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Who made us poor?

Raj K Pandey, MBS, MA

The root-cause of poverty is an outcome of system fault in a nation that is the cumulative by-product of
negligence of state authorities. In the context of Nepal, today’s our overall problems are the
consequences of yesterday’s solutions. When the weakest groups of the people asked us to listen, we
started giving them advice. When they initiated for a positive change, we stopped and warned them that
they should not act on that way. We trampled on their feelings, when they wished to work within the
system. We enforced our vested interests to solve their problems and we failed them particularly after the
unification of Nepal.

All we were asked were: we should, at least, respect them; value them; accept them as human beings and
let them also survive with us. But, we ignored their feelings; killed their emotions; suppressed their voices
and excluded their survival rights, too. Nothing, however, remains the same forever in this world and it
eventually brings ups and downs. Consequently, the suppressed group of the people talked loudly; the
slept downtrodden class of people wake-up; the seated helpless poor people stand-up and weakest rural
people become the strongest, when they knew that they can do anything for themselves; they are not
helpless; may be discouraged and faltered. The Maoist insurgency fueled the movements in Nepal, which
is an outcome of poverty, system fault and social exclusion among the rural communities.

Finally, they lifted the aged old chains and choose their lives in different way-do or die! They converted
themselves into the Maoist. These groups of strongly determined worriers can hardly do good for others,
who even do not care for themselves.

Now, imagine, how unsecured we are to live in such a conflicting circumstances. So, either we must find
a proper way or make it one to overcome them by bringing all excluded into the mainstream politics of
the country. Let’s, therefore, wage another effective war together, which may be last one but the best one.
And, all the minorities and marginalized group of people should be included into nation building process
by providing them greater opportunities for active participation for the rural development of Nepal.

To change others, we first of all, should alter ourselves and use our creative approaches to the problems
and opportunities. For this, we should learn from our previous mistakes and thoroughly understand
ourselves. If our goal is superior, we must be target oriented and never compromise with missions and
visions for the backward community development of the country.

To solve the Maoist problem in Nepal, the government including we should always consider the excluded
people. Listen their voices before judging; guide those, who are misdirected; maintain a liberal attitude
and give them values as human and citizen of Nepal. Just accept and respect them; facilitate to their
positive actions. We should not fear with the failures, fear only with the possible absence of our inner
willpower to work with them even in the future. We should do our constant karma; the consequences are
beyond our direct control. We must teach them; love them; laugh with them and live with them. We all
should think from them; learn from them and get approval from them.

We must exchange with each-others, what we have and appreciate theirs, which they made. Slowly, they
will also acknowledge us as their friends. Then, we all will be the actual conqueror. Then the government
should mobilize them for a desired change at local level. The poverty, in this way, may be reduced and
the anti-human forces - terrorisms can be alleviated.
General Setting

Everyone can be labeled as poor in one or another way. The list includes not only: weak, hunger, sick,
homeless, landless, crippled, beggar, mad, slave, street vendor but also the solder in war, saint, loser of
the world including a millionaire after crash of the stock exchange, popular artist who finds no buyer for
his/her works, an expert who finds no place for engagement, a politician who finds no position in the
mainstream politics and an intellectual who finds no job for engagement-all are poor in relative terms.

The social setting of the poor may be different in various socio-cultural values, who may be recognized in
several names and brand. For example, in Persian language, there are 30 words for naming poor.
Similarly, in African language, at least 3-5 words have been identified for poverty. Moreover, in the
context of Nepal, society perceives poverty as a matter of karma and poor are an outcome of luck that is
termed as fatalism1.

However, in many cultures of the world, poor are not always the opposite of rich. During 9th century in
Europe, respect and admires were given to those who choose the life as volunteer poor since they could
practice the freedom and were not enforced to join in the army to exercise the authority power2.

Moreover, other several conditions such as falling from own’s station in life, loss of status, lack of
protection, exclusion from own’s community, public humiliation, etc. are the state of poverty. It is a
matter of state of mind that how a person responses to the reverse circumstances that may be reactive or
proactive according to nature of a person.

