡುವ ಗೋಜಿಗಂತು ಮೊದಲೇ ಹೊಗುತ್ತಿಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಹೊಟ್ಟೆ ಬಟ್ಟೆಗೆ ತೊಂದರೆಯಾಗದಿದ್ದರೆ ಸಾಕು ಎನ್ನುವಂತಹ ಪರಿಸ್ಥಿತಿ. ಹಿರಿಯ ಮಗನ ಹೆಗಲ ಮೇಲೆ ಸಂಸಾರದ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿ ವಹಿಸಿದ್ದರಿಂದ ಅಜ್ಜನ ಹೆಂಡತಿಗೆ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಸಮಾಧಾನ. ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ಇರುವಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಹೆಣ್ಣು ಮಕ್ಕಳ ಮದುವೆ ಮಾಡಿ ಕೈ ತೊಳೆದುಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದ. ಅದೊಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸಾಹಸವೇ ಅನ್ನಬಹುದು. ಹಳ್ಳಿಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮಗಳ ಮದುವೆ ಮಾಡುವುದು ಅಷ್ಟೊಂದು ಸುಲಭದ ಕೆಲಸವಲ್ಲ. ಎರಡನೇ ಮಗ ಶಾಲೆ ಬಿಟ್ಟು ವರ್ಷಗಳೇ ಕಳೆದಿತ್ತು, ಅವನೀಗ ಹತ್ತಿರದ ಪಟ್ಟಣದ ಬಸ್ ಸ್ಟ್ಯಾಂಡಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಪಾದರಕ್ಷೆಗಳನ್ನು ರಿಪೇರಿ ಮಾಡುವ ಕೆಲಸ ಶುರು ಮಾಡಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದಾನೆ. ಅಲ್ಪ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಹಣವೂ ಬರುತ್ತಿದೆ, ಇದರಿಂದ ಮನೆಯ ಖರ್ಚಿಗೆ ಯಾವುದೇ ತೊಂದರೆಯಿಲ್ಲದಂತಾಗಿದೆ. ಅಜ್ಜನ ಸಂಸಾರ ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸುಸೂತ್ರವಾಗಿ ಸಾಗುತ್ತಿದೆ ಅನ್ನಿ. ಅಜ್ಜನ ಸಂಸಾರದ ದೋಣಿ ಬದಲಾವಣೆಯೆಂಬ ಕನಸಿನ ದೂರ ತೀರ ಯಾವಾಗ ಸೇರುತ್ತದೋ ಮೇಲಿನವನಿಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತು.

ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜ ಬದುಕಿದ್ದಾಗ ಅವನ ವಾದ್ಯವನ್ನು record ಮಾಡಲಿಕ್ಕಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ. ಅಜ್ಜನ ಮಗ ಬಾರಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ ನೋಡಿ! ಬಲತುದಿಯಲ್ಲಿರುವವನು (ಯುವಕ) ಸಿದ್ರಾಮಜ್ಜನ ಮಗ.

Inflation rate and the blemished calculations

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair." - Sam Ewing.

Official calculations indicate that inflation is hovering at 8%, the actual effect seems to be far more than what it is. The current method of calculating the inflation rate doesn't give the complete picture of our economy. India's method of calculating the inflation rate has some 'serious flaws' in it. India uses the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) to calculate and then decide the inflation rate in the economy. "WPI does not properly measure the exact price rise an end-consumer will experience because, as the name suggests, it is at the wholesale level." How? Its evident from the dilemma of the UPA government. Oil is costing $130 per barrel, twice what it was a year ago, and India is importing 70% of its oil needs. In spite of dramatic rise in oil prices, government is not willing to raise the oil prices because of its effect on already rising inflation rates. "Under the present system of subsidised domestic pricing for petrol, diesel, kerosene, and the LPG, the country’s public sector oil marketing companies (OMCs) lose more than Rs.500 crore a day. If domestic prices for oil products rise, inflation, which is already high, will increase even more. With the 15th general election due within a year, the political consequences are feared. But if prices are left untouched, the fiscal deficit will increase, again with inflationary consequences"[The Hindu]. Thus government can control (just) the inflation index and say that "rates are within our limits and government need some time", but in reality prices are hitting the sky. Food prices have reached the historic high and common man is in a huge dilema. Common man, to whom inflation affects the most, doesn't even understand what inflation actually means in broader perspective, but he only feels the heat of inflation when he is forced to pay some extra bucks for his daily bread.

