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Pennywise Pound Foolish

Isn’t it strange – and even unconscionable – to begin bargaining for a rupee or two with a vegetable/fruit vendor selling his stuff on a roadside cart! Contrast this with the act of shopping in a mall where, for instance, the food court quotes and extracts a price for its food items which is exirbitant and obscenely high. The same customer who higgle haggles over pennies with the vegetable vendor gleefully buys and pays ‘through his nose’ as it were, but would never ever dare to complain of the sky-high prices as applicable in the food court, or else he would be bundled out of the mall. Doesn’t that fit the description of being Pennywise pound foolish?

A somewhat similar spectacle has been in witness in the Kashmir valley in recent weeks on account of the most inclement weather conditions which have led to an epidemic of sorts involving massive disruption of electric and water supply across most parts of the valley. Engaging the services of an electrician or a plumber to help restore these services has not been easy, thanks to the heavy demand on their services. The issue has been further complicated by the fact that the charges levied by them in return for offering their ‘skilled services’ are being seen as exorbitantly high which may surely be beyond the ordinary means of most of the customers.

Come to think of it, it’s part of the human psychology – and a pathological one at that – to lord over the weak and the dispossessed while bowing acquiescence to the high and mighty.

The point I wish to make is this: if indeed it may be difficult for some to pay for these ‘life-saving’ services, why should those who can afford, choose to be stingy in respect of those who are called upon to restore these services in the midst of what indeed are extremely hostile and life-threatening weather conditions. I guess it’s equally unconscionable to bargain for lesser service charges from those whose very livelihood depends upon what we as customers are supposed to dole out to them in return for their services. After all, they belong to the unorganised service sector which forms the backbone of the ‘system’ responsible for restoring these vital services in the god-forsaken valley. Here it should serve to bear in mind that redressal of these issues at the level of the administration has all along been a non-starter, hence the dependence on private services!

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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Written by M A Sofi