November 13, 2006

The Creamy Layer Below the Poverty Line

Ghost cows, spooky bridges, invisible factories, virtual farmers, and now it appears that there may be ghost proletariat, too. Well, to be precise, in this case it is really not a ghost, but a live minister in the state of - yup, it's Bihar, India, again. Apparently, Baidyanath Prasad Mahto, the state's rural development minister, who admittedly owns, "a pucca house, a jeep, and also farmland (how many acres, may we ask?)", was shocked to find his name in the list of those who are below the poverty line in his native village, Pakadia. The list, it may be noted in passing, was prepared under the supervision of the honorable minister.

I am reminded of this exchange between Rick and Captain Renault from Casablanca, when Renault orders the closure of Rick's Café:

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]

Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.

[aloud]

Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!

The minister has said that an inquiry ordered by him yesterday found that his name was 'inadvertently' included in the list.

Ahhm, the rational fool wonders if this might have anything to do with the move to redefine the "creamy layer", after the recent verdict by the Supreme Court of India against job reservation for the creamy layer, and the ensuing protests in Bihar.

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