CHARLES DICKENS begins his novel, "A tale of two cities" with the dichotomy.
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of freedom; it was the age of slavery. India has everything before them and India has nothing before them."
This above description seems to be valid for our country where the rich and poor coexist. But the sorry state of affairs is such that there are mere islands of affluent people in a gigantic ocean of poverty.
With the Sensex going past the 20,000 mark and a consistent GDP growth of about 9 per cent, Indian economy seems to be booming. But has this so called 'Economic Boom' reached the Common Man. What is the use of growth if it is not inclusive? If it takes a few people forward whereas the rest are left to fend for themselves. India ranks a poor 128 out of 177 countries in the latest rankings released by the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index (HDI). Many of us use statistics to show what number of Indians is below the poverty line. But do we even know what the poverty line is? As per the 1999-2000 statistics, in the urban areas a person is considered to be below the poverty line if his monthly per capita expenditure is less than Rs 327.56 and in the urban regions is below Rs 454.11. The above figures are a weighted average of all the state wise poverty numbers. Thus in states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh among others the poverty line in rural areas falls way beyond Rs 300. Since most of the country's population is below the poverty line, it implies that their expenditure is less than Rs 10 per day. And to think of it that our county is home to the largest number of billionaires in Asia. Earlier this year, India pipped Japan to take over the number one slot.
The video clip is given below from the film "Gandhi" to showcase the actual Indian poverty.
Behind all the record FDI's, global Indians making money and the sensex rise is the gory reality of poverty in India, which is truly incredible. Globalisation was supposed to stem this, but that hasn't happened yet. The standard of living in the cities has gone higher whereas in the rural areas, it's the same old story of droughts, and famines. This is leading to an unbearable influx of people in the cities in search of livelihood. The rich have grown richer whereas the poor haven't moved forward.
It is said that when one person dies, it is a tragedy but when thousands die it is a mere statistics. Such is the case with the farmer's suicides in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. What people don't realize is that poverty has severe repercussions. Crime, corruption and child labour are just a few of them. The corrupt bureaucracy and the opacity of the system have ensured that the common man continues to suffer. Technological advancement are all for the urbanites to see. McDonalds and Baristas are flooding the metros, whereas on the other hand electricity is yet to reach lakhs of our villages. Roti, Kapda aur Makaan is just a distant dream for many of the poor tribals in our country.
If India is to progress to be a superpower, it will have to showcase inclusive growth. The billions of people under the poverty line will have to rise as they have a stake in the future of our country. Poverty is a social evil that will have to be defeated. The people of India, who are below the poverty line, should not be left to struggle for their daily survival. The booming Indian economy should include them as well. After all, development is not just moving ahead but also ensuring that no one is left behind.
Author: Ramesh C. Manghirmalani, L'Entrepreneur En Residence