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A Country Where Poor Are Abandoned!

By Prachi Gupta

The international magazine Forbes recently released its list of countries ranked by rate of economic development. India placed 4th on the list on account of a sky-rocketing economy on the threshold of super-power classification. Keep this in mind and read on.

I was perched on a bench outside college going through the day’s newspaper, when I saw a colleague of mine getting down from a rickshaw. A minor argument ensued between the girl and the rickshaw-puller over the money he demanded. The girl apparently wasn’t happy given the fact that he usually demanded a lot less. “Pehle to 10 rupees lagte the ab 20 rupees kaise ho gaye?” Finally, an agreement was reached for the old price. Victory!

Everything is ameliorating these days. Fashion changes on a monthly basis, mobile phones get sleeker by the day, Bollywood brings forth high budget movies with the same wafer-thin plot, Rahul Gandhi visits a new village or dalit home as part of his ‘educational’ tour! What never changes though is rampant poverty across the length and breadth of our great nation. Poverty is branded as a stigma to the nation and the poor continue to be stigmatized. Be it the demolition of slums or a ‘wipe out’ programme by the government against street vendors and beggars during CWG games.

Reports tell us 77% of the Indian population lives on less than Rs 20 per day and the recent controversial Tendulkar committee report states that about 37% of the population is below poverty line. These macro numbers only provide a superficial perspective of the existent conditions and completely overlook the socio-psychological dimension of it. The general cognition of the poor is that they have been acceded to be as such by the mainstream. The worrisome scale of consumerism, capitalism and corruption has further accentuated the troubles in their lives. The biggest victim of this triangle has been the unorganised sector of daily wage labourers. Minimum wage is hardly ever upgraded or isn’t increased sufficiently. Every news channel runs round the clock debates on high profiles events, nobody spares a thought for everyone’s favourite ‘go-to guy’ – the “aam aadmi”.

While attempts continue to bring the Czar of supermarket retail chains, Wal-Mart, to India, there are no checks and balances in place to protect the local shopkeepers and retailers. It was found in an electricity distribution survey that if we impose a 15 minute power cut in Mumbai, the neighbouring eleven deprived districts of Vidarbha will have electricity for two hours! But who dares trouble the mighty Mumbai populace? Clearly the image of the general citizenship that has been envisaged by the protagonists of development strategies is that of upper middle class while the people on the ground floor are completely side-lined. The growing numbers in the upper-middle class and upper class segments of society pale in comparison to numbers being added to our population. If 1 in 10 additions to our population falls in to the middle-class segment, the other 9 fall by the wayside but I guess Forbes Magazine didn’t get the memo.

The solutions that the government comes up with are often feeble and seem more obligatory than purposeful. Most solutions put forth are short-term compensations with no plan to improve the state of affairs. Widespread corruption further aggravates the problems. Seed subsidies will not help a farmer rendered landless by government under the ruse of a development project or SEZ. An ‘Aakash’ for Rs 1500 will not help the young population that polishes shoes, sells cotton or posters until they sit in standardized schools. Structural reforms from the grassroots level with respect to basic necessities and primary wants are the need of the hour. All lies only at the heart of equity and in the period of privatization where corporate forces are highly strengthened, the government could actually be visualised as obligatory towards the 37% of its people.

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Prachi Gupta
Change is really the law that rules my life. A bit inquisitive by nature and a bookworm according to some people. Very straight forward and expressive, I am certainly not a person who could endlessly flatter people to get my work done.


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