Think of the Poor (AUGUST 10, 2007)

Day in and day out, we, the city dwellers, have to endure a cacophony of hollow claims: "India Shining", "India on the Move". Who is orchestrating this hype and hoopla? Of course, the tiny minority in the big cities which has acquired costly homes and cars and is the beneficiary of an economic boom that enriches the well-off and leaves the preponderant majority to languish in poverty.

Recently a government-affiliated body, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) released a set of data that exposes the cruel joke. According to it 836 million people in India live on Rs. 20 a day. The findings came after exceptionally extensive surveys.

And who are those people? No prizes for guessing. The usual deprived, the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, OBCs and Muslims. We can ask the political class as to why such an overwhelming majority has been denied the fruits of development. And why is it that these groups are perpetually excluded? And if as a society and a state we go on excluding people from the benefits of economic advance with what face can we complain that they have not joined the mainstream? How can they join the main stream when they have been excluded and barred from it?

The findings are largely based on government data for 1993-1994 and 2004-2005. Many of these people, strangely, are "above poverty line" from official reckoning. To be officially recognised as "poor" you will have to be earning less than Rs. 12 a day. This is no less than a travesty of decency when CEOs, COOs in this country and their ilk are getting salaries that range from Rs. 20 lakh to Rs. 1 crore a month.

Now, the question is whose India is shining. Of course, not the India of most Indians, but only of a handful of us whose greed, selfishness and cruelty against the poor is the stuff of legend.

Mohammed Ataur Rahman


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