The Brutal Reality Of The Poverty Trap: The Curse Of Poverty-3

I was waiting for a critical mail to come in - and had been waiting a long time. Before long, hunger pangs struck; and I strolled out to my favourite bhuttaawaalaa (Corn Vendor) for a Bhuttaa. I was, unusually, alone - as I prefer to partake this particular delicacy alongwith my boss. Seeing me alone, the vendor asked me: doosre saahab ke liye ek dun? (One for your friend?). I replied in the affirmative; and thus we started chatting. 

Having broken the ice, and fetched the courage to talk to me, he asked me a question that shocked me, floored me and set me thinking. Can a 10th standard pass boy learn computer science? (He meant simple data entry and dtp usage, I suppose). On being asked the reason for this, he stated bluntly: he'll get a job at least. I asked him to educate him further; his answer? I cannot afford to. I have a daughter, and am also taking care of my brother's child. I then asked him to shift him to a cheaper school; the reply was stunning, and a revelation...

He said: Fees is not the problem, it is only 50/-. The cost of books is a massive problem. It costs a lot of money for books, which are all costly. I just cannot afford the books; I cant afford to spend so much on all three kids. Hence, I am searching for a job for him. I told him about second-hand used books which can be picked up cheap from second-hand stores, and his eyes lit up. He happily exclaimed that he will suggest it tonight to the children. 

Note this interchange; note the clear willingness of both the child -probably around 16 - as well as the family towards continued education. Note also their despair, and their desperation for education. This can be seen in the father's apparent delight at having an option. And note the brutal reality of modern life that leaves precious little options for such people. Also note the failure of governance, of a people left to fend for themselves without any true and genuine support. 

This is the real trap of poverty; there is a desire to grow, to educate; but there is the attendant total absence of a support system, and an attainable affordable source of education for the poor people. The real and felt gaps in the system are so cruel, that it leaves little option for the unfortunate. Take the example above; the cheaper schools have been launched; they are charging a measly 50/- for fees. But what about the rest? Why are books not made available at affordable rates? Where are the libraries? Such is the cruelty of the trap that a parent who can at least afford to spend 150/- a month on 3 kids (which is a treasure for any number of poorer people) cannot afford books, and is pulling his children out of school. Therein lies the real tragedy that grasps at your heart; the failure of the system to provide a complete resource to those who need it lies brutally exposed in this real life tale from India. 

How can a person grow out of poverty without education? They will sadly be condemned to another generation of continued destitution and poverty. And all because the parents do not have money for books! Is this how we are going about providing education for the disenfranchised? Is this how we are focussing on education? Is this the system, that does not provide even the most basic of thoughts and resources? How will the people be uplifted in such a brutal, hopeless and cut-throat atmosphere? Why is help and advice not provided to such parents and children in such schools? If this is the norm - then it is indeed a sad thing. What is my government doing? What has it been doing for the past 66 years? And even if it is not the norm, then even if a small number of Indians are in such desperation, that is a sad state of affairs. But I am afraid, judging from the sights around me, that this is indeed the reality...

Today, as I stand on the eve on Independence Day, it is a sad reality that has manifested itself before me: we may be independent, but we are still unable to provide the most basic of solutions. The stark, naked reality of a father, whose desperation for his children is leading him to pull his children out of school. All for the want of books! Why cant my government provide free books, or proper libraries to children, in place of pointless populist policies? At least, that way, we will be investing in the future! 

And in conclusion, to all those who blame parents for child labour, please get out into the streets, meet and talk to the real people facing these problems. If this child joins the labour force at age 16, how is it his fault? Or his parents? What option do they have? None, at this point in time! You cannot legislate away child labour; it requires a more holistic approach!

Disclaimer: As told me to me by a roadside vendor


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