Its high time for India to retrospect its (inflation calculation) basics. Inflation index should focus on common man and not on the wholesale prices. India is the only major country that uses a wholesale index to measure inflation. Most countries use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of inflation, as this actually measures the increase in price that a consumer will ultimately have to pay for. Some economists believe that government of India urgently needs to change its method of calculating the inflation rate. There are some advantages of using WPI and Consumer Price Index to measure the inflation, but there are large number of drawbacks using these methods.

Here is the quick understanding of the terms [source]:

WPI is the index that is used to measure the change in the average price level of goods traded in wholesale market. In India, a total of 435 commodities data on price level is tracked through WPI which is an indicator of movement in prices of commodities in all trade and transactions. It is also the price index which is available on a weekly basis with the shortest possible time lag only two weeks.

CPI is a statistical time-series measure of a weighted average of prices of a specified set of goods and services purchased by consumers. It is a price index that tracks the prices of a specified basket of consumer goods and services, providing a measure of inflation. CPI is a fixed quantity price index and considered by some a cost of living index. Under CPI, an index is scaled so that it is equal to 100 at a chosen point in time, so that all other values of the index are a percentage relative to this one.

Why no to Wholesale Price Index (WPI)? [rediff]
  1. WPI is supposed to measure impact of prices on business. But we use it to measure the impact on consumers. Many commodities not consumed by consumers get calculated in the index. And it does not factor in services which have assumed so much importance in the economy.
  2. More than 100 out of the 435 commodities included in the Index have ceased to be important from the consumption point of view. For example, a commodity like coarse grains that go into making of livestock feed. This commodity is insignificant, but continues to be considered while measuring inflation.
  3. WPI does not properly measure the exact price rise an end-consumer will experience because, as the name suggests, it is at the wholesale level.
  4. The WPI ignores services for which the consumer pays a lot out of his monthly budget.

Why no to Consumer Price Index (CPI)? [wiki accessed on 24th May, 2008]
  1. Consumers' expenditure abroad is usually excluded; visitors' expenditure within the country may be excluded in principle if not in practice.
  2. The rural population may or may not be included.
  3. Certain groups such as the very rich or the very poor may be excluded.
  4. Saving and investment are always excluded, though the prices paid for financial services provided by financial intermediaries may be included along with insurance.
  5. Black market expenditure and expenditure on illegal drugs are often excluded for practical reasons, although the professional ethics of the statistician require objective description free of moral judgments.

For some extent CPI looks better than WPI because,
  1. It's a price index that tracks the prices of a specified basket of consumer goods and services, providing a measure of inflation.
  2. CPI is a fixed quantity price index and considered by some economists as a cost of living index, which means it can give some idea about cost of living.

So, which method should we follow?

I feel that, neither WPI nor CPI can clearly give the picture of inflation in a country. They have more drawbacks than the advantages. However, these methods can be improved to reflect the inflation in an acceptable way. For example,
  1. India constituted the last WPI series of commodities in 1993-94; but has not updated it till now and economists argue that the Index has lost relevance and can not be the barometer to calculate inflation. The base year should be changed appropriately, say 2004-05.
  2. There are many 'not so important' commodities listed in the WPI calculation. All unimportant commodities can be dropped from the list and some important commodities should be introduced in the list.
  3. Currently there are only 435 commodities listed in the WPI Calculation. This number is meagre considering the size of our economy. This number should be increased significantly or better if it's doubled, so that the base for calculation will be much wider.
  4. In case of WPI, the index is made available weekly, this has huge impact in the market and might give raise to misleading speculations. So WPI index should be released once in a month or at least for every fortnight.
  5. The accuracy in the pricing should be of highest standards so that even slightest variations can be avoided.

