Daily Reflections

Heartfelt Condolences … to Poverty


I started reading “The Missionary position” by Christopher Hitchens a couple of days back and am reeling from what I am discovering about Mother Teresa on every page. While the book is a tiny one, I will take some time to read it because am trying to find corroborative anecdotes and evidence… after all this is Mother Teresa, someone whose charity Siru and I planned on joining incase we didn’t get married. Am glad we both got married because we would have been terrible nuns and the Missionaries of Charity may not have accepted us anyway.

I have never been a fan of poverty nor have I melted when seeing someone begging because I have always thought that poverty is a condition created by governments and poor education. Poverty is big business – keeping people poor so that the rich can do “charity” is an age-old social ill. When you read books like “A Life you can Save” by Peter Singer and “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins, you lose all respect for corporations and the uber rich. With all the poverty alleviation efforts that have gone on in Africa, many countries there remain dirt poor 😦 and none of us is asking the question why!

Two days back Twitter was abuzz with the news about India’s poverty alleviation efforts and the fact that 44 Indians are coming out of the “extreme” poverty status every minute. This was great news and am glad its the Brookings Institute that has published the report. If it was an Indian agency then everyone would have quickly tried to trash it. There is deafening silence about this report because all the opposition parties are probably wondering how to attack this information.

This is clearly something to cheer about… and soon the world will sit up and take notice of our efforts. Our PM and the current NDA government certainly deserves kudos for this. The Jan-Dhan yojana and the Direct Benefit Transfer has probably contributed the most to this besides other opportunities – either through the Mudra yojana or just employment. No wonder the opposition is feigning ignorance and the private media doesn’t care about this because it supports the government.

Here’s Rishi Bagree’s tweet that clearly spells out what the numbers mean –

 

And yes I agree with him that its because of the Modi government’s policies. I wonder what is not to like about this news and those who genuinely love this country should be celebrating.

We have a very personal example of this happening – our maid Molina, who comes to clean our place everyday for the past 15 years has managed to pay Rs. 20,000/- as rental advance for a new house. Till she could open a Jan-Dhan account, all the money that she made was in cash and every few months, her drunkard husband would beat her up or just take the money without beating her up. She had no way of saving any money. The gas subsidy has been reaching her account, her salary from the school where she works also comes to her account and she just uses the money we give her to pay rent and buy food. For the first time she has savings that no one can steal easily. She does have a useless son who is living off her earnings but thats another story. Guess what, her kidney stones were removed free of cost because she is covered under ESI. She would have spent Rs. 60,000/- otherwise. Sure – ESI is ages old and not something that this government can take any credit for. Her medicines that were to cost her approx Rs. 2500/- were bought at the Jan Aushadhi store for just Rs. 800/- …. who setup the Jan Aushadhi stores ? The scheme was launched in 2008 and was languishing as many other schemes. The MODI government has managed to revive it and has opened 3000+ stores selling generic medicines and making drugs affordable.

So if India is beating poverty back its not plain luck, there is a concerted and honest effort being made towards it.

“Garibi Hatao”, anyone? The dynasty’s most popular election slogan – the only “garibi” that got “hataoed” was their own, what with the Italian-born daughter-in-law becoming richer than the Queen of England and her son-in-law moving up from the gutter to the skyscrapers of Gurgaon. So much “garibi” got “hataoed” indeed.

HMVs – any thoughts ? Hope you are happy that the poor are not remaining poor even if you don’t want to credit Mr. Modi and his government for their efforts :).

Jai Hind.

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4 replies »

  1. Bindu,
    It’s encouraging, and I’m glad your housecleaning lady can afford a house. I wonder, though, if the monetary figures tell the whole story. In other words, money is not so crucial in a land-based economy, where people grow their own food. Money becomes more necessary in urban settings. It sounds as though your maid benefited more from the bank account and the government’s medical programs than from any other changes. Sounds like she works very hard.

    I guess the question is whether the reduction in poverty is leading to improved quality of life.

    • Katharine – by quality of life, I suppose you mean access to good food, good quality education and medical help. There are efforts on to ensure these things are accessible to the poor. But having them subsist on under $2 was just the first thing to change. Everyone has access to free education but in many states the quality of education is poor. So those are things that need fixing. As a country we have many things to fix, but the “extreme” poverty was truly a shame after 70 years of independence. Especially after being the richest country and getting plundered. Plundered by the invaders and colonists and then by our own people – that was unacceptable.

  2. Rishi Bagree’s numbers are really exciting and shocking – both that there were so many in such a dire position and that so much change could have happened in such a short time.

    I don’t know enough about Indian politics to have an informed opinion. I know there are many against the current government but then that’s often the case especially when those in comfortable positions are forced to account for themselves. What I *can* say is that on my visits to India in October/November 2016 and this past February I noticed a huge difference – so many positive changes. Your data about poverty is part of it (though harder to see for an outsider) but cleanliness, availability of washrooms and improved transport and technological infrastructure are obvious. Every major city we visited was making huge expansions to their subway systems – and I heard of still others we didn’t visit. It’s very exciting.

    I need to dig deeper on the information about Mother Teresa. I had heard rumblings that all was not what it appeared to be but I need to read more before I can really make a conclusion. It doesn’t sound good at first glance, though.

    • Todd, you are right – in terms of the positive infra changes. We see it every time we travel to a place after a gap. Thats truly exciting. And you are spot on in terms of the people that are against the current government, because there is a genuine push towards transparency and making it a level playing field. That doesn’t work for the uber rich and powerful :).

      About Mother Teresa – the more pages I turn of that book, the more depressed I am getting. Its truly the fall of an icon…. and everything Hitchens has written is getting corroborated from news items of those days. 😦

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