Poverty is a reality that continues to haunt our India, and is showing only very slow signs of alleviation.This is not a question of economics – whether capitalist or socialist; or of systems – whether open or authoritarian. The question is one of morality – and the answer to that is, regardless of economic realities and governmental systems – no, it is not morally conscionable for us to allow over 200 – 300 Million people to live in extreme poverty.
It is easy to shrug it off and say “we worked hard for growth, we deserve it”. It is equally easy for the detractors to say “what growth? this growth has come from exploitation”. Neither view is in itself a problem; the problem is, now that you have been made aware of it, what do you intend to do about it? I am not talking socialism; I am not stating capitalism. I am talking about being human.
Put up or shut up is what I say. What can you as a person do about it? What can your society do about it comes much, much later… it starts with the individual. This applies to me as well… even I have not gone beyond writing about this : http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2013/03/the-curse-of-poverty.html. And please dont tell me an individual does not count. Need I remind everyone here of Albert Einstein, Mahatama Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Sachin Tendulkar, VIshwanathan Anand, Isaac Newton and many, many more? Each name an individual from a different field, each made a difference to his field as an individual,. Even Anand, whose success drove the chess revolution in india. Or Tendulkar, who has the power to bring a nation of a standstill.
I think we should all stop for just a moment and look inward. There is a lot that we can do as individuals. Within our own society. Like sponsoring the education of a poor child. There can be many, many such initiatives that can be taken, that can lead to good results.
Main criticism to this is that this will require time to implement, as getting everyone into this mode will take a generation. And that criticism is, unfortunately, well grounded in fact. But what alternative is there? Anyone have any answers? Capitalism? Dont make me laugh. Capitalism is not a mechanism that is designed to alleviate poverty; it is a ruthless survival of the fittest game. It can deliver excellent market performers; it is the most capable system in terms of efficiency and productivity. But that is about it, On being confronted with a scenario of this scale of poverty, the lowermost sections are always going to lose, Always.
The reason for this is simple: capitalism implies certain levels of basic skills; those not in the said skill sets dont make the cut, and get left out. It is simple truth. We are talking about the lowermost sections of society; these people are too busy arranging the next meal to worry about such niceties as education. And even if they manage an education, family circumstances force them out early, so that they can provide for family. Result? These people miss the bus, The capitalistic systems have provided for them – these people are now able to afford 2 meals a day – but little else. Their existence remains hand-to-mouth.
And western policies like this one http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2013/04/disclaimer-i-am-almost-layman-i-have.html dont help much either.
“In simple terms, the USA is not agreeing to allow the smaller farmers access to subsidy in the form of administered purchase prices. If USA has its way, all such subsidies shall be a part of the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS). It may be noted that Indian agriculture is the home of small and marginal farmers (80%). Therefore, the future of sustainable agriculture growth and food security in India depends on the performance of small and marginal farmers. Agricultural Census data shows that there were about 121 million agricultural holdings in India in 2000-01. Around 99 million were small and marginal farmers. Average size has declined from 2.3 ha. In 1970-71 to 1.37 ha. In 2000-01. Small and marginal farmers account for more than 80% of total farm hhs. But their share in operated area is around 44%.So, the hard data above shows the absolute necessity of support for these farmers. The impact on their earnings, and the productivity levels will be disastrous.”
This leaves India with 2 choices: acquiesce, or deny, We have chosen to deny. Had we acquiesced, the impact on our economy would have been worrisome, as over the short term, the reduction in subsidies would have hurt the farmers, their families and the food security of the nation hard.
Is this so difficult to understand? Why the western insistence on this stiff pre-condition?My point is that such policies further enhance the problem, rather than solve it.
I am speaking with proof:
The per capita income of the bottom 20% of India’s population has not changed (as a percentage share) since 1978. That means, the bottom 20% of our population has not benefited at all from our economic boom. This is also confirmed by consumption patterns: with the consumption by the bottom 20% of the population being static @ between 0 – 1 growth%, in complete variance with the 3% growth registered by the top layers. While in the 1990s, India’s Gini Coefficient was 0.32, it has now gone up to 0.38. The top 10% now make 12 time the bottom 10% – as opposed to 6 times in the 1990s.
Simply put, while capitalism has brought tremendous benefits to the top 20%; as well as sizeable pluses to the next 40-60% of the people, the bottom levels remain unaffected. In other words, the capitalistic model has failed to deliver the needed results.
I am not making a case for socialism; it is undeniable that capitalism has brought benefits to one and all in absolute terms. But those absolute terms have proven insufficient for providing a decent life to the bottom of the pyramid. In simple terms, the trickle down effect is way too slow. While it takes complete impact, how many more billions will our society condemn?
That is why I say, put up or shut up. I dont have an answer to this problem; in the meantime, I will do all I can – at my own level – to alleviate this,.Given the world economic system today, and given the established fact of socialism’s failure, we are operating the optimal system. But that does not mean that the current system is human. Its established failure to deliver justice to the downtrodden is a matter of documented record… as is the fact of the richer nations doing their best to keep rich – at times denying basic rights to the poorer nations as can be seen in the example above. These things will not change; hence I say – do what you can at an individual level.