You can add more to the list. But one thing is clear, we definitely need reforms in calculating the inflation rate. Inflation doesn't affect the profligate consumer, but it has the huge potential to kill common man. A poor who used to get two meals per day may find it difficult to get even a single meal when inflation is hitting the sky.

Related External Links
  1. 10 nations with highest inflation - Zimbabwe's inflation rate has increased 355,000%. In Zimbabwe, A sausage sandwich sells for Zimbabwean $50 million. A 15-kg bag of potatoes cost Zimbabwean $260 million. But then, Zimbabwean $50 million is roughly equal to US$ 1!
  2. Hindustan Times - Fuel hike inevitable, inflation crosses 8%, At $135, oil set to put inflation on fire - Looks like oil is the fuel for inflation too!
  3. Myths about inflation - rediff.
  4. CPI, WPI-based inflation gap widens -Times of India.

Be the change you want to see - Bhatya's Experience

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It was a Friday evening but his mind was still engulfed with work. Bhatya knew that the week long working life has just come to an end. Still, the honking sound on roads, already polluted evening breeze and busy foot path were just adding to his already agitated mood. He was trying hard to relax but all most all the problems in office were hitting his mind in no time. Mind was completely busy sorting out things. He just wanted to go straight to some "most happening" place, and of course, few cosmopolitan areas in Bangalore suddenly came to his mind. The Forum mall was quite near and he decided to go there. He changed his route and headed towards Forum along with his best friend, the bicycle. Every ride on his bicycle was like a dream come true, literally! (and yeah, he bought the bicycle instead of 'super' bikes just to save environment from pollution!). When he almost reached the place, sun was just hiding behind couple of large buildings and huge number of Aphrodites were just giving life to the forum mall. Life at Forum just started you know.

Bhatya parked his best friend, the bicycle. When he came out of the parking lot he saw that an elderly man, mostly in his seventies, was lying on the foot path. He thought the old man was drunk. But when he was passing by the old man, there was no smell of alcohol. He took a closer look at the man and heard a low indistinct murmuring sound from his mouth. "Thank god! he is still breathing", he said to himself and started his 'pointless wandering' in the forum. His mind was still agitated, he just wanted to relax in the forum. As soon as he stepped into the Forum, the guilty feeling of not helping the old man started itching his mind. His mood was no better. His conscious ethical mind argued, "I can't believe you are such a heartless mortal, you should have helped him. Never forget this day, when you are of his age, who knows, you may face the same situation. Its not too late my friend, do something, help him reach his home." It was like a tight slap for Bhatya, but his other mind started consoling him, "Dude, this is the harsh reality of life. You can save him today, but what about thousands of others who are surviving on the foot path? Life has to go on, you are here to have some fun... there are people like police, NGOs and Old age homes to take care of the old man", Bhatya got some energy and managed to reach first floor of the Forum but his mind was still disturbed with the guilty feeling. His conscious mind pinched him again, "You want the system to be changed, but why can't you first change yourself? You be the change you want to see..." Bhatya's both minds spend some time to counter argue each other and he finally decided to go back and help the old man lying on the footpath.

He reached the old man and tried asking about his name and home phone number. Bhatya soon realized that he has to get some one who knows Kannada. He looked around for some one and by that time, couple of people also came in to help Bhatya, luckily one of them knew Kannada. the old man was still not conscious. Bhatya decided to inform police and get their help as soon as possible. He then rushed to police station near the forum mall and told the police about the old man. They refused to come immediately as the role call (attendance) was going on in the police station. Police promised Bhatya that some one would come there as soon as the role call gets over. By the time Bhatya came back, the old man had regained his consciousness and had told people there that his name was Rajaram..... and he was a resident of Koramangala. Lot of people started coming towards the spot and of course more helping hands. Some one offered water and some thing to eat and as a result, the old man gained some confidence to sit and speak. After some time, police came and enquired about the situation. Bhatya and other people there requested police to help the old man reach his home. Interestingly police agreed and took the old man in their Jeep. Bhatya finally breathed a sigh of relief. By the time Bhatya reached home, he was on cloud number nine! His mind was completely out of all the problems in the world and he felt extremely proud of himself and decided that, no matter what, he is going to help the needy whenever he gets the chance.

