Understanding how the poor actually help the rich to lead better lives

It is indeed a paradox. It cannot be understood without the keen observation of events in life. The paradox pertains to how the poor actually help the rich to lead far better lives. Some dimensions of the same, based on several realities of life in India, are sought to be discussed in some detail in this article.


Imagine life without our friendly neighborhood two-wheeler or car mechanics or sweepers. Imagine life without servant maids or electricians or plumbers or carpenters. Apart from their presence they also contribute to our economic well being. This might sound rather strange. But it is the actual truth.

Be that as it may, the process of how the poor actually help the rich to lead far better lives is centered around a) Cheap labor for a wide variety of services b) Benefits from Government decisions c) Benefits from Inflation related realities of life d) Exclusive services at cheap prices.

Cheap labor for a wide variety of services

Two months ago, this author was a witness an interesting conversation between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. The latter lived in Chennai and the former at Tiruchirapalli. She was married to the lady's eldest son who was a banker. The old lady remarked that her son "paid through his nose" for hiring a servant maid at Rs.3500/- for just washing the vessels and sweeping and swamping the house. The daughter-in-law kept mum. The husband of the old lady gently reminded her that without the servant maid she could not go to her "sloka" classes and make her periodic visits to the nearby temples with such ease. His reasoning was simple. Their son and wife together earned around a lakh and twenty thousand rupees. Hence the amount that they paid to the servant maid for her services was not much.

This is exactly the truth. We find time to do so many things only because of the poor. Why do the servant maids come to work at all? Even a casual survey would indicate that they have drunkard husbands who booze the stuff from the Government-controlled shops and spend as much as Rs.10,000 at 2019 prices. The servant maids are forced to work because of the irresponsible behavior of their husbands.

Since the servant maids do most of the work in the houses, the rich have plenty of time in their hands. The service cost of five hundred rupees that the rich get to pay for any service to the AC mechanic is not high at all for them.

Benefits from Government decisions

Some years ago, the Government of India gave an option to the rich to opt-out of the subsidy on cooking gas. Hundreds of thousands did. But an equal or if not more, have not done so and still enjoy the subsidies.

Now let us look at the larger realities. When one has good roads, good buses and good connectivity to many parts of the city or remote places people tend to enjoy the benefits in their own localities, since producers of all essential commodities tend to flock to areas where the sales is always good. Several years ago, the Government of Tamil Nadu, came out with a really good scheme. The farmers would bring their produce to a nearby market called "uzhavar sandhai" ( literally translates into a farmers market in English) and sell the products directly to the customers at cheap prices. The State Government also took the decision of making the bus fare-free for the farmers.

The scheme benefitted everyone, but the rich enjoyed the low prices that were actually forty percent lower than what obtained in the wholesale markets. Even today, fresh farm produce without any marketing cost to the producer is taken on mopeds and directly sold to the customers at cheap rates in hundreds of places in Tamil Nadu. This is made possible because of good road connectivity with even remote areas.

Cut to bus services. The Tamil Nadu State Government does give subsidies to the school and college students. Bus travel is generally free. The rich students also enjoy the same facility. There is another dimension as well. The State Government buses that ply to cities as far as six hundred kilometers from Chennai, provide the middle classes a viable alternative. The private omnibus operators cannot raise the fares beyond an additional Rs.300 for any trip, as there will be no takers. Hence the rich actually benefit from the relatively low fares of the State Government buses. They travel very comfortably in the AC buses. It is not that the fares do not shoot up during festival times. However, during normal times thanks to healthy competition from the Government buses, the private guys cannot charge more at all. This applies even to the Non-AC private buses. For example, during the post-Diwali rainy season, people tend to opt for the Government buses only and the fares are reportedly even now cheaper than comparable services in AP or Telangana. Bus fares in Chennai are even today cheaper than Bangalore. The rich actually get to use the bus services, particularly the reasonably-priced AC bus services. This could be the national pattern as well.

