The Poverty of 'Rich' India

Dec 26, 2010

'For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance' (Mat 13:12). India is one of the developing and emerging global economic powers of the world. Everyone eyes India as it rightly projects to West as an economy generating power. Most companies tend to or at least aspire to base their business outsourcing firms in India.

There are loads of call-centres and BPO's spread across the country. And of course, these firms do raise job opportunities. As I walk the streets of London I feel proud to be an Indian because everyone thinks Indians have money. Newspapers report about the latest economic figures as improving at faster level as opposed to British Economy. Is this true? Are we as rich as 'India' or only some of us are rich in India? Does the world know that at least 38% of the population lives below the poverty line? Does the media and business world show the slums in Mumbai or just the multimillion house of Mukesh Ambani?

It is all irony for me when I tune into news channels. I am sure there are so many issues that India as a nation should be responsible for when showing the world that we are emerging economy. Look at our neighbour China, Do we really know the economic status of China in exact figures? Every tiny or large material I touch in the market is Chinese made or assembled in China. Why does not China showcase its economic power?

Let us do some in-depth enquiry into the economic well-being of India. I am proud to be a part of an emerging global economic power, but my question is, do we really need to showcase it when we have so many other issues being swept under the carpet? Our GDP is pretty consistent and there is significant growth at $1,235 trillion (nominal) for 2009, and GDP per capita income is $1,032. Our GDP growth rate as of 2010 is 8.8%. GDP per capita income is necessary to measure the wealth of the people in a country. Now this is measured, as you may know, by averaging the GDP of the country.

I am apprehensive about the whole business of averaging. How can someone average the total wealth of a whole country where there is a giganitc gap between the rich and the poor and proclaim that it is the wealth or income of the People? Does it give us genuine figures when there is such a huge gap between the poor chaiwala and the rich Ambanis?

Now the misery of the low income earners is doubled since there is a significant growth in the inflation rate. In September 2010, inflation rate stood at 8.62%. Does inflation add to misery of the poor? Price of rice (staple food for most Indians) going up by even 5% will result in foregoing a meal among the poor. I am sure people around the world can figure out these figures, I am no mathematician. Therefore, digital figures that appear in the international business news cast a shadow on the poor and the marginalized resulting in projecting India as an emerging global power. This might curb our access to the International aids and funds that help developmental projects.
A month ago Guardian (British newspaper) had a whole page dedicated to showcase Mukesh Ambani's expensive house in Mumbai. Some patted on my back saying 'well done Indians.' It was rated the most expensive house in the world. I was thrilled to read that India has the 4th richest man in the planet but I am also fully aware that India has the poorest person in the world too. I used to work in the slums in Ramwadi in Pune where people struggled to make their ends meet. They lived in absolutely miserable conditions, along the sewage canal. The stench and mosquitoes brought deadly diseases like malaria, dengue, cholera and so on. Their children would succumb to sickness because of malnutritions.

On the other hand, there were huge multimillion buildings like Gold Adlabs, McDonalds, ect right next to the slum. How can one stomach this? I don't think I need to blabber on after giving a short but clear glance at the reality of India.
Therefore, are Indians really rich? Does the world read India in its real form or a glamorous haven bubbling with wealth? I would emphatically say that a few Indians are rich but a majority of them are poor and many of them live below the poverty line. When Obama made trade deals with India everyone was fascinated with the idea. How does the new trade deal of America help the poor people in the slums and remote villages? For instance, the deal includes jet aircraft - do we think an ordinary person can afford flying in India?

'Grass is greener on the other side of the fence' is what many of us seem to feel. This can stray us away and stunt the growth of our economy. Gigantic international firms might replace our traditional domestic industries resulting in further poverty. Let me leave it at that allowing you to ponder over it.

By JMD, London
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Comment on this article

  • Joseph F. Gonsalves, Bannur, Puttur / Mangalore

    Mon, Dec 27 2010

    Poverty was there since time immemorial. Comparatively Indian poverty had been reduced substantially however the rich and poor gap has been increased. There are people blaming the government for the poverty. Is the government entirely responsible for the poverty? Why we the citizens should blame entirely on the government? How much the government can do for drug edict persons, the gamblers, the careless, sluggish, lethargic and the docile people, professional beggars, the terrorists who are coming to kill and to be killed, the thugs, the corruptive officials? What the government will do for the Polygamous/multiple wives/sex lovers, for the pleasure in having plenty of children? What the government will do for over ambitious people, over ambition is like a gambling. Can we blame the government for drought and untimely raining as in repercussion crops are washed out? PEOPLE WILL NOT CONSTRUCT OR BUILD A TOILET FOR THEMSELVES RATHER THEY WILL BUY A MOBILE AND SHIT HIDING THEMSELVES TO A ROCK OR A BUSH. Aren’t the citizens also to be blamed for the Poverty? Does our own houses are free of poverty? Are we managing our families with balanced budget? How many families have deficit budget? If each and every citizen thinks that I should keep my family and house in an orderly manner with balanced budget that family, society and the country will become success, flourish and prosper. Can we blame The Poverty entirely on the government?

  • Felix F.,, India/Ksa

    Mon, Dec 27 2010

    The following is called POOR INDIA and not having Mcdonalds etc near the slums.


