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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ramblings on Indian Poverty

"The time has come for the better-off sections of our society to understand the need to make our growth process more inclusive, to eschew conspicuous consumption, to save more and waste less, to care for those who are less privileged and less well off,", says our Prime Minister. But a recent McKinsey report says that average income will triple by 2025, with 300mn Indians coming out of poverty by then, resulting in a middle class of 580mn from today’s 50 odd million. Well, forget the future, as per the controversial findings by National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO); rate of decline in poverty has slowed down between 1999-2000 and 2004-2005; arguably the period when India has witnessed its best economic growth. They have also highlighted that poverty has actually increased between 1993-2005 in Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. So if the past, despite being so rosy, has been so bleak for a sizeable lot, should we be so upbeat as a whole for the future?

Income inequality has gone up significantly in India over the last few years. Though, people have cited this as an inevitable outcome of growth; such reasoning offers little respite for the urban poor, who have to bear the daily humiliation of this in-your-face contrast. The rural poor have either opted for suicides or are increasingly leaning to the hope offered by the Naxalites who now command significant power in half of our states. But, how do the urban middle class see this divide? They don’t have to. Living in gated apartment blocks (that allow only maids to get in), spending leisure time watching upper middle class soap operas or Karan Johar movies, commuting in air-conditioned cars, shopping in exclusive hyper-marts; their only substantial exposure to glimpses of poverty are through a three hour long viewing of a few award-seeking films such as Swades. We also never come across beggars or people who seem to be from lower economic strata by appearance ever at our shopping malls which are supposedly public places?

The domestic media, perennially staffed with the most upbeat and optimistic people in India, has not known how to react to our PM’s sudden remarks espousing caution. They can't see the case for keeping calm when you have just bought a Mercedes, even though people living at a stones throw are commemorating a death. Just recently, the media had eulogized La Perla’s launch of its lingerie in India with bras costing $100 (Rs 4000). With bras like these, the feminist movement is sure to see the final nail in its coffin in India (much has already been done towards that end by the soap operas). Which woman will do that oh so symbolic “bra-burning” with these Rs4000 masterpieces? The sistas are in, so check the frontline!!

1 comment:

BestOfIndya said...

Great Blog. can you post links to your articles also on