Celebrating Independence Day has always been a matter of great pride and inspirational for me. Having just celebrated 63 years of India’s independence, my attention was drawn to a UNDP Human Development Report that report that mentioned acute poverty prevails in 8 states in India and number of people in poverty in these states outnumbers the poor in 26 sub Saharan African countries. While the prevalence of poverty in India itself has not come as a surprise, what shocked me was the sheer number – 421 million fellow Indians are living in abject conditions. This is almost one third of our country.
This gigantic embarrassment did not quite find enough mention in the media that was busy debating if India can continue to grow at 8.5% growth rates and gleefully reported how private wealth of 49 Indians on Forbes list is nearly 31% of India’s GDP.
More shock was in store, as it was revealed that India ranked 134 in the UN Human Development Index and, hold your breath, India has been in that position since 1994! Incidentally, during these 15 years of remaining in the bottom, the budgetary allocation for poverty and social sectors witnessed an increase of 15 times.
So, where is the money going? Why are we so complacent about people’s lives? Why is there no debate or Bharat Bundh over misuse or abuse of funds and sheer poverty of such gigantic proportions? Mahatma Gandhi said India lives in its villages and poverty is the worst form of violence. This violence continues today to be inflicted on millions.
More than 75 years back, Mahatma Gandhi has said “My greatest worry is the ignorance and poverty of the masses of India, and the way in which they have been neglected by the classes”. It is matter of tragedy that his fear is a reality even today after 63 years of independence. All that you have to do is to replace the word is ‘classes’ with government.
I accept that there’s much to be proud of in terms of India’s development over the last decade or so. However the progress hides the continuing failure of the state to deliver on real outcomes on the pressing problems of Poverty and destitution. The gap of inequalities of income and resources in India are widening everyday and no concrete efforts are made to address this alarming – and dangerous – divide.
Even today, apart from the occasional blue sky claim from the Planning commission, the country has no clue about a predictable and definite timetable to eradicate poverty! Given that we seem to be a nation where geniuses abound as Economists, Media and Business visionaries – why are we not able to plan a clear Timebound path to a Poverty free India? A decade or 2 decades – whatever the case may be, but we should be able to have a national Plan.
Given that there is very little discussion on issues like this in Parliament or in Media, one of the suggestions that a group of Parliamentarians including me have made to the Speaker and Vice President – is to have Special sessions of Parliaments of 3-5 days, which will only discuss National Priority issues – with no disruptions’, No partisanship. Such a session will also serve to get the attention of ‘heavily distracted media’ to focus the nation on the REAL challenges facing us.
If the Parliament can be convened specially to hear President Obama of America, surely we can also convene a special session to discuss National Priority issues like Poverty.
So, if you agree with this idea of special sessions of Parliament that will focus on ‘National Priority issues’ – write a letter or email to the Vice President firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Speaker of Lok Sabha email@example.com or Prime Minister firstname.lastname@example.org and copy me email@example.com on it so I can get a sense as well of how many of us really want this focus to start. I can think of many ways of service to the country – this is one real way of serving by getting all of us to focus on creating a Poverty and destitution less India!