India: Problems of Poverty amidst plenty “India happens to be a rich country inhabited by very poor people”Manmohan Singh, Prime

Minister For the past few decades, India has been categorized as a developing country. In spite of significant landmarks and rapid advancements in various sectors, India has failed to become a developed country. While the nation has been making headlines for economic boom, multitudes of billionaires, construction of skyscrapers, million dollar investments and achievements in technology; the death rates, malnutrition, illiteracy and poverty is multiplying manifold. India is a country which has prosperity on one side of the coin and poverty on the other. It is the stark impact of poverty that hinders the growth of the country. Gone are the days when India used to be a famine land and had to rely on the Americas for the supply of PL wheat. With the advent of the Green revolution, India, not only eliminated famine but also increased its food production and became self-sufficient in food grains. Operation Flood, initiated by National Dairy Development Board in 1970 introduced a National Milk Grid that was effective in reducing the poverty and famine levels. The scheme has also made India the largest producer of milk and dairy products in the world. Agriculture has been the base of India’s economic development with its existence in India dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Today, India is one of the major agricultural economies in the world, in terms of area of cultivation, total produce, bio- diversity, saturation and surplus in food grains, FCI godowns and buffer stock. Statistically, in terms of the farm output, India is ranked second in the world. The important role that agriculture plays in India’s economy can be realized from the fact that it contributed to 16.6% of the country’s GDP in 2007 and provides jobs to 52% of the working population. India’s agriculturally strong in the world market being the largest producer of fresh fruits, second in the production of fresh vegetables and third in terms of poultry products. But in spite of this abundant agricultural wealth, scores of people die due to malnutrition and food scarcity. Statistics show us that a staggering 42.5 % of children are suffering from malnutrition in India. World Bank has reported that India comes second in child malnutrition and is home to the largest number of underweight children in the world. Thousands of people die everyday due to lack of food and proper hygiene. India faces two nutrition problems- Under nutrition and over nutrition. People in Punjab and Kerala suffer from over nutrition where the people consume more than sufficient food whereas the people in UP, West Bengal and Chattisgarh struggle to survive.

Naturally, a question arises in everyone’s mind- Why are we suffering from food scarcity and malnutrition when we are capable of being self reliant? The main problem lies in the improper storage and distribution of the food that is produced. The majority of the crops are left to rot in the FCI godowns and the buffer stock becomes waste. A good storage unit requires proper ventilation, control of moisture and adequate sunlight. But the only thing that seems to be predominant in the food storage units is the rats. In 2010, a RTI query has showed that over a period of six months in the year, 10,688 lakh tonnes of food grains were damaged in FCI depots. This amount is estimated to feed around 600,000 people for a period of ten years. The government does not invest enough monetary funds for the development of agriculture and the implementation of technology in the same field. It feels that the agriculture sector is not worth the high investment due to a low return but it fails to realize that it is the basis on which the nation survives. Further, India is home to 1.15 billion and certainly, the number of people is increasing faster than the rate at which food is being produced. As a result, a decrease in supply and increase in demand occurs. Nowadays, it is common to find the ruling party offer free items during the election times. In Tamil Nadu, during every state and national elections, certain political parties offer free television, rice at Re.1 per kilo and household appliances such as mixer grinder and stoves. The government can rather concentrate on improving the infrastructure in the agricultural front so that it makes the farmers take up more interest in agriculture and develop it rather than making them sit at home. The other important factor is the per capita income of the nation. In the yester years, India was the Treasure Island to the western world and it witnessed invasions and subsequent colonization where it was stripped of its riches. When Europe and America cashed in on the tide of Industrial revolution, India failed to catch up with it and as a result lagged behind. Over the past decade, India has made substantial growth and established a firm position in the world economy. India is currently the second fastest growing economic superpower in the world only behind China. It is the tenth largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP and fourth in terms of purchasing power parity. In the olden days, India was called the “Land of Wealthy Maharajas” and today, it is turning into a Land of Billionaires. As of 2010, Forbes has

listed out 69 billionaires in the country, with steel giant, Lakshmi Mittal coming sixth in the world’s Billionaire List. The World Bank report states that India is the tenth wealthiest nation in terms of GDP with the value mounting up to a staggering 1537966 million dollars. India is the highest gold importing country in the world. Irrespective of the constant shoot in the bullion prices, there are a score of jewellery stores that keep springing up. For instance, during the Akshay Tritay, jewellery stores are always packed with people craving for more gold. Just as the western countries craved for India in the olden days, today, the western MNCs are fighting off to establish themselves in the country, which they perceive as a competitive market. As of April 2011, India’s Foreign Exchange reserves are estimated at 313,511 million dollars which ranks 7th in the world. These numbers clearly reflect the copious wealth that is present in the nation India has witnessed a major and rapid evolution over the past decade. The number of wealthy people has increased and people are able to afford a wealthy lifestyle. The streets are no longer empty; they are crowded with shopping malls and leisure centres. Today, one can even find a vegetable seller in the market using a mobile phone. Technology has made inroads into the country reaching even to rural areas. Teenagers are sporting branded apparels and latest gadgets and expensive cars on our roads have become a common sight. In spite of this massive amount of wealth, India is crippled by the menace of poverty and illiteracy. The Tendulkar Committee report states that 37% of the population lives below the poverty line. Further, 77% of Indians live on less than 20 a day which is a lot poorer than much Sub-Saharan countries in the economically weak Africa. India accounts for 35% of the world’s illiterate people and the number is expected to increase. Poverty is not merely present in India; in fact, it has etched itself deep into the nation multiplying the sufferings of the people. Poverty has become a nationalized ideology. And the saddening truth is that poverty thrives amidst the riches. One can still find ill-clothed infants begging to survive outside the posh malls in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Chennai. The presence of a queue of beggars outside the temples still persists. In many cities, while one might marvel at a skyscraper or a mega mall, a slum area can be easily found in the periphery. A classic example of this is the Antilia, the world’s most expensive home in Mumbai built by Mukesh Amabani. The twenty seven storey architectural artwork priced at one billion dollars stands surrounded by the slums of South Mumbai.

One of the main causes for this economic disparity is the corruption in the government. Politicians, from the lower to the upper ranks, all have cashes stowed away at the Swiss Banks. It is estimated that the Indians have around 7280000 crores of black money vaulted in the Swiss lockers. Due to this, the common man is deprived of his rights and hence the country’s infrastructure remains below par. It is hypothesised that if all the black money stashed away at Swiss Banks is utilized in the legal manner for the welfare of the people, India will become a developed country and become the world’s second largest economy. The prevalence of caste system, inefficient government policies and a capitalistic society where only the rich thrive make it all the more difficult for the poor in our country. However, the saddening fact is that India chooses to neglect the other side and focus only on the “wealthy, emerging economic superpower”. India is concentrated on making the rich India richer rather that taking measures to eradicate the poverty. Thus, India has its fair share of poverty and riches. The problem is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The present society driven by capitalism has meant that it is impossible to eliminate the economic disparity. But, India must work towards developing its poorer areas so that our citizens can witness India as a SUPERPOWER in the future!

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