Similarly, a highly educated but dependent with the parents’ property may also be considered as poor
since the meaning of knowledge is to make life easier but if s/he can not manager his/her life through own
efforts, is he capable in real sense? We all, by definition, are poor in actual meaning but it is matter of
internal (personal) and external (social) perceptions and interpretations.

Poverty has been perceived from various prospective. All perceptions and interpretations are equally
significant. Moreover, the poverty is the matter of abstract for some school of thoughts and it is matter of
discourse and debate for others3.

Identification of the Poverty

Which poor are we talking about? The World Bank’s poor? The UNDP’s Poor? The ILO’s Poor? The
UNESCO’s poor? The WHO’s poor? The FAO’s poor?

Material Perceived View of the Poverty

The materials, on which, the poverty is based on physical things can be categorized as the materialistic
viewpoint of the poverty. The lack of things is poverty, which has focused only on the physical materials
of the world. This lack of things may be one’s inability to meet the ends; lack of good fortune, self-
confidence, not being respected or physically loved by others - opposite sex. This view is related with
bhautikbad and it is derived from the philosophy of consumption and consumerism.

Bista, Dor Bahadur (1994). Fatalism and Development. Orient Longman Limited. India.
Sachs, Wolfang. (2000). The Development Dictionary. Zed Books Limited. London.UK.
Shrestha, Nanda. . In the Name of Development. (Also see: Pandy, D. Raj. Failed Development.)
The materialistic factor includes discrimination, inequality, political or other form of domination, none-
availability of minimum basic necessities (food, house, cloths, sex, education, health, sanitation, social
respect, future security, etc.), which are required for economical, social or biological survival as defined
in the particular culture. The materialistic poverty may also include exclusion from the education and

Emotionally Perceived View of the Poverty

This category of poverty is one’s perception of his/her own condition since we are what we repeatedly
think of ourselves. Perception is quite a personal and/or socio-cultural affair. A person may perceive that
s/he is poor due to metaphysical causes such as God’s will, one’s karma and so on which may be
perceived beyond direct control of a person.

However, some enlightened people perceive poverty in a positive term such as Iranian Sufis and Hindu
Jogis. Moreover, the Buddha or Gandhi who abandoned the physical property, and chose the different life
for the sake of freedom from the possessions which proved blessing for them. For this school of thought,
the poverty is an opportunity for reaching higher form of riches. Hence, the Islam says, “Poverty is my
pride and glory”. And, the Geeta emphasizes on salvation, which is totally detachment from the material
life. For layman like us it is a principal of Upoyogitabad that emphasizes to be contented with whatever
the things one possesses and to be adjusted with the reversed situation.

Socially Perceived View of the Poverty

This school of thought belongs to others view of the poverty and how other perceives to the poor. Poverty
is perceived as the weak, sin, and virtue in general. In the context of Nepal, an economically sound,
financially secured and professionally achieved person is comparatively considered as the most successful
person than a highly intellectual but materialistically looser5.

There are two types of reactions regarding the poverty. The first type of interpretation is related with the
direct and/or indirect interventions. This is required to combat poverty which is based on social, cultural
or ethical reasons such as charity, assistance etc. The second type of interpretation is none-intervention,
which is justified by either belief that nothing should be done for poor since they deserve their condition.
They trust that all interventions may eventually produce negative results so no change at all.

Psychologically Perceived View of the Poverty

Socio-cultural space and time affects various perception of the poverty. This is affected by the space-time
to which they belong. This explains why, in different communities and at the different times, the same
materials are perceived differently both by the poor and the society in large. For example: 5 Years ago
when asked: “Where were the poorest houses?” The replied was, “We have no poor houses in our
village”. However, recently the same question was asked and the reply was, “Please do something for us,
we are so poor.” Such type of difference may be due to exposure or awareness or comparison with the
other external societies.