Benefits from Inflation related realities of life

The rich do not form the majority in India. However, they also consume the same products that are consumed by the middle-class and the poor. Consumption of biscuits is the best example. The huge middle-class and the poor are crushed during a slow down and a recession. However, when the biscuits do not get sold, the manufacturers are forced to give the 20% extra or the 30% extra for all packs. The rich spend less in the bargain. The middle-classes settle for biscuits in smaller packs and the poor also minimize their consumption. However, since the overrral demand is still less, the manufacturers cannot raise prices at will and the rich get to pay less.

The poor go the distant suburbs for housing. At least the basic housing. Due to the distance between the city center and the suburb, the rents are lower here. However, the middle class and the poor, who constitute the majority, actually contribute more to the lower rents, as during a slowdown, the rents cannot increase at all. Rents for good three-bedroom flats are lower too. It is in such flats that the rich stay and enjoy the lower rents. They can still drive to the city center in their cars.

The best example are the people staying in flats in the outskirts of Chennai. The rich drive down to malls nearby to do their shopping. From the same locality, middle-class travel by public transport to the same malls to do their shopping. However, in the deal, the rich actually gain. One is told that the situation at Mira Road or Dombivilli in Mumbai is similar. However, this author does not have the first-hand experience as he is yet to visit the metro for two years now.

Such examples abound. In the smaller towns of Tamil Nadu like Tiruvannamalai where there is a good Government hospital, the poor and a good percentage of the middle class go to this hospital for the treatment of ailments like typhoid. The private doctors cannot go beyond Rs.150 for their professional charges. The rich would hence benefit from this low professional charge of the private doctor.

Exclusive services at cheap prices

The NRIs, who actually earn upwards of the equivalent of Rs.10 lakh rupees in dollars every month, have their parents taking care of their houses in cities like Coimbatore. Highly trustful caretakers who are taken on rolls through reference and good background checks are made available through agencies for Rs.15,000 per month with free food and accommodation. This is very reasonable as the price is still Rs.500 per day only. The caretaker does the cooking too in most cases. Such services to take care of the old are now available everywhere. The rich derive the maximum benefit as the Indian money is very less when compared to their earnings abroad. Even creche services are relatively cheap in most places.


Lets face the reality. The poor will continue to remain poor for now, thanks to the horrible inflation. However, they always contribute to the well being of the rich and whatever has been explained in the aforesaid paragraphs is only indicative and not exhaustive. The examples abound everywhere. Hence the poor actually help the rich lead far better lives at all times.


Author: Wilson K. Mathew03 Nov 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 2

The poorer sections are giving great assistance to the free and majestic life of the rich. This system existed in India even thousands of years ago. This has changed slightly in some sections, but given the current situation, a radical change is not possible.

The current position is the difference between the economically forward and the backward classes. Thus economic inequality is the main reason for this phenomenon.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao13 Nov 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

Overpopulation, less availability and more demand for jobs, lack of awareness are the main reasons for this. In India, we have the government policies all these days made the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. The gap between the rich and the poor has increased. Many poor people don't know what they are entitled and people who have good knowledge of these benefits are enjoying the benefits again and again.

I agree with the author that the poor are making the lives of the rich easy and comfortable. These days we get people for each and every service activity at a very affordable and reasonable cost.

The main issue behind all this is how to bring down the gap between the well to do and the others. The persons at the top should think about this issue and see that accumulation of wealth with a few is to be stopped.

Author: Sheo Shankar Jha17 Nov 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

The poor cannot exist unless there is a class to support this deprived section of people. The rich are the employers of the poor, though they get immense help from such sections in different forms. All the services rendered by them enhance the comfort of the richer class at nominal prices. The rich would not mind sparing a little amount for indispensable service of the poor class but the poor cannot pull on their lives without the support of the richer class. In fact, it is a two-way game where both are benefited. The rich, too, would enjoy the concession of fares what the poor are getting in Chennai or elsewhere. Such a balance would distort if either of the two is in diminishing stage. In fact, an equilibrium is required for the safe existence of this bondage. The author has incorporated the vital points benefiting both the classes. The article appears to be quite informative.

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