Monday, June 30, 2008

Supriya at Fifty

Supriya Moitro is a girl born in a well to do Bengali civil servant family in Gorakhpur in 1935. She grows up in Moradabad and then goes to college in Allahabad. Against mild parental unease she then moves to Delhi to study for her MA in Hindi. Their unease is partly because of the daughter leaving home and partly that she should have chosen to study Hindi, a language generally looked down upon by the Bengali educated classes. From there Supriya moves to Aligarh where she joins as a lecturer in Hindi and where the first bend in the river occurs. Supriya falls in love with Ashok Dixit, a colleague and a non Bengali. Her parents come rushing down mortified at the thought of their daughter’s cross cultural marriage but return with a reluctant blessing.

Shortly after they get married, they move to the United Sates and effectively settle down there, though they will never admit that truth to themselves. Their only son Subodh knows no other home but the US and on their increasingly infrequent visits to Kolkata, he is distinctly uncomfortable. Not that Supriya herself is very comfortable. Each visit to Kolkata finds her retired parents, older, greyer and frailer and less able to cope for themselves. Though Supriya has a sister and other family, each visit leaves her groping with guilt about the choices she and her husband have made.

Time goes on, Subodh finishes high school and goes on to University. On one of his phone calls, he announces that he is bringing his fiancée Janet home (Oh mom, we met at grad school!). Supriya and her husband grapple with the same perplexity and unease they had gifted their parents all those years ago. Supriya at fifty is the semi autobiographical reminiscence of Prasenjit Gupta masking as a short story through the persona of Supriya looking back on her life on her fiftieth birthday. Gupta is a Delhi University graduate now living and writing from Iowa. Through the character of Supriya, he asks many questions about identity that continually confronts people who have left their roots behind and attempts some answers.

The results for third culture people are mixed. As Supriya would recall, as a Bengali brought up in UP and later settled in the US, she was well versed in three languages: Bengali, Hindi and English: she was as comfortable reading Tagore as with Premchand or later Shakespeare or Wilt Whitman. Quite an accomplishment considering most of her erudite friends and those of her husband knew one language only – English and nothing more. It is possible for her to be equally at home in different parts of the globe without any discomfort ; in her campus apartment in the American university as in the gullys of Uttar Pradesh or the decaying bungalow of her father in Kolkata and that was more than could be said of her son, who had never been to the small towns of UP and found even a week in his grand parent’s house too suffocating.

Yet Supriya realized, she truly fitted nowhere. She lived in the US and yet she was not quite American. In the early years, her husband had encouraged her to switch from saree to skirt but she had demurred. She spoke English fluently and yet taught Hindi in the local university and cooked Bengali food like Doi Mach or mocha ghonto at home. She and her husband had so wanted to find a nice Bengali girl for their son before he surprised them so. Christmas meant nothing to her and yet she felt so nostalgic at the time of Pujo, the Bengali festival corresponding to Dusshera when the whole of Kolkata would dance with delight.

There is a certain intangible part of humanity that is associated with one’s own soil, culture and norms that is irretrievably lost as one moves to be a citizen of the world from being the native of a town. The process is enriching, yet the loss of what might have been, the friendships that might have been cultivated that have been lost, the bonds that have shrunk because distance and geography played their part, the opportunities that have been gained and the opportunities that have been lost all come together in one giddy cocktail. As Supriya would put it “ …her experiences, her culture, her traditions have dissipated themselves in three different ponds, whereas if all her life had been spent in one language, think how large a lake it would be, how deep, how profound ,with all the consecrated wisdom of her ancestors…”.

On the whole, life has been good to her. She has had a good husband, a good son and is on her way to have a good daughter in law for after the initial misgivings, they have grown to be fond of the girl their son would marry and who has gone to great length to accommodate and adjust to her fiancée’s parents. But in reverse, she has been away in the pivotal moments of her family’s happenings in Kolkata, there is a very obvious disconnect that she experiences as soon as she lands in Kolkata. People have married, have had children, the children have in turn married, the older uncles and aunts whom she knew and loved have gradually passed on and to the new generation, she is just another aunty from far away who comes now and then but will never be in any sense ever a part of their lives.

So much has been gained because of the choices that she has made and yet so much has also been irretrievably lost that Supriya at fifty. Half a century into her life she can no longer draw any conclusions. She decides that she will live that for posterity to judge and hopes that she will not be found wanting.