Pandy, Raj K. (2002). Who Are Poor? Why They Are Poor? Who Makes Them Poor? (Unpublished)
Word Bank. (2002, 03, 04). World Development Report. Also see: UNDP Human Development Report.
Economically Perceived View of the Poverty

The first report of the World Bank (then in IBRD) in 1948 has closely correlated the problem of global
poverty with the gross national product. The same report explains that countries with an average per
capita income of less than US $ 100 are, by definition, poor and the underdeveloped.

The report expresses that the responsibility of the richer nations, the riches of them being the USA, to
help the poor countries in raising their living standard. Thus, due to first Word Bank Report, for the first
time in the history of the entire nations, came to be considered several countries as the poor (even by
themselves). Consequently, national income was introduced as a new global measure for expressing the
various stages of the economic development to measure the poverty.

The World Bank definition leaded to the great transformation, which disturbed the traditional relationship
between society and the economy. Hence, the traditional concept of perceiving poor was totally changed
and all humanitarian values were converted into the pure monetary term. Currently, s/he is said to be poor
who earns less than 1 US dollar; or consumes less calorie, has no access to the radio, TV, education, etc,
or has lower HRD index. It is a long list defined by all for the sake own interest and usage.

Moreover, President Herry S. Truman on the inaugural speech on the 20th of January 1949 said: “We must
embark [go on board] on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and
individuals progress available for an improvement and growth of the underdeveloped areas”6.

On that day, in the history of the world, in a pure economic sense, 2 billion people of the world become
underdeveloped which means poor. Flowing a consensus reached among the world elites on the diagnosis
of the disease (underdevelopment and lack of income) as well as its cure (economic and technological
development) the armies of experts such as politicians, planners, bureaucrats, socio-economists and even
the anthropologists started acting as a flower of the World Bank definition i.e. 1 US dollar concept.

The WB Approach was expressed in President Truman’s Point Four Declaration: Peace Corps, Fight for
Poverty etc. several programs were launched and implemented globally. President Truman further
explained: “The economic life [of the poor] is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is handicap and a
threat both to them and to prosperous areas”7.

Analysis of Poverty

Poor are not poor but were made poor; they have got voices but made suppressed; they have got energy
but that is being exploited so that all victimized people are poor and all the poor are victims of the system
fault. Poverty does not come by birth, it is an acquired situation. The circumstances in the nation are the
major factors where people can flourish or deteriorate. Poor are products of difficult circumstances; the
circumstances are the products of fault systems; the fault systems are the products of wrong men in
decision making; the wrong men in leadership are the products of poor people’s votes; the poor people
made the wrong decision in selecting ‘the best among the worst leaders’ and gave them consent for ruling
over own selves which is the products of low level of awareness about the civic rights.

Low level of awareness is the product of lack of good education because education makes people easy to
lead but difficult to enslave. Mack Karley’s clerk producing education, under previous colonized
developing countries, does not emphasize in identifying the inner potentiality rather it produces the exact
photocopies after going through tough memorization based courses.

Sachs, Wolfang. (2000). The Development Dictionary. Zed Books Limited. London.UK.
Also see: USAID Publication. Four Decades of Development (1990)
The lack of proper education, in countries like ours eventually is the result of fault in the existing systems.

Nature has given people energy and vitality and only they can succeed who use their power productively
but the failures can never recognize their own hidden capacities due to ignorance. In my opinion, poor,
therefore, are state and system made poor who have no direct access to the national resources and the
opportunities. The standard indicators in measuring the poverty, however, should be not merely based on
money earning capacity but also various other factors such as indigenous knowledge, heritages, socio-
economy, traditional cultures, customs, languages, potential resources etc. these are the precious assets,
which determine whether the communities are realistically richer or poorer.

