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Apropos of your cover story Inside Slave City (Apr 23), restricting the problem to the middle class alone is like taking down easy targets. The class above the middle can afford iron curtains: they are the ones who don’t even hesitate to kill and dump their hapless servants. Such brown sahebs are aplenty. And what about the landed jagirdars, the fake babas, the unscrupulous industrialists etc who specialise in ‘bonded labour’? It’s a fact of life, we Indians excel at exploiting the weak and the poor. When I see these ladies shouting on TV about “soft” subjects like maids, I get the feeling they are the worst exploiters. For they cannot do without their maids, and they probably haggle over each penny that they pay them.
M.L. Gupta, Delhi
Homo hierarchus, as Dumont puts it, that is what we Indians are. No amount of patriotic outrage can absolve us of this charge. As Dr Ambedkar pointed out, the utter lack of equality is the Great Tradition of India.
It’s part of the Indian character, we have no compassion, nor do we value human life as such. And anyway, we have that biggest shield, religion, working for us.
Kel Shorey, Glasgow
There is something rotten in the heart of our middle class. On my India visits, I generally try to minimise my contact with this so-called educated lot. I prefer the rickshawallahs, boatmen etc, they are much more genuine.
Pradip Singh, Stafford, UK
It’s the absence of an institutional mechanism to regulate the activities of these ‘placement agencies’ which has led us to this pass. Combined with our dunderhead social welfare boards and the hafta police, it’s a recipe for disaster.
A.K. Saxena, Delhi
You guys are always on this high pedestal. I’d like to know how the domestic helps working in the homes of various Outlook staffers are faring. Are they treated fairly, are they paid adequately, do they get vacations and casual leave?
Just goes to show we are a dog-eat-lesser dog society. The netas and the elite exploit the middle classes, they in turn wreak havoc on the less fortunate. The irony is that during the Raj when bonded labour had official sanction, the Brits still treated Indians better than how 21st century desis treat their countrymen today.
Pankaj Vaishnavi, London
This is a manifestation of how we are evolving as ‘modern people’, living in luxury at the cost of fellow humans. Cannibals don’t turn modern just by using forks and spoons.
A. Sharma, Thakurdwara, HP
As someone working in the field of bonded labour, I am glad for the article. It spoke to the heart of the issue—workers must enjoy every right granted to citizens and laws must ensure they are protected from such brutal injustice.
I wonder if it’s simply the case that such outrage now has a chance of getting media attention whereas 25 years ago it wouldn’t have gotten a second look. Also, is a gender factor working here? Poor women have fewer job opportunities and are hence more vulnerable to domestic abuse.
Vivek S., New Haven, US
Our society is not led by right, but by might. We are not civilised enough for Edgar Allen Poe’s dictum, “Fearless to the strong, humble to the weak”.
V. Tholibangan, on e-mail
Your story was excellent, we at Nirmana salute you for this coverage. To be frank, we had tears in our eyes.
Subhash Bhatnagar, Delhi
I don’t think there exists another culture so capable of discrimination as our “5,000-year-old legacy”. That said, it’s now a pan-South Asian thing, cutting across all barriers—anyone who has the remotest chance to create a hierarchy, even if for a fleeting moment, does so and discriminates on that basis, even if for a moment in time.
Arun M., Bangalore
Our maid’s four-year-old son who studies in a Colaba school (which was visited by US president Obama and his wife) just brought his report card. A score of 96%. Everything else may remain unequal, but give a child a good education and he’ll get an equal shot at life.
Ashok Lal, Mumbai