Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The tragedy of BIMARU

My last post had started by my referring to the BIMARU States. The great Wikipedia informs us that BIMARU is an acronym formed from the first letters of the names of the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. It was coined by Ashish Bose a demographer in the mid-1980s when he wrote a paper for Rajiv Gandhi. Later, Orissa was added, and, the acronym became BIMAROU. BIMARU has a resemblance to a Hindi word "Bimar" which means sick. This was used to refer to the poor economic conditions within those states.

Over the past few weeks I have been reading columns written by Manish Sabharwal in the Indian Express. Sabharwal is the promoter and CEO of TeamLease a company that is listed on the NSE. I have extracted a paragraph from the TeamLease website, which, best describes what TeamLease does.

It is a one-stop provider of human resources services to various industries and diverse functional roles, offering staffing, payroll processing, recruitment, compliance and training services. TeamLease set in motion the larger company mission of ‘Putting India to Work’ by focusing on its vision of 3 E’s – Employment, Employability and Education. 

The Company in partnership with the Government of Gujarat, set up TeamLease Skills University (TLSU), India’s first vocational university, at Vadodara. In FY2015, TeamLease rolled out NETAP (National Employability through Apprenticeship Program) to provide on-the-job training to apprentices. The company at present has over 170,000 associates/trainees spread across the country and has till date given employment to 1.6+ million people with an aim to hire millions more.  

This is most impressive. Sabharwal himself has impeccable educational credentials culminating with a degree from Wharton. Being the Founder and CEO of TeamLease, I believe Sabharwal knows what he is talking about.

Now, however you look at it, the BIMARU States are, shall we say, backward. Their chief ministers are not awe inspiring by any stretch of the imagination. You have such worthies as Yogi Adityanath, Laloo Prasad, Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Charan Singh, N D Tewari, Rabri Devi, V P Singh and so on who have been Chief Ministers of the BIMARU States. I believe none of the chief ministers have contributed to raising standards in the BIMARU States even close to as much as standards have been raised in most other Indian States. What do I mean by standards? The basic stuff, education, healthcare, employment, female infanticide, law and order, raising of agrarian indicators to state a few.

I must point out that all BIMARU Chief Misters, irrespective of their political affiliation are simply of a mediaeval, traditional, archaic, antediluvian, call it what you like, mindset. Every political party is guilty, without exception. Even V P Singh, who was an economic reformer, was so out of date that he introduced the Mandal reforms. So terrible were these that there were riots in the country and V P Singh was voted out.

Just for those who may not have been around, the Mandal Commission was established on 1 January 1979 by the government under Prime Minister Charan Singh with a mandate to "identify the socially or educationally backward classes" of India. You will no doubt recall that Charan Singh is a worthy who was also the UP Chief Minister. The Commission formulated the concept of Other Backward Classes [OBC] and recommended reservations of 49% of the seats in Universities for OBC’s Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.  

Just how disastrous this path i.e. the non upliftment of the BIMARU States has been was brought into very sharp focus when I read Sabharwal. His ability to keep matters simple, not pontificate, and, make a point lucidly without criticizing, is refreshing.

Sabharwal points out that there is a great need for the youth in the country to learn English as it’s a hugely important vocational skill. We all know that there is huge migration from the BIMARU States to the larger cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Obviously, this is caused by having little or no employment opportunities in the BIMARU States. He cites the example of a migrant who is comfortable with English. This person as a security guard could easily handle the office reception desk at lunch time. How many times have we seen this. Thus, though he is a security guard, his knowing English could fetch him a wage that is more than 100% higher than a non-English speaking security guard. Similarly, a driver who can read a Google Map [Uber Ola] earns much more as opposed to a kali peeli driver. Take the case of a mason or plumber who can use WhatsApp whether in English or a local language. Sabharwal goes on to write that a migrant from UP without the English language skills will get a salary of Rs 8000/- as a packer or loader while a migrant from the North East would get Rs. 20,000/- because they start in the office.

This disparity, dear readers, is lifelong. Imagine the knock-on effects for the next generation. The loaders child will be so disadvantaged as compared to the North East migrant’s child who is brought up with so much more money and a different outlook to life. To push the point a little more, in all probability Mrs. North East will also be working earning a similar wage. Mrs. UP will probably not be working at all consequent to the social mores, education and so on. Now think again of how the children will develop.

While all this is happening, do remember that the BIMARU States have the highest population, highest fertility rates, below national average literacy and highest corruption. A truly deadly cocktail.

Just this made me scratch my head and comprehend how utterly correct Sabharwal is. How often we have seen watchmen at receptions? How much hospitality i.e. front of house in a restaurant is from the Seven Sister States. How often have we seen masons taking photos on their phones and sending them by WhatsApp to their contractors? This has become de rigueur. I believe that what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just the smart set that reach Mumbai, Delhi and so on. I guess that there are lakhs still struggling not knowing English or even having what are today basic skills.

The continuing march of the computer, whether as a smart phone, or a handheld device that a Blue Dart delivery boy uses, or a POS machine at a shop is unstoppable. And, all these devices use English as an interface. As I write, I appreciate how all pervasive the need for English is.

The point I am making is that because of the fact that the BIMARU States operate at a different level, they have fallen behind and will continue to fall way behind. For the reasons I have stated in the preceding paragraphs, the gap will only increase. With the persistent agenda of promoting Hinduism, Nationalism, Ram Temple, Morality and what not, it is the people in the BIMARU States who are simply being bypassed. Of course, ironically, the BIMARU States with their huge populations give us our governments. Its democracy at work, unfortunately. We all know that “Convent Education” has been a massive boost to all of us. It is just in the last decade or so that newer “secular” schools have really come into their own. By persecuting Christian Missionaries, especially in the BIMARU States, they are effectively cutting their noses to spite their faces. How many schools imparting English skills are going to be set up in these states is anybody’s guess. I believe it will be miniscule when compared to non BIMARU States.

Take another aspect. Utterly horrifying at many levels.

After years of wooing investment, Bihar managed to convince Carlsberg to set up a greenfield state of the art brewery in Bihar at a cost of USD 25 Million. Soon after it was set up, the Chief Minister another very worthy – Nitish Kumar – became a champion of prohibition and the plant has shut down. Mind you prohibition was implemented in April 2016 by the then JD(U)-RJD-Congress “Maha Gatbandhan” or ‘grand alliance’ government. United Breweries and Diageo are facing a similar problem in Bihar. We all know the terrible effects of unemployment.

Fine, so there is prohibition in Bihar, but, now brace yourself. According to reports, a disproportionate percentage of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBC’s are in jail for offences relation to prohibition. To clarify, if the percentage of OBC’s in Bihar is say 15% of the population, the OBC’s comprise of 30% of the people jailed for violating prohibition. I find this mind fucking on so many levels.

Honestly, in Mumbai, do we care or even know if someone is a SC or ST or an OBC. Is the waiter in a restaurant distinguishable and do we care or ask or check his CV to ascertain if he is an OBC? Secondly, how are such records even maintained by jail staff? So, if you are jailed are you supposed to say Hindu, Brahmin or Parsi or Muslim Shia? Is this for real? I can understand in the USA describing an individual as Caucasian or Hispanic or Black but caste? On the other hand, we all read of the horrific crimes taking place in the BIMARU States – rapes, killings, khaap killings, lynching’s for carrying beef and so on. No arrests are made. But as far as prohibition is concerned, thousands are jailed. Boggles my mind honestly.

But then I comfort myself by working out in my head – BIMARU.

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