Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why the Indian poor is poor - NEP and the Indian poor

This is part of a longer article I wrote and blogged here :

The downside of the NEP partly contributed to the current socio-economic problem in the country. Read the following ...

In a country like ours, instead of the various departments or divisions we can cluster the groupings and individuals into the following depending which methodology we want to choose and work with.

RACE - The usual approach – the various races or ethnic groupings. It is very important that each group is moving and achieving at the same pace and no one and no group is left behind.

STATE – each state from Perlis to Sabah must not be left behind.

LOCATION – urban versus non- urban. The divide and quality of life must not be too far off.

SOCIAL CLASS – the haves and have-nots. The rich cannot be too rich and the poor too poor.

The NEP as a ‘Group to group’ action plan

No group must be left behind and none should get more (perceived or real). Failing which we will lose balance and brew trouble. That is why we must support affirmative actions. Affirmative action is like the CEO chasing and making sure the slower departments catch up with the rest. BN’s answer was the NEP and that was the job of the NEP; to reorganize society equitably. It is unfortunate that it was seen more from a politically raced tainted angle by most Malaysians instead of an organizational need. At the implementation level too, it was wrongly carried out as a racial policy by many officers.

However, the NEP was probably one of the most successful affirmative action taken by a government in modern times. We need to just tweak it here and there to make it a super success. Going against the NEP wholesale as Anwar is suggesting is counterproductive. The Malays and Bumiputra rightly or wrongly may perceive that they may lose in the future. That may create unrest.

I am not saying the NEP is without any flaws.Let me give you an example; let us use the RACE and LOCATION methodology. I would like to focus on the Indian poor (RACE) who resides in the urban (LOCATION) area.

The mistake happens on both sides, poor understanding of the Indian ethnic groupings and failure to detail urban poverty in greater degree. My organization’s Deepavali advert in 2006 discussed this concern.

“Imagine … Affirmative action for the urban poor.The flight to urban areas in search of employment present humanity with a new challenge — urban poverty.

Across the globe, particularly in emerging nations, cities become centres where the poor seek a better life only to find crime, drugs, broken families, juvenile delinquency, and despair.

The dilemma of the urban poor is that, even when they work hard and long, they are unable to make a decent living.

In Malaysia urban poverty affects all ethnic groups but the massive movement from kampongs and rubber estates poses a bigger challenge amongst Malays and Indians, with the latter experiencing the highest rate of urbanization.When plantations close down or crops change, many workers are forced to seek employment in cities.

Some displaced plantation workers are so totally uprooted, they do not have a hometown to go back to.Most have little education and lack skills. They get poor paying dead-end jobs that are dangerous and difficult, with no legal protection. Often there is little or no community support system and suicide rates are high.

This socio-economic background often means shoddy homes and inadequate educational support. Which translates to children underperforming in schools and high drop-out rates, which in turn affects future employment prospects. Unless things change, the vicious cycle continues.

The challenge for us as Malaysians is to ensure that no segment amongst us is neglected. We are all brothers and sisters. We need to look at problems affecting a community not as that particular community’s problems, because we all share the burden as a nation.

We succeeded in dealing with rural poverty through affirmative action. We can do the same for our urban poor. We have the resources, technology, know-how, experience, creativity and talent. We need to open our hearts and focus our will and take action.

We can do it!Imagine you and I... changing the world for the better!

Here the NEP is flawed in two ways.Firstly, we grouped Indians as one ethnic grouping as we did the Chinese, Malays and the other Bumiputras. Many non Indians do not understand Indians. That is why the Perak MB can make a simple mistake thinking a Punjabi is a Benggali.

The Indians are not one, not in India and definitely not here, not in history nor the present. Malaysian Indians are more ONE as a Malaysian as compared as Indians. I know this because I have many Indian friends and thank God for growing up in Penang! For instance you will find there are more inter race marriage between an Indian and non Indian as compared to intra-Indian ones.

Basically, if you are a Gujerati and you bring back a Tamilian partner to show your parents or vice versa, your mother may just go into conniption or drama (sorry my Indian brothers and sisters, you know what I am talking about, though now many parents are loosening their grip a little… especially if you are already 30+ and still single… ha!ha!).

By grouping all Indians into one group, we mistakenly aggregated mostly poor Tamilians and mostly richer non-Tamilians into one economic grouping thus creating a wrong picture in terms of per capita income for poorer Indians. (Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there are no rich Tamilians and no poor non Tamilian Indians).

The net effect is that the real poor Indians failed to be detected in the poverty radar.

This lead to the second flaw; by location. The NEP place more attention to the rural poor. Thus, they face a double whammy. Furthermore, unlike our Bumi brothers and sisters who have easier access to government jobs and zakat- baitulmal, our Indian brethren does not. Here is where the Government must play the role of protector of the group and administer direct assistance and thus balanced off the ‘group to group’ imbalance. During a talk presented at Gerakan last year I suggested that if the BN fail to quickly deal with the Indian poor, they will take drastic actions, a few months later the infamous HINDRAF march took place.

... and the rest is still unfolding ....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We should not leave out the natives of Sabah & Sarawak and the orang asli of peninsular M'sia as well. They are the original bumiputras but they hardly progress and most still living in poverty. They hardly receive any benefits from the NEP or the government. Loggers are exploiting them & taking their land away and nobody cares.

It's unfair that the NEP only helps one race. It's time to revise the NEP as it's no longer relevant. In fact, it has become a vehicle for exploitation.