India, a south Asian nation, is a developing nation. Like many of the current developing nations India has opened up her economy quite recently. India was forced into the decision of opening up her economy, as there was only enough money to run the country for 32 days. Many are of the opinion that this decision has been hugely responsible for the humongous growth in Indian economy after the 1990s. The decision also represented a major step in shifting from socialism to capitalism. Before the 1990s, the Indian society was a well-knit society. There were no big gaps between groups of people. After the 1990s these small and marginal gaps started widening. Today we see a humungous gap between the rich and the poor. The amount of fruit in a rich man’s shampoo is more than that in a poor man’s plate. Sad but true, it represents the poverty in developing countries like India.
According to the criteria used by the World Bank a person who earns less than $1.90 per day is classified as poor. According to the latest survey by the Indian government in 2013, 21.9% of India’s total population is poor. India contains 17.5% of the total world’s population. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that around 17-18% of the world’s population under the poverty line must lie in India. However the percent of poor people in India is as high as 21.5% out of the world’s total poor population.
The data very clearly indicates that the poverty in India is a big problem and it should be dealt with immediately. Some of the prominent factors, which increase / lead to poverty, are:
Social inequality has existed in India for over a century now. Names of professions were slowly and steadily converted into castes by the society. The British Rule acted as an important catalyst in this process. Social inequality initially did not affect opportunities to a greater extent. But after a certain while, business owners and people with sufficient power and authority started opting for candidates based on their castes. For example, a staunch Hindu radical would not recruit a Muslim for his business. Such practices started an unequal distribution of opportunities. Opportunities were distributed on the basis of caste instead of merit. This obviously decreased the quality and quantity of work. Lower quality and lower quantity of work started pushing businesses and other institutions into big losses, thereby increasing poverty to a huge extent.
In the post independence era India’s main focus was to stabilize its economy. In this period, the Government ran all the factories, companies and other organizations. Thus many people joined Government run organizations immediately after school. Not many people went on to pursue further education. This did not inspire innovation and creativity. The progress in economy was solely dependent on the Government policies. This ‘illiteracy’ created more poverty.
India has the highest density of population of all the nations on the globe. Excessive population is a big deterrent to a nation’s progress. India’s limited resources have to be supplied to a large number of people. Inadequate resources for the given population create a strain on the economy. Plenty of labor is available for any particular task. Easily replaceable labor creates low wages for the working class. An excessively large population means ruthless competition. Ruthless competition discourages innovativeness and creativity. A less-creative young generation is not good for any nation. A very high population also affects the Government sector. Easily replaceable workforce means lower salaries. Some of these people with salaries lower than they deserve tend to use corrupt practices to make up for the deficit of money. Thus poverty increases manifold.
4. Unequal Distribution Of Wealth
Incorrect Government policies, Corruption, and oppression of the poor have led to an unequal distribution of wealth. The needs, a particular class assumes as essential, are treated as the most luxurious needs by another class. This disparity is truly indicative of the poverty in India. An unequal distribution of wealth also means an unequal distribution of opportunity. In today’s commercial world, seeking an opportunity (like getting into a top university) also requires a lot of money. The rich make use of their higher resources to avail more number of opportunities. This widens the disparity between these classes of the society, thus worsening poverty.
Corruption runs rampant through almost all the Government systems in India. The lower wages on offer in the Government jobs have diverted most of the intellectual crowd towards lucrative professions. As a result, the people who enter politics are an uneducated and job-less lot. Lack of education and money pushes them to use corrupt practices. The Saradha Group scam, the Commonwealth Games scam are examples of how corrupt people, with authority, can gamble with or siphon away millions of rupees. The money, which has been raised to help the poor, very often does not reach them. The poor therefore do not receive any help from the Government (which they ideally should receive).
6. Colonial Rule
Finally, colonial rule of the British is that factor we now can do nothing about. The colonial rule started in the first half of the 1800s. During this period, kings from various provinces ruled India. The ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British destroyed the integrity of the nation. This led to a number of wars, thus destroying armies and wealth in the Indian province. The British rule was cemented further after the revolt of 1857 failed to overthrow their rule. During the British rule, the British harassed Indians beyond measure. Peasants were forced to grow cash crops. They were also forced to sell their produce only to the British at very cheap prices. The British also destroyed the self-sufficient village economy. The British continued further with their vicious deeds even while leaving the country. They partitioned India into 2 countries: India and Pakistan. The partition led to huge massacre of people. Several wars were fought between the 2 nations, which deprived both, of their left over financial and human resources.
These causes make it clear how deep rooted the problem of poverty is. Can there be a way to reduce it? Here is my take.
1. Social Inequality
Many people in India have a notion that an increase in RESERVATION will help in bridging the social inequality. But according to me, that is not the case. An increase in reservation means people with lower merit receive higher than they deserve. This will never ever help them to realize the value of education, jobs or any such similar opportunities. In the industry, organizations will never be keen to take people with lower merit. Hence the ‘reservation’ will not work. Making the law stricter can abridge social inequality. Any discrimination must be punished immediately as well as effectively. Providing free education, basic needs at a subsidized rate etc., can reduce the opportunity costs for the fellow citizens steeped in poverty. The Government can implement suitable reforms to create more employment, schools and much more. Such a slow and steady process will ultimately eliminate any social inequality.
At an individual level, fair treatment of individuals, not being judgemental, proactively speaking up against social inequalities can be my contribution to this slow process. As Einstein rightly said, the World will not collapse because of those who do evil, but more so by those who watch them do so silently.
The current illiteracy rate of India is around 25.96%. This rate is quite high for a nation aspiring to be a global superpower in 2020. Experts suggest that the literacy rate should reach a minimum of 90% for the nation to have a sufficient work force, which is well qualified. While we aspire to make our nation literate, we should not just focus on basic literacy. The number of people with good and higher education should increase as well. For this to happen, we need a good education system. This education should focus on a well-rounded personality. It must not be a system where students are in a ‘rat-race’ just for getting into some school. The number of good colleges in the country ought to be increased drastically. We could bring Stanford or Harvard to India!!!
India has been gifted with a huge population. This population, instead of being a large pool for labor, is now turning into a big burden. The population is going way out of control. Spreading awareness can control the population. There could be another revolutionary solution as well. This one was implemented by China to curb the population explosion. They permitted each couple to have only one child (unless the couple had twins). I agree that several problems started arising in that system. Many people opposed this method, as it was an oppression of human rights. The population also dropped a bit too much. So China finally lifted the restriction. Although this system certainly has some loopholes and disadvantages, for a country like India which is deeply stuck in a population crisis, this or some other radical methodology is certainly worth a try.
Corruption elimination and the presence of a transparent system is a vital cog in the wheel. The citizens should use the newly introduced Right To Information wisely and make sure their hard earned money in the form of taxes is going the right way. Citizens can also help to set up congresses to make sure that the politicians in power are not misusing their authority. Another big duty the citizens need to fulfill is to vote and vote responsibly.
6.Colonial Rule is that one factor we can now do nothing about☺.
In conclusion, I say that the poverty scenario in India is way too appalling to do nothing about. There are some small changes we can do at our individual level to help lessen the poverty. Just commenting on the Government’s policies will not help. Each and every one of us should be actively involved in the process.
As Gandhi rightly said “ We Should Be The Change We Wish To See In The World.”