The economics of sleep market in Delhi winters..

Superb article on the topic (HT: MR blog, where else). It talks about how difficult it is for homeless people to find places for sleep in Delhi winters. This has led to emergence of a market of sorts for sleeping spots, quilts and so on. There is a movie on the issue as well.

From the article:

Does any city have a more stratified sleep economy than wintertime Delhi? The filmmaker Shaunak Sen, who spent two years researching the city’s sleep vendors for a documentary, “Cities of Sleep,” discovered a sprawling gray market that has taken shape around the city’s vast unmet need for shelter. In some places, it breeds what he calls a “sleep mafia, who controls who sleeps where, for how long, and what quality of sleep.

The story of privatized sleep follows a familiar pattern in this city: After decades of uncontrolled growth, the city government’s inability to provide services like health care, water, transportation and security has given rise to thriving private industries, efficient enough to fulfill the needs of those who can pay.

But shelter, given Delhi’s extremes of heat and cold, is often a matter of survival. The police report collecting more than 3,000 unidentifiable bodies from the streets every year, typically men whose health broke down after years living outdoors. Winter presents especially brutal choices to homeless laborers, who have no place to protect blankets from thieves in the daytime hours. Some try to hide them in the tops of trees.

The moral quandary of making this into a business is at the center of Mr. Sen’s film, which had its premiere at a Mumbai film festival in November. One of his subjects, Ranjit, takes a protective attitude toward his regular “sleepers,” as he calls them, allowing them to drift off to sleep watching Bollywood films for 10 rupees a night. Another, a hard-nosed businessman called Jamaal, increases his price to 50 rupees, from 30, when the temperature drops.

In one scene, when a man pleads, “Sir, I am a poor man; I’ll die,” Jamaal chuckles and replies: “You’re not allowed to die. Even that will cost 1,250 rupees. 

“Look, sleep is the most demanding master there is; no one can stop it when it has chosen to arrive,” Jamaal says in the film. “We were the first to recognize the sheer economic might of sleep.”

Quite some words by the chief protagonist Jamaal.

Interesting reading on how markets evolve but depressing how people struggle to get even get a sleep…

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