Cities are not just about rich or middle classes. It is estimated that majority of residents (> 60%) in our cities belong in poor or lower middle income groups. I was wondering if Lok Sabha 2009 has seen any promises that would influence the votes of this sizeable group?
Leaving aside the 2 Rs/Kg rice promises, how does a "minimum wage" implementation for urban areas look? Unorganized labour literally runs our cities. A lot of "goodies" of Indian urban living are argubaly built on the back of (sorry to use an old fashioned word) exploitation of low-skill workers. Urban middle class has unreasonable demands, like wanting to have a "clean, well bathed maid" every morning in the middle of central business district. How many of these unorganized sector workers have access to health benefits, or education assistance, or just working conditions (like say, leave on national holidays!?), leave aside access to clean water for taking bath everyday!?
A lot of above is justified today using the demand supply argument - working conditions, and the wages are determined by the market and supply conditions. But, are there are any bars and standards for the unreasonable competition for limited urban space and low cost resources that happens within this group? Programs like housing for economically weak sections (EWS) are launched only to be "misused" (because the EWS beneficiary sells his benefit at market price, and moves on to a newer hut).
What will provide equal opportunities to the workers within this group? That thing called BSUP (basic supplies to urban poor) ? More reliance on government's direct-delivery mechanisms, like those run-down government schools and hospitals? Or more money directly in their pockets?
Why not develop a system of "minimum wages in urban area" determined by certain acceptable set of living and affordability standards in a city?
Too drastic a thought? Or dangerous (because it will destroy the cost structure of our cities)? Or simply a stupid idea (too leftist, hard to implement and measure)? If I hire a domestic worker, maid, gardener, driver, security or whatever, should the state fix certain responsibilities on me? These could be in the form of mandatory health, education assisances, or simpler, just a "minimum wage".
Just testing this out here. And before you picture only your domestic helps, remember that Bangalore has about 2 lakh "security" guards, many of them making pittances (source: a TOI or DH article 3 months ago), and (my estimate) 50000+ "drivers" employed by residents, and 1 lakh+ domestic workers (another estimate).