Tag Archives: wealth

Dalit Manual Scavengers

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer… (listen at 47 min 13 sec)

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey complaining about the “youth of today”, I often get the feeling that my students have no idea just how lucky they have it. That said, I too am generally blithely aware of just how easy I myself have it.

Having listened to this interview, I cannot help but contrast my own life circumstances with that of India’s Dalit population: those born into the untouchable caste, destined to a lifetime of hardship and discrimination. The interviewer talks with a Dalit lady named Lakshmi, who makes her living by emptying human waste from non-flushing toilets. In the course of her day’s work, which fits under the heading of “manual scavenging”, she is regularly covered in excrement, and as a result faces terrible discrimination. As one example, she is not allowed to touch food at the markets, and when she wishes to purchase something she is made to pick it up from the floor, well away from the other customers. The sadness with which she tells her tale drives home the vast disparity in the way in which our world’s riches are distributed.

Measuring Worth


Measuring Worth is a fantastic online application which aims to give a modern day value to sums of money from the past. For example, how much was £20 worth in 1760? Even for someone with an understanding of economic concepts such as inflation and purchasing power, understanding the value of “old money” can be tricky. For example, I was taken aback when my father referred to purchasing “8 pints of beer for a pound” when he was a young man, not having realised quite how powerful inflation is, even over a relatively modest span of time.

In terms of the classroom, such knowledge can definitely help provide students with an enriched understanding of historical events. I recently had a group of engineering students with whom I used this website to work out the current value of several tens of thousands pounds from the 1880s. This enriched context provided them with a much better understanding of the scale of the project in question, and they seemed to enjoy the experience: apparently, economics can be fun.