Introduction Yes, it happens. Somebody's loss is somebody's gain in life. It is a fact of life. This becomes all the more obvious when all people compete to buy the same resources and only some can afford to buy them and also buy them. This leaves the others very little choice -- buy very small quantities of the same resources, particularly the "can't be avoided" resources. The simplest example. In big cities like Bangalore and Chennai, there has emerged a big purchasing class consisting of highly paid IT professionals who earn upwards of over Rs.80,000 per month. They live in fairly good gated communities and the fancy supermarkets emerge within a one-kilometer radius to service this same target population. Result? The shopkeepers hike up the prices of all essential commodities like fruits, groceries, eggs, and vegetables. Those who live some two kilometers away are forced to buy the same at high prices. A clear example of somebody's loss. The pinch is felt by those with low incomes. For them, the high cost is a loss. For the IT crowd and the business crowd, life is not affected at all.
Be that as it may, this loss and the gain game become more serious and dangerous at higher levels and bigger levels. This is particularly relevant in a) Government contracts for public projects b) Dowry menace in marriages c) Prices of rented accommodation d) Exclusive markets for the rich e) New wave costly markets f) Industries that completely spoil the environment and g) What can be done to minimize damage?
Government contracts for public projects It is not rocket science at all. It is an open secret. The size of the loot varies from State to State. But the fact of the matter is that the loot happens. The contractors having connections with the ruling party or belonging to the ruling party bag all the PWD contracts. These contractors get to pay the Government officials and the concerned ministers, at least thirty to even thirty-five percent of the cost. The Government money thus goes as corruption -- in cash, as black money to the Government officials. The ministers get their cut too. They gain a lot. But this gain leads to a big loss for the common man. Very poor quality of roads or drainages or even water taps is there for all to experience, day in and day out. Bring up this topic and pat comes to the regular chant: please tell me, who is not corrupt? It is a way of life and we better live with it". We have accepted it as a way of life. This somebody's loss is somebody's gain happens again and again in every such contract.
Dowry menace in marriages Dowry is asked for and also given. The poor man on the side of the girl might face problems, but this is a "given". In certain communities like the Nadar community of Tamil Nadu, on the day of the marriage, one will really wonder how the poor bride is able to bear the huge burden of wearing all the jewelry. It is in the public domain that the girl gets to wear as many as 100 sovereigns of gold !! A classic case of somebody's loss and somebody's gain. There is a big economic angle to it. The jewelry fellow is very happy since there is a big "demand". The bridegroom and his family are so happy that the girl comes with such a huge property. Even if the jewelry sleeps in the bank lockers, the fact of the matter is that the entire cost of dowry is borne by the father of the bride. This game goes on and on in life.
Prices of rented accommodation Who loses out when the prices of rented accommodation keep on increasing in the heart of the city? Obviously those with lesser incomes. Who gains? Yes, the homeowners and those who pay for it. For example, the central government staff is always a very happy lot. The Government of India keeps them so happy with the DA increases and the cost of living is never an issue. If they are not given Government accommodation, they are happy to pay the increased rents in the post localities. The lower and those in the middle of the spectrum of the middle class, necessarily go further and further from the heart of the city and settle down in the suburbs. Over a period of time, the cost of living increases here too. The merry go round of high cost of living is a big fact of life for those who lose out on the "somebody's loss is somebody's gain". In fact, there are a huge number of married bachelors in Mumbai, who cannot afford the high cost of accommodation. Their families get to live in their own houses elsewhere, and even in the small towns. The children also get to live there.
Exclusive markets for the rich The costliest of goods sold in the shopping malls are those reserved only for the super-rich. On the other hand, the loss is in terms of the emotional trauma of many a middle-class parent, who would either have to at least do some shopping in these environs to keep up with the trend and satisfy their children or spend money in other ways. Parents who would otherwise not even see the inside of the huge shopping malls spend huge amounts on watching the movies in the multiplexes and then the "eating outs" that pinch their purses. They do not have any choice and have to somehow satisfy today's young generation. Those who cannot afford the cost at all hear all the insults in many cases. The children sometimes even abuse fathers as "being useless". This is because they get to see other richer fathers spend the money on the fanciest items. This game goes on and on without a full stop.
