Thursday, September 11, 2008

Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land

Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in Our Times
By Kancha Ilaiah.
Illustrations: Durgabai Vyam.

Navayana catalog entry is here.

work, pay, an older entry somewhat related to the topic of the book.

the book foreword ...

Teaching Dignity of Labour in Our Times
In March 2006, when the Union government announced 27 percent reservation in central education institutions for communities designated as Other Backward Classes, the privileged castes and the media reacted as if the OBCs are essentially a stupid people who were trying to become doctors, engineers and managers along with 'their own youth'. A particular aspect of the anti-reservation stir shocked me most. It ought to have shocked the entire nation.

Students belonging to privileged castes who were studying medicine in central institutions, engineering in Indian Institutes of Technology and management courses in Indian Institutes of Management staged rallies and sat on dharnas. This in itself was not a problem. What was strange and distributing was that they began sweeping roads, polishing shoes and selling vegetables as a form of protest. They did in these globalised times. Of course, they did not make shoes, they do not make pots on the roads, or put together brooms. They are incapable of making shoes, pots or brooms. Neither did they remove the carcasses if the cattle that might have died in Delhi during the period. Since Delhi has many cows,buffaloes, goats and pigs, certainly some of them must have died during the time of the anti-reservation agitation. The protesting students could have removed these carcasses as well. But they did not do so. The symbolic protests also did not take the shape of tilling the land on the outskirts of Delhi---in Haryana or Uttar Pradesh. Had they indeed attempted such an act, the agitating students would have failed. Not one of them could have handled a plough. They have never interacted with such a mode of science.

By resorting to the tokenist work of appearing to sweep roads, appearing to polish shoes and appearing to sell vegetables, the students were demonstrating the fact they did not associate dignity with labour. They seemed to be driven merely by the fear that a day would dawn when they would be required to sweep roads, hone shoes, turn pots and graze cattle. They would be forced to perform labours that they deeply resented.

A mode of protest, where the basic productive occupations are despised and humiliated, would not be witnessed in a truly democratic society. This happens in India because our children have never been taught to regard labour with dignity. There are no textbooks in the curriculum, or books outside it, that deal with the issue of dignity of labour.

Our society suffers from lack of dignity because in the framework of the caste system any process that involves labour is projects as undignified. This is reflected in the India education system as well. As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had said, the caste system is not just a division of labour, but a division of labourers. The caste hierarchy draws a clear line between physical and mental labour. Unfortunately, this thinking continues to shape the curriculum of modern school education as well.

The more India children move into higher education, the more they develop an antipathy towards basic, productive labour processes. Every school-going child's attitude towards everyday domestic work (sweeping and swabbing the house, cleaning the dishes, disposing garbage and washing clothes) is negative. Such tasks are either seen as a mother's job; or, if the family can afford it, as the job of a domestic help who invariably is a woman of a subordinated caste. Any woman who does domestic labour is also assigned the status of a 'lower caste' labourer (of a potter, barber, leatherworker or farmer) in our society. Such work bestows neither dignity nor a respectable wage. Thus, indignity of labour is both caste based and gender based. These ideas get indoctrinated at home, at school and through our cultural and social value systems inherited over centuries.

If we have to rectify the situation, the question of dignity of labour needs to be addressed in the school curriculum and within the home. A first step is to develop the basic textual material that can be used by young students (classes 7 to 10), teachers and parents. This books is such an attempt. It discusses the relationship between dignity of labour and the historical development of basic science by the productive communities of the India. These communities were slotted into castes and their labours were treated as lowly and undignified.

Of the eleven lessons in this book, eight deal with the science, art and skills of adivasis, cattles-rearers, leatherworkers, potters, farmers, weavers, dhobis and barbers. The development of each science is traced historically and placed in a universal context. Three lessons outline a general theory of dignity of labour in relation to life, gender and religion. I hope this book contributes towards inculcating dignity of labour and in building a rational, scientific, democratic India.

Kancha Illaiah

the development sector

(a friend mailed this ...)

The Development Sector
- Ross Coggins

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet
I`m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I`ve had all my shots
I have traveller`s checks and pills for the trots!

The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution --
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like epigenetic
Micro, macro, and logarithmetic

It pleasures us to be esoteric --
It`s so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you`re feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, Is it really development?

Or say, That`s fine in practice, but don`t you see:
It doesn`t work out in theory!
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you

Monday, June 30, 2008

make your child money savvy!

am thankful my parents did not read this.

yeah, my reaction as well.

this is child abuse.

Monday, June 23, 2008

sion aaya

Sion railway station has been computerised. Was waiting in line
for about 20 minutes today morning to get a ticket.
Was reminded of this, that I had written earlier.