Ask not whether the system is going to change, ask whether "you" can change.

PS: This real story is based on Nishad's (Bhatya) experience.

A Noble Cause - Please help Suhan Rai

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Suhan Rai from a poor agricultural family was born deaf. Even though he was diagnosed early and given speech and language therapy rigorously for 4 years there has been no improvement. As per the doctor's and audiologist's advise only a Cochlear implant would enable him to listen to the sounds of the nature. Your generous contribution would help Suhan to get in to main stream and lead a normal life.

The account details are as follows:

Name: Rotary west and parents association of deaf children trust
Account number: 141301011002735
Bank: Vijaya bank Boghadi branch, Mysore
RTGS number: VIJB0001413
Swift Code : VIJBINBBSNT (Needed to transfer funds from outside INDIA)

A small contribution from your side can make a huge difference to the child's life.

Let's all do something for the kid.

Imp: Great if you could help before 24th of May, 2008 as the surgery is on June 1st.
Madhu and Deepti, Thanks for the update !

Bachpan Bachao (Save the childhood)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

When some one ask you about your childhood, what would you say? "Those were the best days of my life?", "I always wanted to be like that?", the popular one, "I wish I am a child again?", well, don't be surprised if some people say, "Oh! It was a nightmare, don't remind me of that again!" Anand (name changed for privacy) is one among them who is going to say that some time in the future. I always enjoyed his garrulous talk and jovial smile, but it didn't take much time for me to know the pain behind his smile, the true story. He is just under fourteen, works in a hotel near my home. Since last few weeks, my days start with his jokes and little chit chat while having my break fast (in that hotel). Anand is just not another hotel boy. His mind is full of dreams and ambitions. He came all the way from his village in Bellary district to Bangalore, immediately after his 9th standard exams. He recently got his results and he was excited to tell me about the "first class" result he secured in the exam. Some times I used to make sure our discussion focus on studies and his school. I was extremely happy when he told me, "Sir, June 1st is just a month away, by then I will have enough money to buy my 10th standard books & guides and pay all the fees. I will be going home!!!" His parents couldn't afford the expenses for his schooling. This year he decided to manage all by himself. I was really inspired by his determination to continue his studies. I am sure, one day, he will come out of that nightmare with flying colours.

I tried looking at Anand's story in a broader perspective. The reality is beyond our imagination. "Private schools for rich kids often have monthly fees that are higher than the annual income of an average unskilled Indian worker, while the poor often have to be satisfied with schools that are without teachers, or class rooms" and without much money to buy the books. There are (officially) 12.6 million innocent child laborers in India, the highest in the world. "Children are the future torch-bearers of the country", but "children are forced to work in circuses, in factories, in hotels, engaged in forced prostitution or sexual exploitation, drug peddling and smuggling. It would be interesting to know that, as per the findings of International Organization for Migration (IMO), the global 'human industry' generates up to $8 billion each year. The report has further pointed out that an estimated 50000-70000 young girls between 5 to 10 age group are trafficked into India every year[source - Yojana, May 2008]." Many children who are employed as bonded laborers or prostitutes are engaged in occupation that severely affect their physical, mental or moral well being. The dark reality is still unseen by many. Its not very difficult to understand that Poverty and lack of education are the fundamental reasons behind all problems related to children.

