In a small Uttar Pradesh village, a father had dreamt of sending his daughter to school, something which was unheard of in his village. Little Anita was a hard-working girl who wanted to make her father proud. She aspired to be a teacher so that she could inspire the next- generation of girls to go to school. However, due to the untimely death of her father, her mother could not afford Anita’s education anymore. She was forced to marry off Anita at the tender age of 15. Thus, her family’s poverty threatened Anita’s dreams and the prosperity of her village, her state and our country.
Mohan has been a farmer for over 3 decades. The green revolution brought prosperity to his village in Punjab. However, in the last few years, due to climate change, the rainfall pattern has become erratic. Dipping crop production threatens the livelihoods of Mohan and his fellow villagers. Mohan sees that 2 of the farmers committed suicide due to water poverty. Similarly, reports of farmers suicides in the country have increased, highlighting their despair. Agricultural poverty has also resulted in the earlier well-off communities to demand reservations like the Jat Andolan. The strikes and accompaning violence posed a menace for the people as well as the region’s prosperity.
World Bank defines poverty in economic terms, simply as, people earning less than $1.90 per day across the globe. Poverty cannot be put in words. It is often said that poverty is the worst form of disease there ever is. It determines the opportunities one gets and the freedom one has to make choices to grab those opportunities. It is a multi- dimensional concept with ripple effects in every sphere of not only the person’s life but also the society.
Economically, until recently, majority of the population didn’t have bank accounts in India. The culture of securing one’s future in case of accidents & deaths i.e. insurance is almost non-existential. Informational poverty about stock markets and other investment choices makes people want to buy gold as assets.
All this, threatens our economic prosperity. Financial inclusion will open doors for families, allowing them to smooth out consumption and invest in their prosperous futures through education and health. Moreover, it will ensure sufficient capital investment for the huge demand India has for the infrastructure sector. Further, the circulation of money will have a multiplier effect- lower NPAs (Non-Performing Assets), higher employment generation and greater consumer goods demand. The country’s prosperity will be reflected in GDP which will lead to higher expenditure by the government in social welfare.
Our political prosperity is our democracy as India is the world’s largest democracy. At the times of elections, the political parties spend billions of dollars on campaigning. ADR reports (Association of Democratic Reforms) point out that more than 70% of the election funding comes from unaccounted sources. However, poverty in checking mechanisms of electoral funding is posing a huge challenge to our political prosperity.
There have been multiple electoral reforms. However, freebies in the form of cash, alcohol & electronic goods for the poor is not unheard of. Dr. BR Ambedkar had rightly pointed out that political equality i.e. UAF (Universal Adult Franchise) has no significance until social and economic equality is achieved. Thus, poverty is acting as an obstacle in India’s democracy taking root and is still just a topsoil. More needs to be done to ensure a substantive democracy in India.
Another one of our political prosperity is our secularism. There has been a rise of extremist fundamental elements in society, which are spreading hatred and bigotry. This becomes a menace for our multicultural society, where people have had peacefully co-existed for centuries. Thus, poverty in humanism is posing a threat to our prosperity in diversity. Such propagandas spread suspicion in the society and may lead to communal riots and ultimately, ghettoization. Thus, Secularism comes in the spotlight. Further, a fertile ground for internal security challenges like separatism is formed which can also be misused by external actors like terrorist organizations. This severely puts India’s unity and integrity at risk.
The expenditure on innovation in any sector, be it defense, health, environment, etc. has been merely 3-5% of their individual budgets. Innovators are not provided with the requisite ecosystem to nourish & grow. Thus, innovational poverty in India has threatened our border security especially, when we are surrounded by hostile neighbors. It is a major hurdle in protecting our biodiversity hotspots and environmental protection. We are not heading on disaster- resilience path despite, India being among the top 5 most disaster-prone countries of the world, according to the UN. Thus, seriously affecting India’s future scope of prosperity.
Despite being food secure, India faces food poverty in some regions due to its inefficient food distribution network. Malnourishment is still a widespread problem in India. We also face nutritional poverty especially among the urban children and youth because of the McDonald culture. Thus, this poverty in diet threatens the food and nutritional needs of our future prosperity which is our young citizens. This will lead to reduced efficiencies in schools today and at work in the future.
We are obsessed with economic prosperity that translates into GDP, growth potential, long-term economic policies, etc. However, we have become indifferent to social injustices prevalent in our society. Reports of declining sex ratio, child rapes, sexual abuse at shelter homes and workplace no longer make our blood boil. The poverty of empathy in all of us is eating away our moral prosperity as a society and as a nation.
The dimensions of poverty are unending and so are its threats to our prosperity. Poverty robs people physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and stops them from being a valuable asset to themselves and society. Thus, it has been rightly concluded that poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.
The onus to rid society of poverty cannot be left with the governments only. The need is of better institutional frameworks to check the growth of various forms of poverty. And since we create those institutions, we must strive to better ourselves. Be the change we want to see. By realizing our potential towards this cause and striving to eradicate this evil, we will achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). And thereby, creating a prosperous society where Anita is living her dreams and Mohan’s village continues to develop.