Killed by Inflation

One can meet more people these days at weddings and funerals than at any other place. A couple of months ago, attending the wedding of a niece, I heard the story about one of my aunts. She had been invited to the wedding but was unwell. So she had sent her two sons to attend the wedding on her behalf –with a letter. The letter came with an intriguing stipulation – that it had to be handed to the bride’s mother – her sister-in-law or to the bride herself and no one else. The two sons who made a somewhat hurried exit from the wedding left the letter with the bride’s mother as they hurried out. They stayed quite a distance from the wedding venue and had to return.

In the busyness of the wedding, the letter remained unopened. The wedding guests departed slowly one by one and the letter remained buried in the purse where it was randomly tucked in on the wedding night. There it remained until the news arrived a few weeks later of the death of the aunt in question. At that point, memories were juggled and someone remembered the forgotten letter and after a lengthy search, the letter was finally found and read.

To say that the contents of the letter shell shocked my middle class family is to put it relatively mildly. For in that final letter, my departed aunt, unable to come herself to the wedding and meet anyone had poured her heart out in a letter which she had obviously hoped would be read in her lifetime.

My aunt’s letter described the effects of inflation far better than an economist would be able to, for if inflation is a pandemic, a contagion, then my aunt was one of those felled by it, much as dengue or cerebral malaria or cholera might claim its victims. She described in detail how the modest poultry business her two sons were running for a few years was ruined, first by the onset of bird flu and then the subsequent panic leading to reduced demand in the city. Just when they were beginning to recover and get back on their feet again, inflation began rising and once again the demand failed.

The only steady income in the family was a meager family pension due to my aunt on account of her late husband’s government service. Of late, it was not just the only steady income; it was the only income with her sons’ business in liquidation. The family was faced with a Hobson’s choice - was the pension money to be used to buy provisions and groceries for the family or to buy medicines for my aunt’s several age related ailments.

The decision was made more complex by the fact that the meager family pension would continue only as long as she lived but she finally cast the die and decided that she would wither away so that her sons could live as the little pension money would not allow her to buy any medicines after the groceries were bought. A couple of months later, she was dead. Unlike the many farmers in Maharashtra and else where who need to commit suicide when life becomes unlivable, she was spared that expense. Crude oil prices set somewhere in the New York Stock Exchange and the spiraling inflation took care of that.

Inflation has always been presented to us in newspapers and business media as an economic phenomenon. All the inflation-related fire fighting has been done by macro-economic bodies like the Reserve Bank whose tools are graphs, tables, prediction and politically-laced policy inputs. But these erudite economists need to know that while globally, inflation may be studied as an economic phenomenon, in India’s huts and homes, it is a rapidly spreading infection and potentially fatal among the particularly vulnerable.

In the absence of a prescription, the casualties are rising.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Xenpphobia and the Kingdom of Night

Over the last week or so, I have been tracking several articles about the “outsiders” and the hostility surrounding them. Maharashtra of course has been of course very prominently covered, because of the ranting of the Thackerays. But of course Maharashtra is not the only state in the country plagued by xenophobia – it just so happens that every one has their correspondent stationed there and so what happens there gets around faster. But this trait of us vs them is every where. In Manipur. In parts of West Bengal. The rabidly ethnic Amra Bangali and Kannada Chalvali and many more of the kind.

Somehow in India things do not reach extremes – they get sorted out along the way but if any one wants to know the logical direction that these quasi fascist movements take, then they ought to pick up Ellie Wiesel’s riveting book Night. Of course, there are many, many books written on the holocaust – The Diary of Anne Frank being one of the most famous but Night is different because the author survived to not just retell a story but also be a prophetic voice into the future – for which he received the Nobel Peace prize in 1986.

Wiesel was first ghettoized and then deported along with his family from Hungary to Germany where he was separated from his mother and three sisters as men and women were separated. He and his father stayed together and survived for a while before age, deprivation and the sub human living conditions felled the father. Watching his father die before his eyes and watching other sons betray their fathers in a dog eat dog environment scarred him forever.

When the ethnic cleansing of the Jews began in Hungary, Wiesel and his family as well most other Jews are in denial that any thing more drastic than some minor harassment will ever take place. Wiesel remembers asking his father “Can this be true ? This is the twentieth century, not the middle ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed ? How could the world remain silent ?”

