Monday, February 14, 2011

The Price of Ignorance!

A Disco Party

Finally, its time for a serious topic. In one sentence- ‘Inequality in distribution of wealth in India’. Now first let me clarify that inequality is definitely not exclusive to India alone. For example, recently Tunisia’s president Ben Ali had to give up his post, mainly due to the protests made by the common people. Ben Ali and his family had amassed a huge amount of wealth and were living a life of opulence where the people of his country were suffering from unemployment and lack of food, etc. India also faces similar problems of high food inflation, unemployment, etc, but as not witnessed such a large scaled protest, yet.

If you are not an Indian, and are not staying in India, chances are that you may have read some article or the other- stating India’s economic progress, rapid GDP growth at a rate of 8.9%, ever rising purchasing power of the middle class, opening up of MNCs every week, with companies such as Google and Facebook, and now even Wikipedia setting up their offices in India. Some articles boast about India’s demographic dividend, suggesting that half of India’s population is under 25 years of age, and that India is a young country, whereas most developed countries are becoming Old countries. Or you may hear about the success stories of some Indian companies, especially in the I.T and BPO sector, such as Infosys.

But if you are an Indian, then I am sure you know of the inside story as well. More than 70% of the population thrives on less than Rupees 20[approximately half a dollar] a day. Unemployment is almost at 10%[and that too of the labor population]. 65% of Indian people[and that amounts to over 700 million people, almost twice that of the population of the USA] don’t even have access to toilets, forget having a concrete house or access to clean drinking water. 60% of Indians do not get proper food to eat, nor do they have a proper place to stay or live. Just 16% of India’s GDP is obtained from the agriculture sector, but ironically, over 60% of the population is dependent on it as their primary source of income. Farmers are paid awfully low amounts for selling their crops. In the slums of Mumbai, 15-20 people sleep in one room, of a dank and dark house. Millions of children die before they reach the age of 5 every year. Diseases such as malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, dysentery, etc, regularly claim the lives of millions. Most people still do not have access to basic health facilities, primary education, voting rights, food, shelter, etc. More than one-third of the population drops out of school by class 8. India has a Human Development Index of 119[less than even Guyana or Namibia], and it is estimated that the condition of the BIMARU[Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh] states is worse than that of the poorest countries of Africa.

A Slum in India

If the situation is indeed that bad, then where is all that wealth going? It’s easy- In the hands of a selected group of people. To state simply- ‘The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.’ To give an example- India has more money[over 1.2 trillion dollars] in the black market than the rest of the world combined. Corruption is at a all time high. Money is pilfered like anything: be it the Coal mafia, Oil Mafia, Kerosene mafia, or even Milk mafia, nothing is spared. There is a well developed nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, police, media, businessmen, corporate-houses, and what not. The Government is ready to spend crores of rupees in building statutes of politicians but refuses to spend money in making toilets, hospitals or efficient schools.

India has become a land of contrasts. On one hand, the number of billionaires in India is rising, on the other hand- millions of people are starving to death each year. But the thing which really makes me frustrated is the Total Apathy of the Upper and Middle class towards the Lower class[and I am just as guilty as the rest]. Most of us[ie the Middle class and Upper class] pretend that the lower class does not exist. That the 700 million people simply do not live here, as our fellow countrymen. Instead we are more interested in knowing about the latest variety of imported shoes which are available in the market, or which movie is doing the rounds in the theatres. An average person from an affluent family can spend thousands of rupees during a single lunch session alone. Something which a poor person cannot afford even after working for 2 years. We are misusing wealth like anything. We want to flaunt our affluence, show-off our purchasing power potential in front of our peers and friends.

I have seen people turn their face in disgust whenever they see poor people begging or just moving down the street. Or they just casually move away, doing the Ignoring act. In extreme cases, they may even abuse or strike them down. In fact, the largest recipient group of violence and crime in India is the one including people from the extreme backward castes[also usually the poorest]. Everyone knows that they do not have the power or will to fight back. The unfortunate situation in India at present is that everyone is too busy with their personal lives, to spare time or thought for the poor. Why should we be concerned with inclusive growth as long as we are getting our own cups of cappuccino or Baskin Robbins ice-cream?

In this regard, I salute the spirit of those 1.2 million NGOs in India, which are helping to fight corruption and help the needy. I will mention the name of one-Pratham, which has been doing its best to provide education to the poor children. If only the spirit of giving was present in each one of us, we could have indeed made India a REAL developed country, and not one which just remains on paper. However, I am optimistic and I do hope that people will continue to give back in future. Otherwise the Price of Ignorance will be too much to pay.


Motifs said...

This is more like the Satwinder I know of...excellent post..I wish the youth of our country thought like you..keep going,you never know who might get inspired by your post.

