The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- New realities in cricket have parallels beyond the field

Cricket-watchers all over the world cannot but feel sad. The doyen of British umpires, David Shepherd, that roly-poly man, neatly attired, a half-smile always on his lips, has announced his retirement. His last international match was the one-day international between Australia and England, held at the Oval on July 12. Shepherd was an extraordinary character, reminding everyone by his demeanour and bearing that cricket was once a sport intended to foster fellow-feeling and goodwill. As an umpire, he was friendly, at the same time severe, in the manner of an elderly uncle. Shepherd would ensure that the grammar of the game was meticulously followed, but there would always be a touch of mellow gentility in his approach. Cricket fans will greatly miss this civilized man, as they will also miss his little idiosyncrasies, such as his scrupulous ritual whenever the score reached a Nelson ' one hop at 111, two hops at 222 and so on.

That this cricket umpire, David Shepherd, was an unusual sort of person is confirmed by the views he has shared with the press on the occasion of his retirement. He refers to the transformation cricket and the role of umpires have undergone with the introduction of television technology. The third umpire, he readily admits, is now a pivotal figure in the case of tight decisions, supplementing the judgment of umpires in the field by revelations by the sophisticated camera. Cricket as a result has become a much more precise game. Shepherd however does not stop here. His next observations are full of import: 'The sad thing about it is of course only if a game is being televized do we have technology. There are thousands of umpires doing club cricket and first class games who don't have the benefit of that. So it's a bit ironic that the so-called elite are getting help where everyone else is not.'

These are marvellous words, forcing us to face a particular social reality not just in the arena of cricket, but about everywhere. The elite in all climes and in all societies seemingly receive the most attention. If you do not belong to that charmed circle, you fend for yourself, the blessings of technology remain beyond your reach.

The newspaper that carried Shepherd's interview had on the same day another news report on a different page. A state government in India, the report said, is immensely pleased with itself: the ongoing industrial projects in the state, involving an aggregate investment of Rs 1,400 crore, are to provide employment for 2,800 persons. This, in the view of the authorities, is a great achievement, promising a rosy picture of industrial growth in the state.

The industries the state government has chosen to highlight obviously belong to the orbit of highly capital-intensive technology, since for providing work for 2,800 workers, investment of the order of Rs 1,400 crore is called for. That is to say, to ensure work for just one unit of labour, it is necessary to invest a sum of Rs 50 lakh, or Rs 5 million.

Let us indulge in some crude arithmetic. The number of those registered with the employment registers in the state is around 5 million. Therefore, if the choice is limited to the high-level technology the authorities are gloating about, and if the entire load of the hitherto unemployed is to be provided with jobs, the total investment required would be Rs 2.5 trillion crore ' Rs 25,000,000,000,000. The state government's annual budget, though, wobbles around Rs 15,000 crore. In case the total number of unemployed labourers in the state are to be given work in industries marked by capital-intensity of the order just described, the amount needed would be yes, more than 150 crore times the size of the state's annual budget.

The absurdity does not lie in the arithmetic, but in the failure to acknowledge the implications of it. Transforming the economy of the state on the basis of the highfalutin' technology the state government is gloating over is a pipedream.

We immediately come to realize the wider relevance of David Shepherd's wise words. Given the class structure of society, the pressure will always be mounted by elite groups to have elitist types of investment, for instance, outlay in information technology. There is every possibility that investment in these privileged sectors will suck in nearly all the money the government has at its disposal. The inevitable will then take place. Only a handful will receive employment in the rarefied sectors, the vast majority of the state's unemployed and under-employed will be left to their own devices.

Societies vary in cultural mores, they are also at different stages of economic development. But the class reality remains unchanged in almost all cases: the elite groups always win, the humbler sections are invariably at the receiving ' that is, the non-receiving ' end.

Does it not mean that those who plan for the uplift of horrendously immiserized societies should go back to the drawing board' True, many of those saddled with the responsibility of shaping the growth process in regions such as the state we have in mind are under severe pressure. Because of historical circumstances, many of their neighbours are way ahead in the race for development. There is the crucial issue, in competitive democracy, of catching up with them, otherwise those in power in the state could be voted out by a disgruntled electorate in democratic elections. An additional consideration also looms. The state government concerned is in dire financial straits. It has been tutored by everybody around that, for accelerating growth, there is no alternative, but to depend on big rich investors, some from within the country, a vast number from overseas. These potential investors have their preferences in regard to both technology and products. They are not worried should there be at present no home market for the products they are investing in, they can sell elsewhere, including in other parts of the world. What they insist upon is quality, which can be ensured only by investment in high technology.

Since it is the epoch of dependent development, the local authorities are caught in a bind. They have to, they feel, please the private investors, including foreign ones, and bow down to the technological preferences expressed by the latter. Such technologies, they realize, will yield little employment. But beggars cannot be choosers. The state government therefore falls back on the clich' of a hope: the profits and the high wage-bill generated in the high-technology units will have a 'trickling down' effect, generating secondary income and employment in other sectors, from which fact those left out of the high-technology orbit will come to gain.

Do hopes of this nature have any basis' Those chalking up lush income from high-technology units will most of the time spend their money on the products of other high-technology units, unless they choose to do the bulk of their spending on foreign merchandise. In the globalized climate, the gorgeous income accruing to the lucky sectors of the economy tend to gush out; there is hardly any trickling-in inside the country.

So let us discard the stylized illusions. The overwhelming majority of the five million unemployed in the state ' for that matter, the 40 million unemployed in the entire country ' will not be bailed out by either sophisticated technology or investment flowing in from overseas. They will have to survive on their own wits. Some of them, let us be honest, will not survive.

David Shepherd cannot be more right: the elite get the attention in all walks of life, everyone else are supposed to practise abnegation. They actually have so little choice.

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