    Published: Dec 26, 2010 18:03 d: Dec 26, 2010 18:03

    A bus collided head-on with a van that was carrying mourners returning from a funeral in northern India, killing 35 people, police and a news report said Sunday.

    State police official D.Y.S. Chauhan said another 14 people in the two vehicles were injured in the accident Saturday near Badaun, a town in Uttar Pradesh state.

    The bus driver was among those killed, he said.

    The Press Trust of India news agency, citing unnamed official sources, said one of five seriously injured people died in hospital on Sunday.

    Chauhan said that the van’s driver lost control of the vehicle as it went through a mound of sand. It then crashed into the bus.

    Badaun is 175 miles (280 kilometers) southwest of Lucknow, the state capital.

    India, with the world’s second-largest population, has the highest annual road death toll in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

    More than 110,000 people die each year in India in road accidents caused by speeding, bad roads, overcrowding and poor vehicle maintenance, according to police.

  • Nayakmaam, Hull, UK/Gujjadi, SK

    Mon, Dec 27 2010

    In health economy, there are some surrogate markers that are the true indicators of the health status and spending capacity of the people of a nation. To name a few, Infant mortality rate (no. of children dying within 28 days of birth), Maternal mortality rate (no. of mothers dying within 7 weeks of giving birth), life expectancy at birth. Infant mortality rate for indians is 55 (means out of 100 live births, 55 children don't survive for 4 weeks and 78 don't make it to their 5th birthday! and we rank 143rd in the world....! what an achievement). They have hardly changed for Indians. Why? If the economy is booming and people have more money to spend, where is the money going? Why is simple pneumonia and diarrhoea the major killers for our children? All money is with Ambanis, Khans, Yediyurappa, Gowda family and last but not the least Reddy brothers! When someone does illegal mining and exports the ore, it adds to GDP. But how many have benefited from it? Only Reddy brothers !! The national as a whole benefits from booming economy when the extra earning percolates upto the last person in the social strata. Along with India and China, the other booming economy is Brazil. See how they have translated the booming economy into improved health care status to its people. Shame on us Indians. We need a dictator to rule us for sometime who should hang these traitors like reddys and Yedyys. I am sorry if I have bored you with my lecture. Just ignore. HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011

  • Lancy Dias, Mangalore / Kabul

    Sun, Dec 26 2010

    Well written JMD. Something to ponder, I feel as Mr.Yusuf said this should be an eye opener to the Indian government.

  • Vikramaditya, India

    Sun, Dec 26 2010

    Poverty was gifted to India by the Al-Guardians ancestrors. From a nation of 100 percent poverty to a nation of 20 percent poverty, it's remarkable acheivement. If Ambanis are wasting money, it's their culture. That never means that the ordinary Indian is getting out of poverty. He/she is but the time for absolute poverty elimination will come by 2020 only. Ten years from now when we can say the poverty is so low, that the governement will be able to tackle it and within 2025 or so the whole poverty in India vanishes and there are no more poor people, if not rich they all belong to the middle class.

  • yousuf, ksa

    Sun, Dec 26 2010

    Very true. The article very much reflects the fact behind “India is one of the developing and emerging global economic powers of the world”. I being an NRI so much concerned about my beloved country whenever I watch the statistics of the poverty level. Though the writer didn’t point the finger toward our current politicians for the situation, shall we guess the article is an eye opener/alarm for the Indian govt.?

  • Raj, Chennai

    Sun, Dec 26 2010

    I cannot disagree with this piece more. Are you denying that millions were lifted out of poverty to middle class over the past 20 years? Are you denying that the purchasing power of millions of Indians have gone up from owning the luxury possession of a "DOT Phone" to owning two wheelers & Mobile phones in the last 20 years? Come back in another 20 years and see how many millions more have been lifted out of poverty....For some the cup is always half empty.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Sat, Dec 25 2010

    Good article to open the eyes of
    the readers.

    We can be thrilled when somebody
    pats on our back with a sharp or
    blunt compliment about the 1
    billion house owned by the 4th
    richest person in the world the
    mansion in the middle of the

    On the other hand, only those people who had the blessing
    to walk through the sewer
    smelling slums of India to experience the poverty of India.
    The poor people are not enjoying
    the march of prosperity.

    On the other hand, a few
    of them are happy about life in
    their extreme poverty. They can
    sleep sound every night without
    taking sleeping tablets or 100
    proof liquor.

    As the author has stated, the rich
    people are poor in happiness and
    content of life, so adding more and making everything super big to
    reach the final destination of
    perfect happiness still missing
    the final goal of life.

    Somebody sent me an e-mail, talking
    briefly about Mr. Azim Premji, who
    recently donated $ two billion for
    educating the masses of India.

    His ambition in life was to get
    involved with politics as a
    communist politician, also the
    other ambition was to start a big
    orphanage. Since he honestly
    believed in equality, he wanted to
    be in the communist party. Since
    he had compassion for the suffering
    orphans, he was interested to build
    an orphanage. Now, he could do
    far greatly than the dreams he had.

    He is rich in his heart, so he is
    a rich-rich man in the full definition.

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