Towards less and less
If each of us spends less, we can afford to earn less, which will reduce the cost of living and enable the poor to live in dignity, suggests Suma Varughese
One of my more audacious dreams is that mankind will evolve in the next few decades to a phase when we will consciously take home decrements instead of increments every year. This means, with each successive year, we make less than the previous year. This may sound like rank madness but humour me out a little. Have you ever wondered what lies behind the relentless rise in the cost of living? Scarcity of resources is part of it, but the larger part can be attributed to human greed, which is limitless. So whether you are part of a corporate organisation or of the management of a large hospital, a builder, architect, lawyer, or CA, you charge as much as people are willing to pay.
A cousin of mine, who worked for a large corporate hospital, told me of a doctor who was dismissed because she had discharged some of her dengue patients who had recovered. This was against the hospital’s policy to retain patients for as long as they could.
Can we blame the hospital altogether? After all, they have paid crores to the builder for the premises and spent crores for their machinery as well. Unless they unscrupulously bleed the public white, they face bankruptcy. What has created such a terrible catch-22? The greed of the builders, the greed of the manufacturers of the machinery, perhaps the greed of the management to amass more, and the greed of the consulting doctors.
Take schools as another example. There was a time when school fees were little or nothing, and of course, school teachers earned little or nothing. Today, school fees have spiralled beyond recognition, particularly in English medium schools, into which every parent aspires to admit their children. My maid has put her two young boys into an English medium school. She pays Rs 700 for each of them, and an additional Rs 700 each for their tuitions. We are not even talking about uniforms, books, and other expenses. She earns about Rs 10,000 a month. Can she really afford to spend a third of her income on the children’s education? Moreover, the schools put up their fees arbitrarily any time they please, forcing parents to scramble for funds.
In all this frantic climbing up the money pole, it is those at the bottom who get knocked off. They are simply unable to find the means to feed and clothe the family or educate their kids. No matter how fast they run, they can never seem to outpace the cruel cost of living.
That is, unless each of us voluntarily opts out of this collective mania for more and more, and limits our expenses. When we do that, we can limit our income too. When enough of us do this, the cost of living will have to come down. If builders, doctors, corporates, CAs, schools, and so on, charge less and less, we can actually look forward to a time when prices everywhere will come down so much that even the poorest of the poor can live in dignity.
Isn’t that worth striving for? How do we begin? With you and me.
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