* * * *
also, a Sion-related Marathi song, typed in English ...

sion aaya sion aaya
dadar matunga sion aaya
kurla ghatkopar mulund ke baad
thana mumbra kalwa diva kalyan aaya ||1|| sion aaya

aagin gaadi aagin gaadi dhag dhagate
mumbaichi hawa garam gaani sangate
kotisanke beech mein aadun thambata gaadi
dharavichi gaccha vasti daavi vakulya ||2|| sion aaya

kay sangu mumbaichya localchi katha
roj yethe packit jaate uthata basata
accident hota kadhi koni marawa
mhanti sarre khali-peeli time waste kiya ||2|| sion aaya

pathi maage ladies dabba video pari
laage-reepa chale tithe vasugiri
lotterywale channewale bhajan mandali
ticket master tapaseet T.C. aaya ||3|| sion aaya

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

ladies special

On this link, of the HCL Computers web-site ...

Best Suited for: Top Executive, Ladies, Business Power User, Mangers, Lawyers, Doctors, Senior Citizens, Home , Students, Teachers, Field Executive.

Is this being sensitive or insensitive or ?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

chingari 2008

The Chingari Trust has a call for nominations for the 2008 Chingari Award.

The site mentions the following criteria for nominations:
•a woman campaigning against corporate crimes
•struggling with her community in a remote part of rural India
•waging a sustained democratic struggle of at least 5 years' duration
•non-sectarian and secular, unaffiliated with a political party
•helping to change a company's behaviour
•well-respected and supported by her community
•working at great personal risk and hardship, despite disadvantages
•whose current work would be significantly impacted by receiving the Award
•who would give inspiration to others around the country.

Last date: 15th March 2008
BHOPAL 462018.
PHONE: 0755-2747500
chingaritrust [aat] gmail [dhot] com

A community health educational poster used by Chingari Trust in their work with contamination affected children in Bhopal.

A previous post on Chingari is here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


a friend forwarded this to me ...

This poem was nominated by UN as the best poem of 2006, Written by an
African kid.

When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in Sun, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die, I still black

And you white fellow
When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die, you gray
And you calling me colored??

Sunday, February 17, 2008

urban thinking and the farmer

read this: The idiocy of urban thinking

wrote this---

Read Sagarika Ghose's article in HT dated 15-02-08 titled "The idiocy
of urban thinking".
Her point that several schemes (like the NREGA) are just saving the farmer
from the brink and not an inch more was spot on. Further, her question about
why should the farmer not migrate to urban centers was also very valid.
But her analysis based on these points is totally baffling.

She mentions 60% population accounts for 20% GDP and we should mimic
the Chinese model and move to manufacturing/producing goods.
While this might be rosy in theory, it is not clear how it will be practical.
First of all, what will we be producing and for which markets?
How will this ensure solving the poverty problem? There are studies which show
that income disparity in China has grown over the last couple of decades and
is increasing.

Even if we consider that employing large number of people in the
manufacturing sector is possible, what do we about the energy scarcity?
The rate at which urban centers are growing and the lack of basic energy needs
in rural areas, our energy needs are only set to increase. Coupled with our
rapidly shifting to a westernised/energy-intensive lifestyle and depleting
cheap energy sources, can we afford to add to this mix an additional

The next question is about our food security and that of liberalizing
the farm sector. If farmers are encouraged to migrate, who will
produce food? The in-vogue answer is of course, the corporates. Why are we so keen on
supporting a handful of rich companies and totally ignore 60% of our population?
Instead, Why can't we make sweeping policy changes that transform the
anachronistic, rustic farmer such that he becomes proud and self-sufficient in
his profession and the rest of us become proud of him rather than hold
on to some naive romantic notions of the Indian farmer? Is it not anachronistic
that agriculture as a profession should have a secondary status as compared to any other?
Yes, education and health must be provided to all, but why does that have to be connected to a choice to leave the land?

Why can't the choice of holding on to the land and working it be made
as attractive, by introducing incentives, schemes and innovations that will help the
farmer produce more and control his own destiny? This will not only help us with our
food security, but will ensure employment to a large section of the community and in
the near future, may be our only bet to slow-down our unrealistic energy demands.

-- Anjali Kanitkar, Puru Kulkarni

Thursday, January 31, 2008


17,060 is the number of farm suicides in 2006, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its report Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India.

P. Sainath writes about this here.
NCRB data record 1,66,304 farmers’ suicides in a decade since 1997.

Of these, 78,737 occurred between 1997 and 2001. The next five years — from 2002 to 2006 — proved worse, seeing 87,567 farmers take their own lives.

This means that on average, there has been one farmer’s suicide every 30 minutes since 2002.