We definitely need a multi-pronged approach to tackle the problem. Its not fair to blame the government alone [you can see some initiatives here, here and here]. Its important to ask ourselves, "What can we do along with the government?"
  1. Law against child labour is necessary but not sufficient. The ban doesn't work. Some basic questions are, "Is it (ban on child labor) realistic? Will it be successful? Will the parents cooperate? Will the children give up their jobs so easily if they are earning some livelihood? When the US banned carpet exports in 1990s, Nepalese children turned to prostitution. When Bangladeshi garment industry suffered, children turned to stone-crushing and similar hazardous work[source: excerpts from Yojana, May 2008]" If the children (for example Anand) are completely deprived of employment, they will either be exploited again or they end up getting very basic education which might not make their future fruitful. "Children can be made to learn while they earn", that could be the good option.
  2. Tenth five year plan's target of getting all children into schools could not be achieved and it doesn't even seem like possible in the near future. Pragmatic planning and efficient implementation of projects is necessary. Government projects like National Child Labour Project(NCLP) should be made to cover all the (over 600) districts in the country.
  3. NGOs and Child welfare initiatives like Bachpan Bachao Andolan should be backed and supported (financially) by government and generous people (may be like us?).
  4. Economically well off citizen (who at least have some desire for change) can support at least one child by donating. Here are few links where you can donate. Smile foundation, Save the Children, World vision Foundation, Compassion, SOS Children India site, Child Charity and NGO India, Big Help Foundation, Sponsor a Dalit child. And of course there are many other NGOs and Initiatives where you can get involved and see the change for yourself!
  5. All of us should be proactive against child labor. But at the same time, lets be compassionate to understand the actual problem. Let us figure out the possibilities and see if we can be of any help. Please do help if you think you can!

There are some good things happening around too. Thanks to government initiatives in rural schools, children are getting more and more interested in continuing their schooling. Mid-day meals, free uniforms, free books and recently EDUSAT is making lot of impact in rural India. When I heard about satellite-based tele-education in my village, I was excited to visit my school there and my happiness had no bounds when a little boy said, "ಅಣ್ಣಾ, ಇವತ್ತು ನಮಗೆ ಟಿವಿ ಪಾಠ ಇತ್ತು ಗೊತ್ತಾ? ಬೆಂಗ್ಳೂರಿನ ಸರ್ ಪಾಠ ಹೇಳಿಕೊಟ್ರು! (You know what? we had our class via TV! A teacher from Bangalore was teaching us!)." Over the last few years I have seen significant change in the 'mind set' of parents in villages. I have heard many parents saying, "I want my children to be well educated so that they don't live their life like us." Well, thats something we all should be happy about. Unfortunately its just one side of the coin.

Women's Reservation Bill - The end of U turn?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some scholars believe that in ancient India, the women enjoyed equal status with men in all fields of life. However, later (approximately 500 B.C.), the status of women began to decline with the Smritis (esp. Manusmriti) and with the Islamic invasion of Babur and the Mughal empire and later Christianity curtailing women's freedom and rights. The Indian woman's position in the society further deteriorated during the medieval period. Sati, child marriages and ban on widow remarriages became part of social life in India. The Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent brought the purdah practice in the Indian society. Among the Rajputs of Rajasthan, the Jauhar was practised. In some parts of India, the Devadasis or the temple women were sexually exploited. Polygamy was widely practised esp. among Hindu Kshatriya rulers. In many Muslim families, women were secluded to Zenana. [wikipedia, retrieved on 06th May, 2008]

Thanks to Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotirao Phule etc. for igniting the thoughts of equal rights to women. Today, everyone of us (at least most of us) have a compassionate feeling about women's rights. But it has to be in both letter and spirit. Women's Reservation Bill can be the first step towards equality of women envisioned by our forefathers. I am glad that UPA government finally made its mind to introduce Women's Reservation Bill (2008). I hope that at least this time Women's bill will finally get president's assent. If it does, it will be a historic day in the democratic world and it would complete the U turn of women's status beginning with equal status in the ancient times to the oppressed state of women in medieval India and finally marching towards equality of woman in the modern democracy.


The idea of providing the legal status to the women's rights began with the historic Panchayati Raj Act, 1992 (73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment). Its quite interesting to note that 'Mannina Maga (son of the soil)', the former prime minister Mr. H.D. Deve Gowda made the actual promise for reservation of seats for women in Parliament and State Assemblies in 1996[...]. Here is the journey of Women's Bill so far[source],
  1. Women's Reservation Bill [Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill, 1996] was first introduced in the parliament on 12th September, 1996 by H.D. Deve Gowda's government. The bill did not get pass the hurdles of parliament. Mr. Gowda's government reduced to minority and subsequently 11th lok sabha was dissolved and hence the bill lapsed.
  2. In 1998, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government made another attempt by introducing the Women's Bill [Constitution (84th Amendment) Bill, 1998]. Ironically, this time too, the bill was lapsed because 12th loka sabha had to be dissolved prematurely; Vajpayee's government reduced to minority!
  3. Yet another attempt was made on December 23, 1999 with the introduction of the Bill in the Lower House. But this bill also could not be pursued due to lack of political consensus.