Those countries are poorest, who have not included all casts, creeds, religions, sex and political thoughts
within their systems. They have not only excluded the poor from the main developmental stream but also
loosing chances of own progresses. Discriminations, human rights violations, disturbances, tensions and
misunderstanding are usually in those societies where all people are not actively participating for a
commonly shared goal. The marginalized group of people, who have maximum potential resources, could
be used as the best nation builders, unfortunately, no one is thinking on this issue seriously.

A country cannot have fruits without its roots i.e. grassroots level communities which are the strong
foundation for development. Poor countries’ systems are incomplete because they have not included all
components into them. The systems are made so narrow so that certain classes of people only have direct
control over them. Without creative approaches to these problems and the opportunities, we can hardly
alleviate the poverty in totality.

For this, the most important requirement is system reform that consists good governance that means
orderly; result oriented mechanism, that means capable in the work and the scientifically improvement in
distribution that means justifiable returns in the action.

A system is a combined functioning of all units and sub-units. All these components are interdependent
and effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence. If all people are
included into the mainstream, a country will get synergy for its progress. Synergy means that the whole is
grater than the sum of its parts. If we put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the
total of weight held by each separately. 1+1 equals not only 2 but also 11. The essence of synergy is to
value difference-to respect them, to build on strength and to compensate for weaknesses.

Those individuals or societies or countries are happier who have liberal attitudes and the systems. Diverse
societies are more successful where mixed cultures, values, sentiments, emotions, opinions, ideas and
knowledge are heartily adopted. Cultural diversity refers to non-biological differences between group of
people, communities and populations. The liberal diverse societies can easily welcome all the minority
ethnic groups, casts, creeds, political thoughts and religions. There will be healthy competitions, creative
tensions, willingness to do better than other, open minded for improvements and more importantly, all
will learn and share with each-other.

Diverse societies are more organized and developed where there are no minorities, inequalities, social
injustices and exploitations. If there is justice, there will be equality in the societies. Equality means that
everyone and everything can find a place in the society where their specific capacities are usefully
engaged. It does not mean that everyone is supposedly regarded as exactly the same.
Systems should be always liberal, people will be serious; if systems are sociable and kind, their people
will be loyal; systems should promote good and instruct unskilled, people will be enthusiastic. Such
positive feelings in people promote the harmony; for where there is harmony, there is love; if there is
love, there is peace; if there is peace, there is happiness and high possibility for development.
Consequences of Exclusion

Ignorance, poverty and vanity make many soldiers since there are no rules for necessities. Hence, when
two people have similar qualities and problems but not develop or solve to some degree, if they work as
equals, it is possible to raise the level of less-developed partners. The liking minds become organized and
choose a final alternate to change their lives as last attempt-do or die! Same mob, which has many heads
but no brains, acts as an anti-system force with a trust that one for all and all for one. The mob thinks that
it is an only organization where they can get justice, value, respect and freedom. The mob starts in
understanding the meaning of their organized energies since their duty determines the destiny!

The terrorists, therefore, are the group of organized frustrated individuals, who could not use their
energies in a constructive manner so that they choose the destructive! The existing faulty system in a
nation creates the crimes but the terrorists commit them. When people cannot easily tackle the more
complicated challenges bigger than their capacities, they choose any means to face them.

In the context of Nepal, the weakest group of people, who used to think their life as a matter of chance or
luck, unconsciously started in choosing their life in a different way, with the expectation that they will
fight another war which will be the last one but the best one - do or die! Evil does not naturally dwell in
any part of the world; it is a by-product of perception, reaction, interpretation and how people respond to
it. Backward societies are the most fertile lands for the terrorists where consist highly destructive minds
because they hardly get any places to use their creativities. The more they develop the negativity, the
more destructive they are for the societies.

Developed countries and the system machinery will be faultless if they avoid possible harms by a creative
manner and they will also be blameless if they realize the danger and forth coming struggle against the
global terrorism. To overcome the world terrorism, we have to declare a war against the world poverty,
negativity, frustration, destructive perceptions and thoughts among the people. For this, we have to give
them value, respect and utilization of their untapped energies. We must also win over our own attitudes
and make ourselves more liberal so that we can respect others. Those who know others are wise; those
who know only themselves are enlightened. If we know others and ourselves, we will never be engaged in
any conflict but if we do not know ourselves and others, we will be in danger as same thing is happening
in Nepal in these days.