Well the twentieth century came and went and many other episodes of ethnic cleansing and genocide came and went – Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia. These are of course the more well documented ones. There are numerous other hot spots of a smaller scale and many within our country. Although we have crossed the calendar into the twenty first century, it is still possible to ask in Wiesel’s child like fashion as to whether any acts spurred by anger or bitterness or hatred that make less than half a column’s worth of news will lead to any thing more.

Most of us believe that responding to what happens when a group of people in one part of the country act and believe that those others who are different from them are migrants and infiltrators or “unwanted” by one or the other name, the responsibility for action lies with the government and a bunch of professional human rights groups like PUCL. Such an attitude is common as most of us do not know what to do and how to get involved and some times as these issues are politically tinged, we want to be extra cautious.

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel recounted how surviving the holocaust forever changed his view of life. He says that after the war was over and he was finally released, he swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. He emphatically says that “ We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented….”

Looking at my own apathy and the apathy of most people around me, I wonder if the principal problem for most of us is that we have not been victims – yet and so we know nothing of the psyche of the wounded. The sufficiently insulated lives that we lead, kind of ensure that we remain protected. and as yet Elie Wiesel discovered, assurances can be misleading and walls and barricades can be broken.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dil Chahta Hai : What the Heart Desires

Sometimes it is good to go and see a movie after the dust has settled, after the reviews have been written, the awards given out and the box office, the critics and the movie going public have all given their verdict. Then one can view a movie for what it is really is – shorn of the promos and the marketing blitz and the commercial hype surrounding it. Then you can watch it stripped to the bare bones and compare it with life and assess – does the story match up, or does it not?

So it was interesting to watch Dil Chahta Hai in 2008, seven years after the now iconic film was released and ask : is it real or surreal ? Does friendship last, blossom and flourish and sustain as it did in the case of Akash, Sameer and Siddharth or is it all a myth to be savored for a couple of hours in a dark theater and then forgotten amidst the “strategic alliances” of the real world?

I have some friendships that go back close to a quarter of a century which is quite a bit of time. Those relationships could have vaporized at any point over this time, considering that none of us live in small towns where you would always bump into each other. No , we have all changed jobs, changed cities, gone through different life stages like marriage, children and all that – quite like the shifts and tornados in the lives of Akash, Sameer and Siddharth – and yes, deliberately I am identifying with the nameless characters of the film than with the rather celebrity names who acted out the roles.

But longevity of a friendship means nothing if the sap has dried out and that is where I feel a tinge of envy, when I think of the three friends of Dil Chahta Hai. There is this scene which I will long remember – the three are in Goa in their care free college days and then some years later, near the end of the film, they are there again – now with their wives – no, Akash and Sameer with their wives; Sid, the artist has just lost his muse and his love to liver cirrhosis. Between the two trips so much has happened and yet nothing seems to have happened; the bonding is stronger than steel and no storm is strong enough to blow those bonds away.

There are friendships which time does not wither. Some people you meet after years, decades even , having kept in touch in the interim through letters or phone calls or may be today through Facebook or Orkut. Some times, not even that. Then destiny enables you to connect physically and it is as it always was. The hair may be greyer and the girth wider but the warmth and the love and the trust has only taken deeper roots like a wizened banyan tree- a bit uncouth may be but utterly trust worthy like a Rock of Gibraltar when the storms hit.

Then there are friendships where the form remains but the substance if not completely gone , is but a pale shadow of its former shelf. Stiff formality and decorum takes the place where the draught of laughter and freedom blew hither and thither like the unbound wind. Appearances are scrupulously kept up, because that is all that is often left. Conflicts never happen in these kinds of relationships because the foundations are too shallow for the appearances and decorum to hold if some thing were to give and so we take every precaution to ensure that appearances hold up. I envy the friendship of Akash, Sameer and Siddharth because it was not about keeping up appearances ; it was about real bonding; bonding of the kind that can withstand storms. Withstand change. Withstand conflict. Withstand every thing that life can throw at you. I wish that I had more of those kind of friends and I wish too that I were more of that kind ofa friend. That is what the heart truly desires – in every heartbeat; everywhere.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Doctor on Top

The more the doctors in india lose their sheen and their once revered status with increasing drops in ethics and rampant commercialization, the more the doctors want to assert in their own clumsy way that they are on top of the health care hierarchy. The move of the government to consider exploring the possibility of upgrading physiotherapy from a paramedical discipline to an independent system of medicine has piqued doctors that “lowly para medicals” should be treated as any where even near the medical professionals.

