A couple of days ago, Prime Minister Modi had made a remark about a person being employed if he sells pakodas and earns Rs. 200 a day. The opposition raised a storm over it with protests in front of the BJP office at some places and Twitter trends like Ineedajob. The former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram even went on to say that if selling pakodas is a job, then even begging is job. Hardik Patel took a dig at the Prime Minister by saying that a chaiwala can only recommend selling pakodas.
There were some strong retorts from the people who knew the importance of small scale business for the economy and the significance of being self reliant. But the strongest retort to the opposition’s belittling of the job of street vendor came from a vada pav seller who has pledged a day’s earning for the welfare of the army.
Magnesh Ahiwale, a vada pav seller from Mumbai has pledged to give his one day earnings to Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the welfare of Army Men. For this, Magnesh decided to sell vada pav at more than 60% cheaper rate so that more people can buy the vada pav and contribute their bit. He said that he took this decision after he realized that the Army Men who guard the nation, the year round are remembered only on 26th January and 15th August.
The opposition which refused to accept street vending as a source of employment till about a few days ago should get their lessons now. The Congress party has always been ignorant to the needs and the potential of the unorganized sector. As a result of which, we do not have formal labour laws, we do not have proper mechanisms to for the betterment of the informal sector and the people in the unorganized sector have suffered while the government has refused to even acknowledge the worth of their work.
This indifference towards the informal sector was also evident from the lack of financial support or regulatory mechanisms for handicrafts and cottage industries. Many of these small scale industries have either shut down or are in shambles and the people have been forced to move to cities and look for low paying jobs, thereby increasing the burden on the state in some cases.
The narrow concept of employment that the Congress party has long followed and has ingrained in the psyche of the average Indian has been challenged by this move of the vada pav seller who gave his day’s earning to the army welfare which no average earning guy working in glass offices in fancy MNCs has done. This, albeit only narrowly, reflects the strength and potential of the informal sector which needs to be made stronger and more viable.
The Modi government has probably realized the significance of this untapped resource and with schemes like MUDRA these small and micro businesses are being empowered. This will probably and hopefully also help in removing the shame that has been associated for so long with small business and the glam and glitter of the glass buildings and corporate culture will fade a bit. If a vada pav seller can do something that a corporate sector educated employee cannot, then something somewhere needs to change and this change needs to come about sooner than later.
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