Are The Poor, Poor Because- We Keep Them That Way... ?

I have previously blamed the middle class and above fair and square for the continuing prevailing reality of poverty. Before I go into further detail on that, let us get a balanced perspective, in the interests of fairness, by looking at one or two factors that mitigate the middle classes performance and responsibility. How can a poor person come out of poverty? What are the avenues available to him or her? How does one earn money in the modern world? Answer -

  1. Do a Business
  2. Get a Job
Is there a third alternative in front of the person? To get a job, or do a business, schooling is essential. It is only through education can true emancipation be brought about; till that happens, our dreams will remain unachievable. The question is how a can the son or daughter of a landless labourer, toiling all day just to live and avoid starvation, send his children to school? How can a beggar, or a poor day jobber send his children to school, when his salary is just not sufficient to do both, give him food, and give him clothes? 

Even if they manage to send them to school - the children perforce quit midway due to the above problems, or other related reasons. Point being, there are no easy solutions to this problem. Let us all keep that in mind before we blame either ourselves, or the Government. The scale of the problem is gargantuan. To put this in the proper perspective, look at the following figures from The Post-Colonial Hangover: Our Colonial Heritage Part - 2 :

"In 1947, we had nearly 80% plus citizens below the poverty line; we had an infant mortality rate of more than 140 per 1000; a life expectancy of around 31; literacy rates were around 12%, and no industrial base of note. These numbers tell the tale; this is the colonial heritage; this is the price we are still paying for our colonial past. And our achievements, seen in the light of these numbers, are a matter of considerable pride - just 2 figures will be enough to convince people. We now have a life expectancy of 67, and a literacy rate of 74."


The key question that arises from this is - what can be done about it? And, why has this transpired - why are we in such a terrifyingly sad state 67 years after independence? Why are our poorer people at the mercy of the elements? Is it all due to Colonialism - which is beyond even a shade of doubt a critical factor, as I looked at in Why are we so poor?

An Excerpt, a portion that is critical to our hunt here : 

"Thus we can see that India was already poor when she became independent. Given the scale of the destruction, it was always going to be a difficult, long and arduous climb spanning decades. But that does not mean we did not commit mistakes.  We have made only 2 mistakes since independence, in my humble opinion:

  • Governance: we have failed to deliver to the people. That is something for which there can be no excuse. These problems stated below have created a people who are unaware, and are unprepared to reap the advantages of the freedom we now enjoy. They have not been developed, which is a developmental and Governmental failure of monumental proportions. This has meant continued stagnation, as agricultural productivity did not grow, meaning lesser produce and money in rural markets; underdeveloped and unregulated rural markets; uneducated people etc. We have created an unweildy and unresponsive bureaucratic class in the bargain. The problems can be identified as:

    • Absent or inappropriate Health Services in Rural India
    • Lack of even basic educational facilities in Rural India
    • Leakage in funds allocation to the priority sector and villages
    • Lack of even basic amenities in certain villages
    • Resultant continuing Urban Migration
    • Severe shortage of needed infrastructure in the hinterland
    • Very low knowledge transfer from universities to Rural farmers, entrepreneurs etc; this has nothing to do with the internet: here I am talking about upgrading farmers with latest techniques; awareness of opportunities that arise with economic growth; awareness of technological developments that can be used to generate business etc
  • Corruption: this is the single most significant drag on our growth. This has its impact on every segment of the economy from the farmer to the agricultural mandis; from the rural mandi gundas to the urban thiefs; from the corporate scams to the governmental scams... there is not a single aspect which does not carry this rider..."
In short, we have not developed our human capital, and further not empowered them to take the advantages that are present. A simple look at our Human Development Index Parameters will be sufficient proof. The poor of our land may be poor in large part due to the Colonial factor; our inability to lessen their numbers at a faster pace than is the current situation or reality lands squarely at our doorstep. {Please note the usage of words above} This is honestly speaking too large a topic to be taken up on a blog post, as it has massive listed parameters as contributing factors over and above the ones listed above; we are further hampered by the absence of precise data. That is an excercise to be taken up in a later article in this, the poverty series - so please bear with me. 

Education, health, amenities and facilities are all required for a healthy, productive population. It is a known reality that the various agencies dispensing these facilities in the rural {or even urban} areas are not performing upto the mark. The teacher who does not attend or take school classes is a middle class Indian. The doctor who does not attend the Primary Health Center is also a middle class Indian. A similar point can be made for each and every facility or amenity being provided to the poor people of India. 

What is the quality of governance that is reaching these poor people? Are we, the educated classes, from whom the bulk of the public servants arise, doing are utmost? Let alone utmost, are we performing our basic tasks as Government Servants? Are the inputs being put into the poverty eradication mechanism in India being implemented properly? We know for a fact that that is not the case; the Media has ensured that. 

This is exacerbated by corruption; as schemes, amenities and facilities meant for the  peopleget siphoned off in varying amounts. Thus, we are not only not implementing the plans wholeheartedly, we are also ensuring that the inputs get diverted into other hands - undeserving hands. The people who implement these facilities and schemes are middle class. Who is responsible if not the great middle class and above? 

We, the middle class, can and do get out work done by other means, both fair and foul. It causes us inconvenience, no more than that. But what happens to the poorest of the poor, whose problems are exacerbated by the apathy of people like us - who, by want of corruption or shoddy implementation, condemn these poorer sections to poverty. 

Neither can those of us who are not Government Servants, or not related to facilities, amenities etc catering to the poorer sections of society - absolve ourselves of the blame. The non-performance of the bureaucracy and the scale of corruption is a known fact of life in India. Not one of us can feign ignorance on that score. 

I admit that there are other, deeper issues at stake - socio-cultural issues, economic factors, political factors etc that are intertwined with this matter of poverty. It is not my contention that we are solely to blame. But the simple undeniable fact is that all of us are also part of the problem, we also have to share the blame. 

Despite knowing of the scale of corruption, of how schemes, infrastructure projects, schools, hospitals, government offices etc are ridden with inefficiencies and corruption - we are silent and tolerant. It is our tacit acceptance of corruption and inefficiencies that is reason that both of these {inefficiency  & corruption} are so deeply anchored into our systems. We can afford the loss - as we earn, by the Grace Of God. But what about the weaker sections of society? Can they afford it? Somewhere along the line, our apathy is furthering their condemnable status by keeping them poor, as well as denying them the chance of escaping the trap of poverty by accessing services that will empower them, or their children - enabling them to live lives of dignity. 

So long  as we are accepting corruption as a way of life; of public systems' inefficient performance as something we can do nothing about- the rate of poverty reduction will not increase. For these systemic inefficiencies hit the poorest sections of society the hardest. Our silence and tolerance is a condemnable response to the challenges facing our India; we are hurting the future of millions of fellow Indians, who could have otherwise benefited by proper functioning public systems and lesser corruption. 

We are making things easy for ourselves by tolerating Governmental inefficiencies and corruption- at the cost of others. Others who are in no way capable of competing with us, or hurting us in our careers or lives. 

Jaago, Sonwaalon... Apne Zameer Ko Jagaao! 


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