India Insight

Thirty-three percent of world’s poorest live in India

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

India has 33 percent of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people, even though the country’s poverty rate is half as high as it was three decades ago, according to a new World Bank report.

India reduced the number of its poor from 429 million in 1981 to 400 million in 2010, and the extreme poverty rate dropped from 60 percent of the population to 33 percent during the same period. Despite the good news, India accounts for a higher proportion of the world’s poor than it used to. In 1981, it was home to 22 percent of the world’s poorest people.

The World Bank report comes just days after it proposed a $12 billion to $20 billion plan to reduce poverty levels over four years in the Indian states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Sixty percent of the financing would go to state government-backed projects, according to the Hindu Business Line newspaper.

The study that came out today showed a similar decline in the number of people living in poverty in recent years. People living below $1.25 (67 rupees) a day fell considerably from more than half the people in the developing world in 1981 to 21 percent in 2010, despite a 59 percent increase in world population during the same period.

Turning a Bangalore shanty town into a mall

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The Bangalore city government and a private developer kicked more than 1,500 poor families out of subsidised housing in January, razed their neighbourhood and left them homeless. The reason? They want to build new, better housing – and a mall.

The flattening of 15 acres in the neighbourhood of Ejipura is another step to refurbish India’s information technology capital, where rents and property values have risen thanks to foreign companies pouring into the city and people from all over India seeking good jobs. As is often the case when there is money to be made, poor people are in the way.

from The Human Impact:

Does marriage stop prostitution? Indian village thinks so

Is marriage a guarantee that a woman won't be prostituted?

It's a question that played heavily on my mind recently when I went to the remote village of Wadia in India's western region of Gujarat to cover a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls, which was aimed at breaking a centuries-old tradition of prostitution.

I arrived in the small, neglected hamlet on the eve of the big ceremony. Preparations were well underway.

Soon-to-be-brides sat inside the mud-walled compounds of their homes surrounded by singing female relatives, with "haldi" or turmeric paste smeared on the faces and arms - a South Asian pre-wedding ritual believed to make the skin "glow".

Human waste corroding Indian railway network

Human faeces is scattered across India’s 64,400 kilometres of rail lines.

One of the world’s largest surface transport networks, carrying 30 million people and 2.8 tonnes of goods daily, is being downed by those using it.

A government panel report this month said that human waste from open-discharge toilets used by passengers is damaging tracks and associated infrastructure.

The report recommended that toilets with nil or harmless discharge be installed within the next five years in all 43,000 carriages used by the railways.

from Photographers' Blog:

License to kill

By Danish Siddiqui

 

Mumbai provides everyone living in it with an opportunity to earn and survive. Be it a white-collared job in a multinational company located in one of the city’s plush high rise buildings or killing rats by night in the filthiest and dirtiest parts of India's financial capital. This time, my tryst was with the latter.

I decided I wanted to meet Mumbai's rat-killer army employed by the city's civic body. Very little is known about this tireless force that works the bylanes of the metropolis every night. Mumbai's municipal corporation employs 44 rat killers and also has a freelance contingent, who aspire to be on the payrolls one day. Employees of the pest control department receive a salary of 15,000 to 17,000 Indian Rupees ($294 to 333) while contract laborers are paid 5 Indian rupees ($0.10) per rat they kill. The rat killers are expected to kill at least 30 rodents per night and hand over the carcasses to civic officials in the morning. If they fall short by even one rodent, they are expected to make it up the next night or else they stand to lose a day’s pay.

I zeroed in on a family living in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai, six of whom kill rats for a living. The oldest of them is Javed Sheikh, 61, who has been killing rats for the last four decades. The youngest rat-killer, on the other hand, is Javed's son, 12-year old Waseem Sheikh. Only the father and the eldest son are employed by the sanitation department of Mumbai’s municipal corporation; the rest work as freelancers.

from Photographers' Blog:

City of joy

By Rupak de Chowdhuri

It’s festive time in Kolkata, with the Durga festival celebrated across the city, before Diwali celebrations fill the city with light. Kolkata has been called the "City of Joy," a title which was immortalized in a book by Dominique Lapierre. It tells the story of the poorest of the poor who still somehow find hope and joy in life. Little did I know I was about to come face-to-face with such a story.

I hunt for pictures every day. One day, I was looking for pictures when an old friend told me to go to a place where I was guaranteed to find a good story. Because of my curious nature, I started to walk in search of the story I’d been told about in the middle of Kolkata. I started searching among the food stalls because I wouldn’t believe it until I saw them myself.

At last I found them. And I stood stunned, like other customers in front of the food stall. I watched for half an hour.

Why should the government control inflation?

A labourer pulls a plastic sheet to cover sacks of paddy from rain at a grain market in Chandigarh January 13, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay VermaThe ‘reform agenda’ understood as ‘market-oriented reform’ or giving more space to market mechanism in food and fuel economy seems to have been held up.

The government can not be seen to be doing away with subsidies just as prices are up. Its hand is stayed for now.

But is that enough for say the gross national happiness?

Food and fuel inflation has been in the news for a while.

The government has no short-term control over supply side issues causing price rise like a bad monsoon leading to a low harvest or floods, but it can control the rising demand by reining in liquidity.

The economic paradox of north-east India

India’s seven northeastern states, known as the seven sisters, have been “on the map, but off the mind”, if one goes by the title of a Tehelka-organised seminar on the Northeast.

INDIAThe region, connected to India by a narrow stretch of land called the “chicken’s neck”, has been through a string of conflicts, seen the rise of many rebel groups, lack of infrastructure and poverty.

The World Bank describes conditions in the region as a low-level equilibrium of poverty, non-development, civil conflict and lack of faith in political leadership.

Is ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ poverty porn?

“As the film revels in the violence, degradation and horror, it invites you, the Westerner, to enjoy it, too…Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn,” wrote London Times’ columnist Alice Miles.

The phrase “poverty porn” spread across the Indian media as commentators nodded in agreement or shook their heads even before the film premiered in its native Mumbai and India could (legally) watch it.

A group of the city’s slum dwellers, including children, protested against the word “dog”. A social activist filed a defamation case in Patna. And this week, hundreds of slum dwellers in Bihar’s capital ransacked a movie theatre demanding the title be changed.

Whose poor is poor?

“To define is to limit,” wrote T.S. Eliot.

Indeed sometimes, to limit things, they just may have been defined in a particular manner.

This struck home when I saw a communication by the World Bank on poverty estimates.

The World Bank produced an update of poverty numbers for the developing world based on an international price survey conducted in 2005.

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