The present Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha (May 06th, 2008) for the first time with the consequence that it will not lapse. We can only hope that UPA government can see this bill pass through both the houses of parliament. If it does, it will be interesting to see that a matriarch of the state will be signing the Women's Reservation Bill!

What will happen if this bill is passed and becomes a law?[source here and here]
  1. Reservation for women at each level of legislative decision-making, starting with the Lok Sabha, down to state and local legislatures.
  2. One-third of the total available seats would be reserved for women in national, state, or local governments.
  3. At least 180 seats in the parliament will be reserved for women. That means at least 180 male members will not be able to contest election.Also, there is to be a rotation of seats, i.e., a male member of Parliament can not represent the same constituency for more then two consecutive terms.

Some noises against the bill

Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party are the main opponents of the bill. "Lalu says the Bill 'would deny adequate representation to other sections of society.' He favours 10 to 15 percent reservation for women. 'My party is not opposed to women's reservation, but the case of Dalits, backward classes, Muslims and other religious minorities should not be overlooked,' is his argument. Mulayam favours making it mandatory for political parties to give 10 percent of election tickets to women"[rediff].

Possible consequences
  1. Though this bill can promise the brighter future, initially it can bring some rubber stamp women MPs to parliament, some of whom (not all, mind you!) might not be capable of handling political pressures. It is evident from the Panchayat Raj experience that some of the elected women in Village Panchayat's are dictated by husband/close relatives/some influential person in the village.Political Parties can very well use these elected MPs like a rubber stamp![some examples here and here]
  2. On the other hand, it can reflect the gender equality in parliament, "Increased political participation of women will help them fight the abuse, discrimination, and inequality they suffer from."
Are there any alternatives to women's bill? [source - Aysha Sumbu]
  1. One is to amend the Representation of People’s Act 1951, to compel political parties to nominate women for one-third of their seats or lose recognition (Interesting to note that the main opposition party, BJP, has decided to reserve 1/3rd of the seats to women). This, according to Rajindar Sachar, former Chief Justice of Delhi, is flawed, as it would violate the Constitution of India, which guarantees its citizens the right to form association under Article 19(1)(c) as a fundamental right.
  2. Another alternative is to increase the number of seats in the Lok Sabha, which is currently based on the figures of the census of India, 1971, when the population of India was 54 crores. The numbers of seats were limited to 530 till further amendments. Now the Delimitation Commission has been asked to take the 2001 census as the basis for delimiting constituencies. According to 2001 census, the population of India has risen to 102 crores, therefore the number of seats are bound to increase before the next general elections. This should be reason enough to pave the way for the safe passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.

I feel that the reservation of 1/3rd seats should be done in two phase manner. What I mean by this is, 1/3rd representation can be achieved in next 2 general elections, need not be immediately. Reserving 1/3rd seats immediately may have some serious political consequences. For example, this reservation may help only the elitist group of women (apparently the relatives of powerful politicians, representatives from vested interests etc.) which may lead to further discrimination and under-representation to the poor and backward classes. If the reservation is made in phased manner, there will some ground for overcoming drawbacks if any and this would also silence the opponents of the bill.

In any case, If this bill is passed by parliament (in whatever form and spirit it is), it will be one of most remarkable milestone in the history of democracy. Pakistan has already taken the bold initiative by reserving 1/3rd seats in Senate to women[source] and its time for India to realize the vision enshrined in our constitution.