The caste system in the medical profession is as strongly entrenched as any other caste system in India and far more difficult to eradicate than any formal caste distinctions. This is the case even though in Europe, especially the UK from where we have borrowed most of our social norms, things have changed a great deal and doctors there no longer assume airs. But in India, doctors have continued to reign as deities treading rough shod over allied health professionals – be it nurses or others.

This kind of attitude has led to the further decline in the quality of health care in India. With little social status, nurses and other para medical professionals are migrating in droves to greener pasture. According to the Indian Nursing Council (INC), there were over 1.28 million registered and qualified nurses in India in 2002. Earlier, a sizeable number of them headed out to the countries in the Middle East, but now its Europe which has woken up to give them a red carpet welcome.

Nursing actually has a low status in India, where deep-rooted cultural and religious practices identify nurses’ labour as “dirty” and “polluted.” Although nurses’ economic independence empowers them individually, culturally prescribed, gendered, and class-based practices in India overshadow these women’s transformations. In contrast, in the US nurses gain autonomy, and consequently challenge gender and class norms both within the family and within society.

And yet of course, most of us would have had experience that demonstrates that doctors; they are any kind of gods at all, are fallen gods, having sold their souls and prescription pads to pharmaceutical companies who spend on an average Rs. 7000.00 per doctor with gifts ranging from television sets and refrigerators and going on to cruises and foreign tours as per the data compiled by the Voluntary Health Association of India. Also the resistance put up by the medical profession when the doctors were put under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act by claiming that theirs was a “specialized” field which others could not understand or comprehend. Of course it is not my case that doctors are the only arrogant profession, but being one myself it does feel odd knowing that many of the so called demigods in the profession actually have clay feet in many skeletons in many cupboards.

The way to go would be to deglamorize the medical profession and demystify health care as health care activists like those from the Medico Friend Circle, a body which includes many doctors is trying to do. They have tried ton develop alternatives in the form of community health projects with efforts at demystifying medical technology, rational and low cost therapeutics, and training of non-literate village level workers to provide primary level health care. Some have pursued the path of what came to be known as “people’s participation”, which ranged from encouraging the community to contribute towards the services provided, to getting them to select village level workers. But then traversing the path less traveled has a cost to pay, as one such counter current doctor , Binayak Sen discovered. A doctor cum human rights activist, he marched to the drum of a different drummer and for his pains is now languishing in a Chattisgarh jail for more than a year while his other well heeled colleagues in the profession live life king size.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Money : Giving it All Away

Those who work in the charity sector have a lot to do with donors and typically one comes across one of two types : the obnoxious kind who makes it very clear from the first encounter that they see the charity worker and his agency as nothing more than a glorified beggar. Often this kind is usually not even dealing or handing out his own money. He or she is more likely to be some technical minion for a face less multi lateral or bilateral entity but looking at the airs that the workers put on, one could be excused for assuming that that they are actually reaching into their pockets and purses and making grants.

The other kind is the old style philanthropist – the one who actually gives out his own cash and sees himself as a partner in the whole exercise. Such donors see themselves as partners and catalysts in a much larger vision in which the agency is on the ground is the pivotal player and all others including themselves as ancillary services supporting the hard work on the ground. The first kind of donor may be more professional in their approach, but perhaps it is the second kind who invests a charitable entity with passion, zest and energy that bureaucratic processes can never deliver, no matter how efficient the number crunching. This piece is a sketch of one such philanthropist and how it made a difference and whether we in India will get to the point where philanthropy not only becomes a way of life and people no longer flaunt their wealth but create examples that are worthy of emulation.

Tom White is a devout Catholic and a World War II veteran who returned from the war to inherit his father’s heavy machinery and construction business in the United States and over time made a lot of money. That was in the late 40s. Since then over the next 55 years, Tom White has given away $75 million, pretty much all of his assets. At 84, the construction millionaire has given away his fortune. If he has his way, he’ll be down to his last quarter when he draws his last breath. He has supported more than 100 causes over the years, but his biggest gift by far has gone to Partners in Health, the program made famous last year with the publication of Tracy Kidder’s book “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” As Time Magazine which declared him as the philanthropist of the year in 2001, what set Tom White apart from the other givers like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or the others is that most” big givers don’t start redistributing their loot until they have made a pile, and many generous magnates, like Turner and Bill Gates, remain very rich even after they have made headlines for their charity.”

