The Game Changers 2000 | 2009

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Photo: Sohrab Hura

Push For The Poor

The NREGA, which guarantees 100 days of work a year to unskilled rural labourers, is the world’s largest social security net

THE ONLY PUNCTUATION in a decade of market euphoria, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is a revolutionary piece of legislation that promises to change the game for India’s poor. Just over four years since it was enacted, NREGA, which put the Congress back in power for a second term, is slowly but surely changing the rural landscape. The 100- days-a-year guaranteed employment at assured minimum wages to unskilled manual labourers is touted as the answer for sustainable development of the rural economy. Never in 60 years of Independence has a government scheme offered the poor a livelihood security of this kind. And with the sixth Pay Commission (mostly) taking care of the wage disparities of the armed forces, should we say “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” once more?

Photo: Atul Kumar

Eating Out

No longer a rare self-indulgence, eating out now takes the second biggest bite out of the metro Indian’s budget

IN 2003 THE average Indian ate out only 2.3 times a month but five years later the average Indian was eating out a minimum of six times a month. The rising number of working women and single people is an easy demographic explanation for the finer diner. But in big and small metros, eating out is, sadly, also becoming the only entertainment, emptying pockets as it fills cultural and social vacuums.

Photo: Sohrab Hura

She, Interrupted

A declining infant sex ratio reinforces the chauvinistic society that is its cause

A 2007 UNICEF report revealed that 80 percent of India’s districts have recorded a declining child sex ratio since 1991. Punjab ranked lowest. In 2001, it recorded a child sex ratio of 798 girls for every 1,000 boys. Haryana followed with 819 girls for every 1,000 boys. Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal also fared poorly. Even a metropolis like Bengaluru in 2001 produced a dismal figure of just 811 girls for every 1,000 boys. This changing demographic pattern endangers the potential efficacy of measures like a Women’s Reservation Bill, as the populace which elects our governments and participates in public processes becomes even more man-heavy.

Terror Fictions

Horrific blasts demonised a community, bringing India to the brink

THE APOCALYPTIC 9/11 attack, followed by a series of devastating blasts in India spawned the idea of the ubiquitous “Muslim terrorist”. Propelled by George Bush’s polarising rhetoric, the idea imbued old, latent Indian prejudices with new, angry breath. All pretence at liberal secularism was dropped. Hundreds of young Muslim boys were arrested and tortured; an entire community was alienated. The idea of India as a tolerant rainbow nation was stood on its head.

Low Cost, No Gain

The common man’s dream turned into aviation’s financial nightmare

BUDGET AIRLINES became the darling of the middle class in the last decade, airlifting them to newer vistas and opportunities. But even as Captain Gopinath’s Air Deccan merged with Kingfisher Airlines and Air Sahara with Jet Airways, low-cost operations for most airlines continued to bleed deeper into the red.

Photo: Sohrab Hura

Creditworthy

Micro-loans to poor rural women became a bankable idea

BANKING MET development in a decade that saw rural women organise themselves through microfinance institutions into bankable self-help groups. With a repayment rate in the high 90s and given the growth of MFIs, extending credit to the poor has caught the attention of mainstream banks as a legitimate business proposition.

Photo: Vijay Pandey

Ethnic Industry

Block print chic becomes a Multi-Crore business

FABINDIA STORES mushroomed to 109 locations, from Panchkula to Thrissur. The socially and environmentally conscious elite urbanite may be Fabindia’s prime consumer — given the rising prices — but its success (Rs 300 crore sales in 2008) spawned imitations catering to everyone, from the Lajpat Nagar aunty and college student to the Sabyasachi lovers, for whom Fabindia is the equivalent of what McDonald’s is to the foodie – déclassé and mass market.

Desi Blogger

Since 2006, 1, 56,000 people have visited Kima’s blog. you can read his – or start your own

KIMA IS 29, a copywriter. He attends a Mizo church in Malabar Hill and will explain to you what social meaning is unpacked when a northeasterner says he lives in Mumbai’s Kalina area. He is a keen commentator on racism, politics and Mizo culture and went as far as the finals of a VJ hunt for a Tamil music channel. On desi blogs like Kima’s Illusionaire you can find wit and insight on complex subcultures. Or wait a long, long time for our literature, cinema or the media to bring it to you.

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