The weapon has never won any wars in totality rather it increases the number of enemies in a long run. If
we abolish a terrorist by using the armed force, it will multiply the number of foes in a geometrical ratio
such as 2,4,8,16,32. If, let us suppose, the government killed me in a charge, slowly all my family
members, relatives, colleagues and well wishers will negatively accept the bitter fact and ultimately
develop the strong negative feelings towards the ruling system and some of my relatives will also act as
an anti-system force. The exactly had happened in our country at the very initial stage of the Maoist
insurgency prior a decade.

Moreover, what will remain the differences between government and the terrorist, if government also
choose the same destructive way in the name of peace keeping in nation? Government will be a legal
super terrorist, who has rights to use the people’s resources, too!

Love begets love and the haters multiply the haters so that we should use our brainpower and liberal
attitudes to overcome the Maoist problem in the country. The terrorist as branded by the state has not
chosen the final - do or die alternate without any determined motives because only strong reasons make
the strong actions. If the government machinery of Nepal still ignore them, than no disaster is worse than
to underestimating the opponents.
The Nepalese leaders have repeatedly committed mistakes for not seriously addressing the Maoist
problem which may eventually proved counterproductive to all the existing power centers of the country.

The present constitution of Nepal is mainly efficient and effective for its makers so that they always insist
in continuing them, which are indirectly beneficial to retain the state power on their hands. It is, one the
other hand, important to understand the implications of how the beneficiaries of the existing systems react
to the change. When people’s sense of security is based entirely on statuesque and particular state of
affair, then they can hardly avoid the upset when changes take place.

This is exactly like a gambling where nobody wins until somebody looses. The elite class of Nepal does
not like to loose the game at any costs so that they also have a kind of fear within; it is not for an authority
but they affaire to loose it. They, as a result, never allow an opportunity to downtrodden, women and
socially excluded communities to bring them into the mainstream of the system. Things, however, cannot
remain the same forever and must eventually alter so that at anytime the excluded class may convert
themselves into the terrorist against system, if not address their problems timely during transition phase

Someone may have a good without having any means to achieve it; another may have power to achieve
the great things without the direction to guide it. The one who has goal but lacks the means may become
an idle dreamer; the one who has the power but lacks direction may become a bull. Only when a person
has both capacity to accomplish the work and a worthy aim to guide it can then be perfect in his action. It
is not enough to have great qualities and energies; we must also have management of them. If we
mobilize unused energies of the excluded marginalized communities in constructive activities, it will be
highly beneficial for the nation building process of rural Nepal.


Overall progress in a group or an organization or a society cannot take place through the single efforts
and actions of an elite class alone, even if the elite really has super capacity. It is essential to include less
powerful and other talented people/societies, too by the means of equity so that all can develop through
energy of pooled abilities. This can only work if solidarity is expressed in understanding and action. All
should focus in understanding what is to be done over the time and how it can be accomplished through
cooperative efforts of all; inequalities can be conquered and extreme polarization can be avoided.
Solidarity and mutual cooperation are needed in promoting equality and social justice, which strengthen
global partnership.

Compassion and cooperation lead to future success because the cooperation is nothing we do to a person
but it is something we become with a person. It is by the sympathetic interaction and sharing of people
with different qualities and the characteristics so that collective development can take place with the great
effects. I strongly recommend that all elite class who hold the state power from the centuries should
accept others with tolerance. The elites should go in search of poor, learn from them, plan with them,
serve them, begin with what they have and build with what they know. Finally, none can stop the positive
transformation in Nepal for nation building process and effective development can taken place soon.
The writer is involving with the rural developmental sector. He can be reach through: