Tag Archives: poverty

The case of the disappearing workers

In today’s morning paper (The Hindu again), I read something that really shocked me.

In a nutshell: There is a shopping mall tower being built about a mile or so from here. It is a prominent feature of the skyline if I stand on the roof of our house and look towards the East. Yesterday, there was a construction accident when a portion of an upper floor collapsed, triggering a World Trade Center style cascading pancake. Luckily, nobody was killed, but several individuals were injured.

And then they disappeared.

That is right, the company, Prestige Group, a prominent property developer here in Bangalore actually hid the injured workers from the media and police. They claim that all of the workers were given outpatient treatment and then released.

That is simply mind boggling.

In America or Europe, the company’s PR machine would be kicking into overdrive right now, but they would not dare interfere with a police investigation. This would get the CEO of the company sent to jail on obstruction of justice charges and would forever tarnish the company’s reputation. Somehow, the fact that they did this seems to indicate that they feel that there will no repercussions.

So let me say it:

Dear Prestige Group, you disgust me!

Daniela and I have agreed not to go shopping there when it is finished.

A Quandry

The spheres that our lives intersect here could not be more different. The lives of our fellow expats, those of middle class indians and those of the working class indians who cook, clean and drive could be on different planets.

We hired a maid. Her name is Hazel. She is an elderly widow and as her name suggests, she is an Anglo Indian. Something surprised me on her first day. Monday, she asked if I could forward her 200 rupees for the week and dock it from her pay.

Sir, I was unemployed for six months and money to buy food is a problem.

I did not have 200 rupees, so I had to go to the cash machine. Afterwards I gave her a 500 rupee note and I won’t be docking her pay. She had gone shopping that day with Wrenzo to get buckets, detergent, etc. so that she could do her job. That evening, Daniela told me that during the drive home, Wrenzo told her that she had not eaten that morning and that he had bought her lunch. Putting two and two together, we were shocked. This is something that I’ve never actually seen. Tuesday, I asked both Wrenzo and Hazel and the answer was unanimous; she simply did not have time on Monday morning. I’m dubious. She spent 1600 rupees that day on cleaning agents and gear. It makes me feel funny that she was spending this money on buckets and detergent when she is apparently counting individual rupees at home.

Tuesday, I sent her out with Wrenzo to go shopping and stock up things she liked to eat for lunch, so that she at least eats lunch. We are paying for her commuting costs and the consultant who found her for us regarded her salary as very generous for a maid here.

The real question is how to make sure that she is taken care of. I know that I won’t get a straight answer out of her. Wrenzo is going to take her home one day to check on where she lives. Beyond that, we’re just going to have to play it by ear and see what we need to do.