Sunday, 24 May 2015

Doing Something Real And Current About Poverty

The Curse Of Poverty… one can see it all around us; I have myself written about both how hopeless and helpless I feel, as well as how horrifying the poverty trap is… this is something that I cant get over,  can’t forget, and can’t overlook. And the reason is simple : wherever I go, wherever I visit, wherever I turn in any place in India, my lovely India, I can find the same gut-wrenching and heart-stopping scenes of abject poverty, and the total helplessness of the people trapped in it.


I was just walking out from a Bakery {My Choice, Annapurna Road, Indore} when I was approached by a lady with her clothes in tatters, and was solicited for alms. I looked at her, and could not say no… I had just spent 117/- Rupees on a Pizza Topping and Butter purchase, and had in addition visited Dominoes. If I could spend that much, surely I can give her 10/-, which I did. I don’t feel guilty about my expenses – I work all day for it, all week and all year; but… I cannot forget that this is due to the benefit of education, parentage, opportunity and providence…


And, yet again, the same thoughts crash through my mind, as I have written earlier as well : why, God, why? What have we as a people done that is so horrible that millions of my countrymen and women have to suffer such terrifying indignities and conditions? What have we done to deserve this? My mind goes vacant for a moment…


The sight of beggars on the streets, the young children with no hope and no future, the labourers working all day for a few rupees just to keep alive, the slums which dot the landscape, the poverty in the villages, the mud and slush in the villages’ approaches, the lack of amenities, the huts and dwellings which offer scant true protection make for a chilling sight that shock me into numbness and an infinite and indefinable sadness at the complete hopelessness of it all…


AND THEN…
And then, I turn around – to see a very different, vibrant and tenacious India – the one of Education, Opportunity, Growth, Development, Cars, Bikes, Swank Offices, Rush-Hour Traffic, Malls & Theatres, fast-improving facilities and amenities, and a hope arises in my mind : firstly, there is still hope; a hope that one day the majority of my countrymen can enjoy the same facilities; that all of my countrymen can live a life of respect, sufficiency, confidence, and honour…


Secondly, a hope arises when I see people who have given their all for the betterment of the downtrodden – naming any one as an example would be insufficient – and understand that while I am still at the stage of shock and sadness, there are others who have shown the courage to act on their convictions, and place the lives, their careers on the line for these people.


To all such people – thank you; you are the future of India; you are the real hope for our India – you, the people who could have had cushy corporate jobs, but are doing what your heart tells you to do – a story that will go unknown and unwritten. But, collectively, when the results begin to show, you people will have done more than almost anyone else…


You are the people who highlight injustices, and, staying within legal limits, points systematic shortcomings; you are the people to reach out to these poor people and attempt to educate, treat them and help them or their children learn to grow. You are the people that drive change in the rest of society through the sheer power of your sacrifices, convictions and actions. You are the people who force the uncaring majority of Urban India and make them face their attitudes, selfishness and indefensible and deliberate ignorance of the plight of the poor of India. Verily, you are the people actually driving change – knowing fully well you will never get the credit. You are the people who are driving systemic change, forcing the uncaring and careless Urban Indian to abandon corruption, become more community conscious.


WILL THIS ALONE SUFFICE?
The question that now occurs to me is : will this alone suffice? How can we solve the problem of poverty if the poor are not in a position to either get employment, or start a business that can ensure respect and money enough to earn a decent living? Will the famed trickle-down theory actually work? The evidence of my eyes, as well as some data I have read, has led me to question the very basis of this theory; is the pace of change fast enough? How many more poor ladies and gentlemen {and their coming generations} will be forced into such terrifying conditions?


The development versus growth debate misses this one point : what will happen to the millions who are currently in distress? By not investing in capability development of this vast sea of manpower at the basic level, aren’t we creating a sea of future problems, aren’t we postponing the day of reckoning? How will increased factories and Urban Amenities benefit the poor, who aren’t educated enough to take advantage of the development? The conclusion is obvious : it the Urban Indian who stands to gain; while the poor will gain : the process will by definition be slow, as their growth will be through increased menial tasks become available, which will result in a slow improvement.


But this process creates a divergence: the Urban and Educated, through greater access to education and benefits, will clearly gain immediately. That is good – it will engender growth; but – it leaves the problem of the immediate amelioration of the conditions of the current lot of poor people. While the development – versus – growth angle is an unsettled economic debate, there can be no debate about this : that the current lot will not benefit. Therein lies the problem.  


One one side, we have a tribe of selfless people who are tirelessly working to ameliorate the conditions of these people, on the other side we have a growing economy, a vibrant democracy and increasing confidence in us as a people and as a civilization. Caught in between are the millions upon millions of poor people with no education, no hope and no chances – people whom life has never given any chances.   


The question for all of us Urban & Educated people should be – What Can We Do In Addition To What Is Being Done That Can Help? As Individuals, As People, As A Community, And As A Civilization? Isnt this worth doing? Shouldn’t there be a way where we can contribute? Our Mother, Our India gave birth to us; and gave us some benefits not available to others : how should we be using these benefits?






Choice is Yours, and Mine. 

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