Poverty in India

Sitting inside Dunkin Donuts, Bade was reading a newspaper article on his iphone, his brother Chote was sitting next to him looking around and cherishing the vibe of the place, they were waiting for their order. They had spent more than 800 rupees on burger and mojito, suddenly Bade receives a message from his friend imploring him to uninstall snapchat. He smirks and says

Bade: Bhai, have you heard that thousands of Indians are deleting snapchat because allegedly, the CEO of Snapchat had declared in 2016 that they would not invest in India because it is a poor country.

Chote: Yeah, I have heard, I think it is a good thing that people are uninstalling snapchat, what does he think of himself, how dare he call us poor. I urge that you too please uninstall the snapchat app. Let us stand united against those egotistical bitches.

Bade: Bro, I don’t have a problem in uninstalling the app and I certainly don’t have any problem in being united but don’t you think they are overdoing it; I mean uninstalling won’t change the fact that we are poor.

Chote: Bhai, we are one of the most progressive nations of the world, we are on the way to becoming super power. Today many foreign investors are looking towards India. India became top destination for foreign investment in 2015 surpassing China and US. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into India touched an eight-year high of $46.4 billion in 2016. It has grown at an annual average of 28.2% for the past three years, compared with stagnant-to-declining flows earlier due to the policy logjam prevalent at that time. Also, we have jumped one spot to rank 8th in the 2017 at Kearney Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Confidence Index with 31 percent of the surveyed respondents being more optimistic on economic outlook over the next three years. This clearly shows that we are on the right track.

Bade: Bhai but FDI alone cannot be the sole criteria for judging the poverty of a country. While I agree with you that there have been positive signs from the foreign Investors. But, from the investors’ perspective, the primary aim would be to generate returns, not necessarily to create a large number of jobs, says Aditi Nayar, principal economist at Icra Ltd. In a recent report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said India’s rate of employment has declined, with job creation failing to keep up with the growing working-age population. Over 30% of India’s youth are not in employment. Also, FDI is expected to boost manufacturing sector and increase jobs in India, right?

Chote: And it has. Hasn’t it?

Bade: Well, according to RBI figures of 2015-16 manufacturing actually decreased to the tune of 3.7%. As for jobs 1.35 lakh jobs were created in 2015- also the lowest in 7 years. I don’t know the 2016 figures. So, yeah, pretty much it has.

Chote: these figures may be true, but what these figures don’t tell is that FDI is a long term investment, it is not that if today I have invested, from tomorrow I will start manufacturing and jobs would be created, it will take some time.

Bade: Bro, I don’t dispute your line of argumentation, but it won’t change the fact that ‘today’ manufacturing has shrunk or ‘today’ job creation has decreased. We may become a super power in future but right now we are poor.

Chote: Bhai, just because manufacturing has shrunk or job creation has decreased, you cannot say that a nation has become poor, these are normal economic phenomena. And if you see the contribution of manufacturing sector in employment generation, then in India, its contribution increased from 10.9% in 1991 to 12% in 2014.

Bade: Bro come on! there has only been an increment of 1.1%. I am sure other developing nations would have performed much better.

Chote: Sorry to disappoint you man, but you are wrong. China’s manufacturing sector’s contribution decreased from 13.9% in 1991 to 11.7% in 2014. Similarly, Mexico’s manufacturing sector’s contribution decreased from 16.1% to 15.7%. Similar trends have been seen in Poland as well. There has also been an impressive improvement in the resource efficiency in India since 1995. This clearly shows that we are on the right track.

Bade: Bhai you are miss-characterizing the discussion; I am not saying that India is not doing well or there has been no improvement in the economic condition of the country. What I am trying to say is that despite these improvements we are still poor and there is still a lot of room for improvement…

Chote: and we are improving, nobody has a magic wand that they would swing once and all the problems would vanish. It will take time. You know what your problem is you are a pessimist, no country is perfect.

Bade: Ok bub, let me enlighten you, in India, according to 2011-12 government report 21.9% of the population is below poverty line i.e. 27 crore Indians are poor i.e. those who are earning 27 rupees in rural areas and 32 rupees in urban areas per day. Well if you are earning 32 rupees per person per day and you are a family of five then your monthly income would be Rs. 4800 and in this 4800 you have to pay for your house, food, education for your children, electricity, health needs, and other basic needs and considering how much expensive things have become lately, how much would be your saving. Also, while painting you this picture, I have assumed that these people have a stable job or salary. However, this is not the case, about 51% of the working poor people are casual laborers who work on a hire and fire basis so they don’t even have a stable job. Do you think that these people care about butt-slapping snapchat? My friend, snapchat and facebook are luxuries that they cannot afford to have.

Chote: But there is a reason why government has introduced the concept of poverty line- so that it could identify the poor and make special provisions for them. It has brought many schemes like MGNREGA, Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojna, Zero Balance Account Scheme  and many others for that purpose and this has certainly made a difference, according to Saxena committee, which submitted its report in 2000, the poverty rate in India was nearly 50%, however, according to planning commission, it was 39%, whatever the case might be, the fact remains the same that there has been a decrease in poverty in India, and I trust our government to do the right thing.

Bade: Bro there are some intellectual people who say that poverty is a state of mind. Well, my friend, it’s not, you can see poverty, all you have to do is break out of your sweet slumber of good life- when you see people sleeping on footpath on a chilly winter night, many dying because they have nothing to cover their body, that is poverty; when you see small children, who should ideally be going to school or enjoying their innocent childhood, begging for money and food outside malls and temples, that is poverty; when you here about poor families who sell their children to  the rich in the hope that their children would live a better life because they could not afford to fulfill even their basic needs, that, my friend, is poverty; these so called intellectuals spent most of their time in air-conditioned rooms, drive fancy cars, travel on an ac first class ticket, they don’t know what poverty is and honestly they don’t care. Furthermore, those who are creating such a big hue and cry against snapchat they are privileged people who have nothing better to do. Bhai, you, me, those privileged few, they are a part of this system and to some extent we are happy because we don’t have to sleep on the footpath or beg for food or sell our children or see our father commit suicide because of crop failure. Trust me, we are privileged, but there are substantial number of people who are not and until and unless we take active steps to pull those people out of the vicious circle of poverty, my friend, we may become rich, but India will still be poor.

Chote was convinced, to some extent, with this argument. However, Bade, in order to gain an edge in the discussion, had ignored many important aspects of the issue. By the end of the discussion, they had finished eating so they left for college in their Audi. They halted at a traffic signal, where a poor woman carrying a child in her arms, knocked at their window and begged for money; they ignored her, and when the signal turned green, they left.