Rohan Sahni said...

good one...keep it up, tried to google ab the milk mafia but couldnt find netn, plz give me a link in case you have any..

SJ said...

What a moving post, I was recently reading another blog where they were talking about the work conditions of many Indians working for ridiculous hours for pitance in extreme conditions that you could not even begin to fathom.

You are right that the news outside of India does not show a true representation and with writing such as yours you give a clear picture of the truth. I find this post so sad but it is one that is needed to address what is happening.

alejandro guzman said...

We are very lucky in this country with less poverty but also with a great TV station that has excellent 'real' stories in regards to other countries. Most of what you mentioned I knew other things I did not so thank you for this 'real' post.

One of the things I can think that is causing this is the long held beliefs of the caste system..

Cheers A

Susan Deborah said...

Satwinder, I am quite too familiar with all this. These days I am quite wary of NGOs as well. You know NGOs are also listed in the category of entrepreneurs these days. To meet the demands of a great population is not quite easy but I'm sure that it is not impossible. One feels quite angered by the failing systems and rising conditions of poverty but in the end, I wonder what can be done. Just involving myself with an NGO will not solve the problem. As an analyst, what do you have to say on this?

Joy always,

YogaSavy said...

Since moving back to India what surprised me was the vast difference or contrast between the rich, richer, poor and poorer.
The abundance I am afraid to say is quite over the top and crass.Besides the economic differences I have found that people seem to have lost respect to other human beings. To survive is the operative word here and nothing else matters. It is more what can you do for me!

Satwinder Singh said...

@Motifs: Thanks as always.. :)

@Rohan: I do not have much information on the milk mafia but you can try this link:

Satwinder Singh said...

@Alejandro: Caste system has always had a role to play in the Indian context- politics, education, jobs, etc. Its indeed very unfortunate how people from backward castes are ill treated here.

@Susan: Very valid point. And you are right. By my estimation more than 60% of the NGOs are defunct, or barely functional. What one needs to do is try to get in more funds to refurbish NGOs, and raise more awareness. For example many NGOs focus on working in rural areas, but they do not try involving people who stay in towns. We could have workshops which tell people about AIDS[say], and people from middle class can contribute. Doctors can be roped in for the same.

@YogSavy: Couldnt have said it better myself. Thank you for your comments. :)

Not a Notting Hill Mum said...

Such an interesting post.
I have certainly read the stories you talk about and the focus at the moment on India's economy. There have been complaints I think that the UK should no longer provide certain aid ad support because India is now so wealthy. I think your post shows how important it is that this aid continues but maybe with some pressure on those wealthy institutions and individuals within India to play their part - if as you suggest they are not doing. I won't say more as I have never been to India and don't feel qualified to comment. But I am and have been involved in various charitable projects in Africa which of course shares the problems of poverty though the causes may be different.

smruti_N said...

Very nice thoughts Satwinder ji :))

In India in particular,people judge one's stature by the amount of wealth he/she has gathered..Your Cash reserve and inflow determines your acceptance in society,apart from other things.Here our so Bollywood stars wud go out and blatantly throw away millions of Rupees just for an IPL team but would not give a damn about people below the BPL...Unless the youth takes charge,we are headed for disaster i feel...and even 8.9% growth cant save us

Mary said...

Satwinder, what an informational post. I knew very little of what is going on in India, as well as other countries. This saddens me to think that there is no easy solution and will take pushing awareness and education regarding this problem. In the United States, we see people everyday without homes or food and things are just getting worse. Our president gets on the TV and tells about our improved economy, etc. We watch and ask "where in the world is he living?" because the places we have been are not getting better, but much worse.
Things around the world need to improve or everyone will hit bottom. It's a shame that there isn't more trust among leaders in the world that we could all help each other.

Ed Lawrence said...

Satwinder, It was Blogs like this that caused the uprising in Egypt, You have my best support and prayers for a positive change in your country. Be a hero to your people and get the word out. No one deserves to be enslaved by poverty!

Jorie Pacli said...

India's long term challenges which include widespread poverty, inadequate physical and social infrastructure, limited employment opportunities and insufficient access to basic and higher education are perhaps, in my opinion, caused by a growing population and corruption that will only exacerbate social and environmental problems, the worse. I hear your cries Satwinder! I believe in what you've said that in a corrupt and unstable government or country as a whole, the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. If the most fortunate continues to neglect the situation, then it's too difficult to bring up the status of the nation and more pressing problems will rise... Thank you for voicing out your concerns with regards to your country....

tmac2271 said...

Wow very interesting post. I wish I had something to offer but I honestly know nothing about India, though i do agree with the corruption, and the hypocrisy of government and even ourselves. Just crazy man

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