New wave costly marketsBeing a very strict vegetarian, this author does not know anything about KFC. Except that this is a growing market in Chennai, and at least ten of his closest friends happily feast on whatever is available. His technical knowledge is zero. Yet, the sociological implications are huge. In one slightly not-so-well-to-do family, this author was aghast when both his daughter aged 14 and son aged 12 were furious when he turned down their proposal to visit a nearby outlet. They said that their friends had told them that some item ( this author is still not able to understand what it means) is "simply superb". Advise from the mother did not help. The poor man, who had spent a huge amount on his ailing father, had to shell out the Rs. 850 for the parcel from the KFC outlet. Even this amount was a burden in the third week of the month. But the children were furious. They simply said, "we want it". This happened in a fairly good middle-class locality called Madipakkam in South Chennai. The loss to the hapless father and the emotional feeling of helplessness was so sad. Yet, it happened. It turned out that the mother was too good and would adjust to any situation. But thanks to the environment around them, the children would not compromise at all. This happens again and again in so many families. What happens if they cannot afford the cost? Wherever the children understand the difficulties of the parents, there is no problem. The item of expenditure does not occur at all. For example, even Ola autos are not used. It is only the city buses. ( the fares have increased here too) .
Industries that completely spoil the environment Closure of the Sterlite Plant at Tuticorin, after a bitter shoot out one year ago, is still fresh in the minds of the public. The disastrous proposal to have a fresh Salem to Chennai highway is as stupid as it gets. Entire stretches of fertile farmland giving livelihood to thousands are sought to be acquired. The people are very unhappy and do not think that the project is required at all. Yet, such projects are done causing big damage to the environment. Lakes are completely encroached by greedy contractors and houses are built. Even fifteen storied flats and apartments follow. The result is that rainwater cannot be stored and the water problem becomes a severe problem in such areas. There are hundreds of industries that are built on very fertile farmlands. The farmers are made to live on a pittance.
What can be done to minimize damage? Social action is called for. Massive protests of people, involving hundreds of thousands of them, will have some effect. Though the State does take to the extreme form of oppression like the police firing at Tuticorin, this does not happen so often. People taking to the streets to protest can always bring about some big change. For example, women have protested in thousands and forced the TASMAC shops to close down in several parts of Tamil Nadu, as these shops were got up near schools and colleges and even residential areas. There is no alternative to public protest.
Conclusion It is one thing to understand social phenomena. It is quite another to do something to reduce the magnitude of the problem when the problem is related to thousands of families in society. The fight against the environmentally dangerous industries should never stop. It is always a work in progress.
A very thoughtful article, barring the barter system of exchange, if we have to gain something, somebody has to lose.
But how much we gain or how much we lose can be controlled to a certain extent. I feel we ourselves are one of the reasons for creating this problem to a certain extent.
For instance, most of us flock to the new swanky cinema multiplexes and hence the traditional theatres are out of business or in the process of being closed down. Right from the price of the tickets and the food items, everything is very expensive and we end up losing our money because of a trend/problem that we created in the first instance.
The same with 'high-class private schools' the demand or the obsession with a popular private school is so much that schools get away with charging exorbitant donations and fees. We grumble but yet do not find a solution to cut our losses.
The other examples of contracts, dowry, industries etc are all problems wherein we people lose and also have to be blamed for being a party to creating the problem or allowing the problem to grow unchecked. So, yes we cannot change this concept of somebody's gain is somebody's loss but we can mitigate it by being united, questioning existing practices and developing checks in the system that restricts the gain and the loss to manageable figures.