Saturday, January 5, 2008

Gurus and the hungry

Will someone tell me what spiritualism is? I have not been able to understand. The gurus, they call spiritual leaders, talk only of stress managemant, various aasanas and deep breathing called ‘pranayam’.
I read an article ‘twist of faith’, relating question answer session between a spiritual guru and his followers. I quote Edward Luce: “Someone asked how she could truly know she was a good person. “You don’t need to be sweetie sweetie, goodie goodie all the time,” said guruji. The audience broke into delighted laughter. Puzzled, I looked around to see hundreds of shining eyes and ecstatic expressions. The next question, which came by email and was read out by one of his followers ended with: “I love you so much guruji.” Someone asked about whether it was always wrong to pay bribes. “You shouldn’t be too idealistic all the time,” he said. “Sometimes you have to make little, little compromises,” he added. Again, the audience erupted in laughter. I was beginning to wonder about the Art of Living’s breathing techniques”.
Is this spirituality? A guru should teach morals. Answers given by the guru encourage wrong doings.
Muslims, who call themselves practicing Muslims, do all those rituals such as prayers, fasting and paying ‘zakat’ once a year. A large part of Quran deals with egalitarianism. Exploitation and profiteering is a sin. But the mullahs are satisfied if the Muslims pray and fast. Infact religion is what you do after you leave the prayer hall. A true Muslim is one who before doing anything asks himself, “ Will my action have the approval of Allah?”
Spirituality, if it means peace and satisfaction with oneself, is social justice. Gurus (sunni Muslims do not have gurus) and Shia Muslim gurus have a large following, which they can utilise for harmony in society. Imams, who lead prayes for Sunni Muslims should also emphasise the sins of profiteering and exploitation in their weekly sermons.
A large majority of Indians are poor and cannot afford basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing (roti, kapada aur makan). Not that the poor do not work. Poverty is not because of unemployment. In many families almost all the members work including children. But they continue to live in poverty. Children distribue newspapers, milk, work in garages and retaurants. Still they are hungry and ill clad.
“One of the most important causes of mass poverty is that a large proportion of workers get inadequate income or wages for their work. A family remains poor even when two persons in a family of six are working. People who work should get at least that much income with which they can purchase all the basic goods and services required for a dignified human existence for themselves and their dependent family members”. Writes Jasvir Singh, an economist. He further says, “ People are poor despite being in work. According to the 2001 Census, there were 402 million workers in a total population of 1,027 million, or a work participation rate (WPR) of 39 per cent, which cannot be said to be low”.
Now to aggravate the situation the government has decided to abolish child labour, without any consideration of ground realities. If a person can earn enough to support a wife and two children giving them basic necessities of living, he will not send his children for work. Problem is not unemployment. Problem is of wages. Even the daily wage fixed by the Government does not give a man enough purchasing power for basic requirements of life for three people. Wages should be fixed to take care of basic needs of workers. In the unorganised sector even minimum wages are not paid. In organised sector many services have been privatised. The contractor does not pay what he shows as having paid. If the problem of wages is solved no parents will send their children for work. No legislation can work with our greedy and self-centered middle class. Most of the working population is in unorganised sector and the wages they get are are far below the existance level of a family of four. In the case of rural workers the condition is still worse. How much do the landlords pay them? Do the agricultural lords, who are exempted from income tax, pay their workers enough to buy their daily requirements?
The gurus with their following can teach the exploiters to pay wages that can take care of needs of the poor.

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