October 30, 2011

INDIA: Lies and Statistics!

As per the Government of India (GOI), the poverty line for the urban areas is Rs. 296 per month and for rural areas, Rs. 276 per month. According to the GOI, this amount will buy food equivalent to 2,200 calories per day, medically sufficient to prevent death. This is an absurd lie—that amount of money could not buy even one meal for one person in the cities—never mind the rest of the family, and the other necessary expenditures of life. And yet, one finds Indian planners busy bringing down the number of poor using this blatant statistical fraud as a yardstick. In fact, there is no housing available in Delhi—and this includes the huge slums that litter the capital—where a family can get shelter for less than Rs. 2,000 per month.

In other words, 450 million Indians live below the poverty line according to the World Bank's old definition of $1 per day per person, or $365 per year; 700 million Indians live below the poverty line based on the World Bank's later definition of a minimum earning of $2 per day per person, or $730 per year, needed for minimum sustenance.

That is not to say that such a distortion was the creation of the present-day Indian leaders. The distortion existed all along, but it has become further distressing in the present light, since a handful of service-sector personnel, carrying out services for the West, have begun to earn significantly more. It is more distressing to note that by earning even twice the amount that puts the individual in the category of "not poor," does not allow him to have one square meal a day in the Indian cities! Less than 25% of all Indian families are left with any surplus at the end of the day to spend on things which are not absolutely essential.

The slogan of the present crop of Indian "leaders" in power is "India Rising," after the previous crop was kicked out of power because of the fraud of their campaign slogan, "India Shining." To say that the country is reaching "new heights" of success is almost criminal. To begin with, India possesses, as it always has, the potential to be a very powerful and economically sound nation. The opportunity to make that happen lies at the doorstep of India's leaders. Seventy-one percent of the population—742 million people—are below 35 years of age. In other words, India is not a graying nation; it is full of young people. It can be moved with a positive leadership.

But, look at the other figures as well. Almost 94% of India's children drop out of school before completion of the 12th grade. This is largely because of poverty and the lack of opportunities that await them once they get their high school diploma. The successful 6%, the so-called educated youth, go in for a regular college degree, which may not be very relevant in today's context for employment-generation. Seventy-three percent of those graduate from colleges with liberal arts degrees.



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