The gross inequities in the distribution of wealth in the world and especially among the poor challenged Tom White, relatively less wealthy man compared to the 4 billionaires from India in the latest Forbes’ top 10 billionaires list and the 53 over all billionaires from India in the list of the word’s 1000 richest people. A lot of the social sector work that the government should be doing for its citizens does not get done because our government’s spending priorities are skewed towards national security. India’s defence budget is 960 billion rupees (£12bn) compared with 150.2bn rupees (£1.9bn) for health and 330bn rupees (£4bn) for education - considerably less than the pledged 6 per cent of GDP. With the kind of wealth that now resides in Indian hands, it is embarrassing to say the least that a significant part of the money that supplements the government efforts comes from abroad. Foreign contributions and donations to scores of Indian voluntary organizations, religious groups and charitable institutions every year touch nearly Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion). Indian philanthropists are badly needed if we are to ever reduce this dependence. But do we have any Tom Whites among us ?

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Lumpenization of Power

Two separate incidents occurred over the last few days where the Press was intimidated. The profiles of the two cases are quite interesting. In the first instance, a case of sedition was filed by the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner against a journalist from the Times of India.. The provocation was a series of articles that the newspaper ran, alleging links between the city police chief and a former underworld don. As the news blew up into a major storm, the Gujarat police leadership distanced itself from the action of its own police chief in Ahmedabad, stating that the act of filing an FIR against the TOI journalists was his own independent decision.

It is a shabby display of power of the grossest kind that a policeman can independently decide to book journalists for sedition because they have written things that he did not want to hear. Would a private citizen have this kind of facility? Of course not. Even assuming that the journalists did write some thing objectionable, there is a clear conflict of interest in a situation where an aggrieved public servant instead of referring the matter to his superiors for action, chooses to file a criminal case to defend him. Besides a layman’s reading of the Indian Police Code does not indicate that Section 124 has got any thing to do with writing articles in newspapers as such.

The other case is of a type that we are of course becoming increasingly familiar with. A newspaper decides to write about an iconic figure and all manner of rage is stirred up, all in the name of “hurt sensibilities” or “a spontaneous response” by aggrieved people. In this particular instance, the Marathi newspaper “Loksatta” from the Indian Express group had editorially commented on the decision of the State government to put up a statue of Shivaji in the Arabian Sea- a statue that in its size, is supposed to surpass the Statue of Liberty. For his efforts, the editor had his house vandalized and copies of the newspaper were burnt at his doorstep. Incidentally the paper made had no comments at all on the persona of Shivaji or his rule – all known to be potentially inflammatory material. All that the paper had said was that the present government was trying to gain shallow political mileage by putting up statues.

An obscurantist mob and the public servant of a democratic state should have little in common with each other. But these two fringes of society – the State with all its lordly élan and dignity and the lumpen elements with in society with no other intellectual pretensions except the intelligence of a mob have both used power to further their own ends. The elite as in the case of the Police Commissioner dug up provisions of the law to silence opponents as in the case of the journalists or in the case of the human rights activist and doctor Binayak Sen who has been held without charges for more than a year in Chattisgarh for alleged links with Maoists. The lumpen mobsters lacked the sanitizing wand of the law and used naked displays of muscle and violence to get their way. But either way, the blatant intolerance of dissent and its suppression through any means available is despicable.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fat Police and Lithe Hostesses

If any definitive evidence was ever needed about the existence of overt, not covert patriarchy in the workplace was ever needed, the Delhi High Court has provided the same. The recent Delhi High Court decision to disallow the appeal of the air hostesses of Air India and Indian that their being grounded on account of being overweight was illegal should spark off some debate on the need for fitness as a criteria for employment – fitness in the medical sense as well as here in the case of the air hostesses on aesthetic grounds. This is because, typically in india , the only profession where fitness is really insisted upon is the Armed Forces – soldiers and officers who are medically unfit are routinely discharged and the practice is fairly well entrenched.

