Mumbai, Dec. 17: The forecast is not very sunny for low- and middle-income groups.
A survey that spanned nearly 1,000 homes across Mumbai and its outskirts suggests that stress, mainly because of financial instability and insecurity, is making families fight more, with couples ready to separate at the slightest provocation.
The survey, carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences along with the department of urban and rural community development, focuses on the broader paradigm of good living, while underlining issues like hope, disillusionment, environment, family assets and the quality and quantity of food consumed.
The data, collected from 994 households, takes as its research peg the falling employment rate, rising prices and the general economic downslide.
The research concludes that family tensions are on the rise because of growing unemployment, which leads to increased pressures on families to make ends meet.
“There are more quarrels and there is more irritability between couples,” the report says, and adds that “older couples are feeling more burdened because of the dependence on them by their married sons”.
The survey also says a whopping 78 per cent still use public toilets and points out, rather poignantly, that 96 per cent rate the humble and ubiquitous ceiling fan as their most prized possession.
But for S.M. Parab, the report is an “understatement”. Parab, who was retrenched by Mahindra and Mahindra, ekes out a living by running a “mobile” consultancy firm called Tarth that talks people into investing in cheap property.
“You see there,” Parab says, pointing at the slums lining Elphinstone, “I would be there had it not been for my wife’s teaching job. I was asked to leave after working for 16 years with Mahindra. Whatever little I got as my dues, I invested in a house. Now, I am a door-to-door salesman.”
For all the talk of optimism by finance minister Jaswant Singh and visions of India as the next Asian tiger, the view down below is quite morbid. “If I don’t work 16 hours a day, I will probably have to beg to continue my daughter’s education,” Parab says. “Most of our earning goes on paying off the mortgage for our house.”
The study says quality of life is declining due to these economic pressures. And, as things stand, women face the brunt of it all “because both the son and the husband bring home their frustrations and misery”.
The report also comes as a slap on the face of the government’s healthcare system. It found that even those earning about Rs 3,000 a month prefer to go to a private clinic instead of “wasting” their time in public health institutions.
The biggest culprits, of course, were the long wait to see the doctor, careless hospital staff and lack of proper and adequate medicine.
Children, it seems, are generally underfed with “highly inadequate calorie intakes”.
As for Parab, until something drastic happens with the economy, he seems destined to survive on the fringes of a so-called genteel society, fighting with his wife and wallowing in depression.