Theory of "High growth - Low poverty" - A Mirage

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"Faster growth rate is essential for faster reduction in poverty. There is no other trick to it", said Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate. India has been growing fast at the handsome rate of 7-9%[...], but "it continues to have anywhere between one third to one fourth of its population living in subhuman, absolute poverty", more over, the most hurting fact is that the unprecedented inequality due to the high growth rate. To put it in simple terms, rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Worst part is, poor spend more than the rich on some basic necessities (The Hindu reported that, "Poor spend more than others on cooking fuel"[source]).

As on May 2nd 2008, Inflation touched 42-month high at 7.57% (where the "tolerance limit" is 5.5%, according to RBI). When the economy is struck by inflation, the first person to feel the heat is common man. How? First, the consumption basket of the rich is different. The likes of Anil and Mukesh Ambani do not compete with the poor people as much as people like me do for their consumption basket. Second, super-rich people save more than merely rich people, putting downward pressure on prices[...]. "Since 2000-01 to date, each additional percent growth of GDP has led to an average of some 2.5 percent growth in corporate profits. India's high growth has certainly benefited the corporations more than anyone else"[EPW, April 19, 2008]. More over the number of Indian billionaires rose from nine in 2004 to 40 (yeah, four and zero), more than many richest countries like Japan, France, Italy and even China! [source]. Also, "India is second only to the US in terms of combined total wealth of its corporate billionaires coexisting with the largest number of homeless, ill-fed and illiterates in the world"[EPW, April 19, 2008]. The market friendly policies of government have passed the benefit of high growth to corporate sector and the poor are made to bear the burden of so called GDP (economic) growth.

In his budget speech, Finance Minister said, "Our human and gender development indices are low not because of high growth but because growth is not high enough"[Budget Speech 2007]. Our FM might have achieved high growth rate, but so far, has it changed the way poor live in country side? Has it created more jobs for the needy? Has it at least brought down the number of absolute poor? Certainly not. Here are the facts [source, EPW].

1. "We have state-of-the art corporate run expensive hospitals for the rich, but not enough money to control malaria and tuberculosis which requires INexpensive treatment. So they continue to kill the largest numbers." My own village still do not have the hospital, not even a primary health centre! And of course, we have high growth rate.

2. India is experiencing a jobless growth, i.e. increase in GDP growth with decreasing (or stagnant) employment rate. When our growth rate was just 4%, the employment growth rate was little over 2%. In recent times, though India is experiencing a growth rate of 7-8%, the growth of regular employment has hardly exceeded 1%. This means, most of the growth, some 5-6% of GDP, is the result of higher output per worker, i.e. productivity and growth comes from mechanisation and longer work hours. So, you can imagine the misery of unemployed common man (due to the high growth rate).

3. Regarding government's agricultural policies, the number of suicides in Vidharbha, Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and other states would give you the better picture. To give you the practical example, in most of villages (including mine), the electricity is available only in the odd hours like midnight. So farmers have to wake up in the middle of the night for irrigating their crops. Water and electricity are taken away from farms in the critical agricultural seasons to supply posh urban urban localities and industries. Recent Rs. 60,000 crore loan waiver will do no good for the actual farmers in the long run[earlier notings].

I am not sure why government still believe that "high growth will soon be trickling down to poor." It is evident from the contemporary situation that the high growth is bringing unprecedented inequality and never succeeded in bringing down the absolute poverty. Our FM and PM's theory of "High grwoth-Low poverty" seems to be just a myth. "India is said to be poised to become a global power in 21st century, with the largest number of homeless, under nourished, illiterate children coexisting with billionaires created by this rapid grwoth."

So, what do you think should be done? I believe,

1. The idea of inclusive growth should get out of the papers and come into reality. Some of the programs/policies which create rural employment should be given higher priority and should be implemented in all parts of the country. Thanks to NREGS, at least it is making some difference.

2. Instead of loan waivers, the money should be invested in building rural infrastructure and strengthening the rural credit structure. This would help the agriculture and farmers in long term.

3. The taxpayers' money should be judiciously used to improve the basic amenities like health, education, home. Policy implementation needs to be strengthened. How? Read it here.

4. Policy making should not be focused around vested interests and pressure groups, rather, popular participation in policy making should be given the higher priority.
 

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.