The conversation about poverty

This topic seems to be very left of centre or even marxist in sentiment, but poverty alleviation has been reduced to mere sedentary rhetoric, such as Bijli Sadak Paani or Electricity Roads and Water Access or Jai Kisaan Jai Jawan, as in the 60’s and 70’s in India in political discourse. Poverty is a universal affliction across the world. Even America has a great quantum of poverty who live on stamps and handouts. Recession has worsened the scene gravely. Ever since liberalization in India happened in the early 1990’s, middle class has exploded to the public imagination, agriculture has taken a backseat- hardly any structural reforms have been carried out like the financial sector. 830 million in India still live under Rs. 20 per day as per the Arjun Sengupta report a couple of years back. Farmer suicides have been in the thousands in the last decade, while the Agriculture Minister of ‘Western Maharashtra’ state seems more interested in running a ten nation game from its headquarters from Dubai.  Onion exports have resumed while retail prices have gone through the roof, so much for the ‘Aam Admi’. Energy bills for the common man have exponentially increased impacting the poor, driving millions back into poverty and its problems.  Our priorities have been away from the heart of the common man. Rural Development, Agriculture and Power are the sectors which impact poverty levels the most in India.

The latest bombshell from the Federal administration in Delhi came when the Planning Commission- the agency which determines economic policy and development for 1.5 billion stomachs, put a paltry Rs. 32/day for urban areas for the definition of poverty assessment by the government. It is indeed a pathetic and preposterous metricization  of a human condition. How do you measure a human predicament? By all reports Rs. 32/day is a paltry sum, rather its inhuman. The same goes for the parameters of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. These are all fuzzy metrics, which do not have an impact on the ground apart from cool NGO Speak at swanky seminars.

We live in islands of prosperity around an ocean of despair. We are all heading towards an agglomeration of revolts from the Levant to Lima. The Mashreq Spring was set off due to the immolation of a vegetable vendor in Tunis. Poverty as historically known from the Bastelle revolt of 1789 to the 2011 revolt at the Pearl Square at Manama was triggered off by hunger.  Poverty should be brought back to the high table of decision making as it is emerging as a security threat for the future.


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