India’s Deepening Poverty Crisis

By Sajjad Shaukat

Poverty which creates other related crises is said to be a curse. Poverty is one of the major problems of the Third World. Poverty reflects a condition in which an individual fails to maintain a living standard sufficient for his physical and mental existence. Famous economist, Adam Smith remarks, “Man is rich or poor according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessities, the conveniences and the amusements of human life.”

On the one hand, India has rapidly been making progress in modern technologies-especially arms and ammunition with the help of the Western countries, while on the other, it has world’s largest number of poor people.

According to a report, “Of its more than 1 billion inhabitants, nearly 260.3 million are below the poverty line, of which 193.2 million are in the rural areas and 67.1 million are in urban areas. More than 75% of poor people reside in villages. Poverty level is not uniform across India. It is below 10% in states like Delhi, Goa, and Punjab etc. whereas it is below 50% in Bihar 43% and in Orissa 47%. It is between 30-40% in Northeastern states of Assam, Tripura, and Mehgalaya and in Southern states of Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.”

In this regard, by exposing the statistics highlighting poverty, unemployment farmer’s suicides and health, under the caption “Incredible and Shining India a Myth”, published on the Kashmir Media Watch and the KMW News on March 29, 2019 Dr. Arif Javid Wrote: “Imagine a country where extremist parties (BJP and Sangh Parviar) got vacated 72 villages (having a population over One lac people) to build a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at Kevadiya in Gujarat with a staggering cost of INR 2,979 crores under title of “ Statue of Unity”. Reportedly, apart from dislocating such a huge population, the Gujarat government is concerned about the fate of tourists at its newest tourist attraction as 500 mugger crocodiles are also to be relocated. In a related development, recently, Maharashtra Cabinet approved the allocation of Rs 100 crore for construction of a memorial in Mumbai dedicated to Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.”

Dr. Arif elaborated: “India has estimated population of about 1.2 billion people. As per SOS statistics, More than 800 million people in India are considered poor. 68.8% of the Indian population lives on less than $2 a day. Over 30% even have less than $1.25 per day available. India is one of the world’s top countries with regard to malnutrition. More than 200 million people don’t have sufficient access to food, including 61 million children. 7.8 million infants were found to have a birth weight of less than 2.5 kilograms-alarming figures for a country commonly referred to as the emerging market.”

Although child labour for children under the age of 14 in India is prohibited by law, according to official figures, 12.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working. Aid agencies assume that in reality, there are many more estimating that 65 million children between 6 and 14 years do not go to school. 2.7 million Indians are infected with the HIV virus; about 220,000 of them are children, with the tendency rising. India added 18 new billionaires to the list just last year, taking the total number of billionaires in the country to 119. Their total wealth is higher than the Union budget of India for 2018-2019 (Rs 24,422 billion), the report says. The country’s combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and states for public health, sanitation and water supply is less than the wealth of India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Inequality in India is based not just on class but caste, sexuality and gender as well. “A Dalit woman can expect to live almost 14.6 years less than one from a high-caste,” the report says, asserting that this inequality costs India its human potential. Latest employment data reinforces the distress about the job situation in India. The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy reported a loss of 1.1 crore jobs in 2018 and estimated that the unemployment rate reached a 15-month high of 7.4% in December 2018.The Labour Bureau also recorded a continuous rise in unemployment from 3.4% in 2014 to 3.7% in 2015 and 3.9% in 2016-17. Debt and draught continue to overwhelm farmers all around India. As per recent figures, Four hundred thirty farmers and farm labourers committed suicide during last year in agriculture rich Punjab alone. As per Guardian report, nearly 60,000 Indian farmers and farm workers committed suicide over the past three decades. In 2015, about 12,602 farmers committed suicide across India. As per World Health Org statistics, around 2 lakh leprosy cases continue to be reported every year in the world, with India accounting for more than half of them.”

Dr. Arif Javid maintained: “Above statistics (covering few sectors is tip of iceberg), however, amply busts the myth of “Incredible and Shining India” as it’s the “mask of media propaganda” that projects India in a hyper exaggerated manner.”

It is notable that one can note great socio-economic disparities between urban and rural regions of India. People of rural areas are forced to move out of villages to seek some subsistence living in the cities. In this process, they even lose some little saving what they had in their native villages. In the cities, they have to live without food and other basic amenities of life. Thus they are compelled to adopt the profession of begging in the urban areas.

It is misfortune of India that a select few families have good standards of living, one can compare them to the richest in the world, but the majority cannot get two meals a day.

However, dimensions of rural and urban poverty in India are manifold such as lack of facilities or poor arrangement in the fields of heath, education, sanitation, nutrition etc. including low income. The overdependence on monsoon with non-availability of irrigational facilities often culminate in crop-failure and low agricultural productivity, forcing farmers in the vicious circle of debt-traps.

According to an Indian study, “our economic development since Independence has been lopsided. There has been increase in unemployment, creating poverty. Population is growing at an alarming rate. The size of the Indian family is relatively bigger averaging at 4.2.The other causes include dominance of caste system which forces the individual to stick to the traditional and hereditary occupations.”

And Public health system in India suffers from many problems which include insufficient funding and shortage of facilities. In one of its reports, Indian Planning Commission has admitted that the “country has a shortfall of six lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and two lakh dental surgeons. This has led to a dismal patient-doctor ratio in the country. For every 10,000 Indians, there is just one doctor.” In this respect, in the past, the much publicized National Urban Health Mission aimed at providing accessible, affordable and effective basic health care facilities especially to the urban poor badly failed in its objectives.

Nevertheless, acute poverty has added to psychological problems, noted among these Indians like emotional disturbances and depression. Particularly, emotional abuse is due to the neglect and maltreatment of children and women. It involves a disregard of the physical, emotional, moral and social requirements of the children and women.

Owing to poverty, there are other social abuses of children like kidnapping and forcing them to beg in streets including murder. According to National Crime Records Bureau, “crimes against children have increased by 3.8% nationally-14,975 cases in 2005 from 14,423 in 2004.” And latest estimate shows 20% percent increase in these crimes.

As regards women and the young ladies, in a gender-biased society of India, apart from other poverty-related sufferings, working women have to face a number of problems such as injustice of unequal salaries and wages for the same job—adductions and rapes. Recently, there have been several cases of sexual harassment involving even the senior women officials, working in civil and military establishments. The psychological pressure of all this easily leads to a woman to quit her job, making her vulnerable to crime or suicide. In some cases, this deteriorating situation has compelled Indian women to take relief through alcohol and smoking. In this context, the third edition of the Tobacco Atlas released in Dublin by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation points out: “More women in India are turning smokers and oral users of tobacco. India has the third highest number of female tobacco users in the world.”

So far as crimes are concerned, even foreigners are not spared. Theft, robbery and rape which have become routine matter in India have also been conducted against the Western nationals form time to time.

Nonetheless, there are several laws in India to control various anti-social activities and crimes which emanate from poverty, but the same have failed owing to their non-implementation. Meanwhile, from time to time a number of plans and schemes have been launched by the Indian subsequent governments to improve the poor standard of living by ensuring food security, promoting self-employment, increasing wage employment and improving access to basic social services including raising the status of women, but all these proved unsuccessful due to ineffective implementation coupled with high corruption among the officials which also includes country’s top officials. Notably, in 2017, Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced economic reforms, claiming that the country’s economy was in a strong position. But, this plan badly failed.

Undoubtedly, we can conclude that directly or indirectly, India’s deepening poverty crisis has resulted into violence of various forms—social strife, economic crisis and political instability.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations


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