It may perhaps be argued that fitness is more important in some professions than in others and this could be true. But one still wonders if this is another subtle manifestation of the patriarchal streak in Indian society that lays over emphasis on a woman’s beauty and physical attributes than on her effectiveness and capability at work. Of course, if one looks at the letter of the judgment, the Court only emphasizes the obvious – it was written into the contracts of the air hostesses that they would be required to remain slim and trim and the airlines management is merely enforcing the contract. In fact till 1970, the retirement age of air-hostess in Air India was 30 and married women were not allowed to serve as hostess. Currently women are put to pasture by being assigned ground duties at the age of 50, while the male cabin crew can fly till they retire.

If there were not evidence enough, look at this. One place where the fitness factor is most critical but is often ignored is our police force. The police force in Karnataka, Chandigarh, Maharastra, and Punjab at the very least seem to have problems with fitness, obesity and alcoholism though I am sure these state polices are by no means the exception. In fact, we of late have become so fixated with the odd, glamorous encounter specialist that we seem to have forgotten that the fat, obese policeman armed with a stick and huffing after the culprit who has been caricatured plenty of time before I countless Hindi films is really the norm. This is even other wise a common enough sight in urban policing.

Now I am no feminist in any way, but on reading the news about the air hostesses, I could not help feel that contractual obligations in employment seem to be enforced some what selectively in the land. At a time, when terrorist attacks; big or small are becoming so common, the emphasis ought to have been on ensuring that the existing police forces are strong, not just in numbers and weaponry but on fitness too. After all after every such attack, there is a hue and cry about the number of lives lost and the amount of property damaged. And yet, there seems to be no hurry any where to enforce fitness obligations and ”ground” fat and obese police men, the way a bunch of air hostesses are being grounded. I mean, look at it this way – between an overweight air hostess and an overweight policeman, who would be a bigger liability in their job setting ? The answer should be obvious.

Builders' Banditry

Some time back some of us looking to buy property in Delhi, made a round of Dwarka, the only place in the city where we had some hope of buying property within our means. Although the place is filled with flats –occupied and unoccupied, it was nearly impossible to identify any property based on newspaper advertisements. So we did the next best thing, approached property dealers- and Dwarka has more property dealers it would seem than any other kind of shops. But though we wore out our foot wear visiting their dinghy offices, we could not identify one dealer, who would be willing to complete a transaction without accepting a portion of the payment in cash which would not accounted for. Partly constrained by our principles and partly by our purse for we could get a loan only on the declared value of the property, we gave up the chase after a while. None of us still own any property ; at least not in Delhi.

The sight of the uncouth and decidedly unprofessionally attired and ill mannered persona of those manning these “offices” and their equally loud and garish office décor should have alerted us that we were not dealing with any one acquainted in the least with real estate or property matters but with goons and thugs. But it did not. In fact it is the newspapers that have alerted me to this fact. The constant stream of news connecting property dealers with killing and murders is too obvious to ignore. The news of an NRI investor being duped of his property by a land mafia is just one more story in a long line of stories which connects dubious property dealers with crime and greed. A couple of months ago, the television channel CNN-IBN had done a sting operation aimed at restoring another property that had been ‘captured” from the owner by the local land mafia.

Scarcely a day passes when one does not find some property dealer or the other accused in some murder or extortion or other kind of deception. Recently one of the high profile cases involving a property dealer was that of Gurgaon property dealer Vijay Bharadwaj confessing to the killing of a Assistant Commissioner of Police in the Delhi Police. The shortage of land in the National Capital Region, particularly Delhi, the long connection between land, muscle power and greed and the fact that profession is still unregulated and is entirely in the unorganized sector has meant that chaos has ruled in the profession. In Delhi’s urban villages, where municipal zoning rules do not apply, all one needs to set up shop as a real estate agent is a rickety table and chair put with a ceiling fan droning lazily and a small television set perched up to help the attendant pass time as he waits for clients.

The government has for long pondered about regulating and licensing the capital intensive industry- at least in Delhi and the NCR region where the nexus between builders, property dealers and land grabbers seems particularly rampant. The Real Estate Management Regulation & Control Bill is maeant to license builders and property dealers and has provisions for penal action and includes even cancellation of license to operate, among several other stringent measures for those found guilty of flouting the norms. However will the bill be ever introduced in reality ? Or if ever introduced, will it ever be passed ? Remember the fate of the Womens’ Reservations Bill ? It took forever to be introduced and now that it is introduced , it is languishing in benign purgatory as vested interests try their best to scuttle it. The builder property dealer lobby may be less loud but no less effective in scuttling bills that are inconvenient. Meanwhile the pillaging and plunder will unfortunately continue !