-- By M.A. Rane
Ever since I began to understand and read books and think independently,
I was deeply pained by the abject poverty that prevails among our people
apart from other sufferings they undergo. During the national movement
for independence we were told that our people are poor because the British
exploited them. But now 53 years since we became independent we are ruled
by our elected representatives. Still no significant dent has been made
in the poverty or other sufferings of the people. According to the government
itself 30% of our people are below the poverty line, that is they have
to go to bed on an empty stomach. Many live by begging or on charity.
Still India is considered to be great, as we possess a number of bombs,
ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads, strong army, navy, and air
force. We have core industry; big dams and we are self sufficient in food.
Is it so? Some four weeks ago there was a news item that wheat and rice
is rotting in open space, as the food corporation of India has no sufficient
storage godowns. At the same time in the tribal region of Western Orissa,
which is a draught region young men are leaving behind their wives children
and old parents. They live on poisonous roots. In a recent issue of India
Today, there are full details of the tragedy; reporting that some
persons have died of starvation or there is likelihood of famine.
How is it when we are supposed to be self sufficient in food, people starve,
die, and 30 % of the people are below the poverty line? For want of employment
in rural area, a large number of villagers migrate to urban areas in search
of jobs and reside in slums not even fit for animals to live and that
is by the side of the skyscrapers.
Why this poverty amidst plenty as Poet Goldsmith described, where wealth
accumulates, and men decay? One of the root causes is massive unemployment
and underemployment that deprive the people of adequate purchasing power.
Therefore, one remedy is to create jobs- gainful employment so as to enable
the poor people to purchase atleast bare necessities.
Though Article 45 in the Directive Principles of the State Policy states
that the State must endeavor to provide within 10 years from 1950 free
and compulsory education to all children till the age of 14, still illiteracy
is 50%. Among the women it is 60% to 70%. There ought to be great emphasis
on education of girls. Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen emphasises
that the education of girls itself will have an impact on population explosion.
Therefore, its necessary to take up the programme of imparting free and
compulsory education to children upto the age of 14 as enjoined by the
Constitution of India. Such a programme would require construction of
a network of schools, an army of schoolteachers and provision of paraphernalia
for the children. The excess food can be supplied to the schools; for
providing free midday meals to children so as to reduce the rate of school
In a thickly populated country like ours, emphasis ought to be on labour
intensive industries preferably agro-based. For example schemes like Maharashtra
Employment Guarantee etc had made a dent in unemployment in the state
of Maharashtra. Moreover, activities like water conservation, afforestation,
development of waste lands provision of minimum health care, sanitation
and activities of human development such as putting up plants of gobar
gas windmills, and solar power plants to produce electricity etc. are
works that can create a chain of gainful employment. If the poor people
get purchasing power, production of consumer goods will take place to
satisfy their basic needs.
Therefore problems like these cannot be solved from Delhi or other state
capitals but from local bodies at the grassroot levels such as Panchayats,
Zilla Parishads, and Municipalities as per the 73rd and 74th amendment
of the constitution which confer specific powers to these local bodies.