By Jo Winterbottom
This sepia-toned landscape could have been painted a century ago. A lazy sunset tints bullock carts, women in bright red and turquoise saris thresh rice by hand. Farmers swirl golden staves of corn in the fields.
But for millions of Indians, it is no rural idyll. It is a picture of poverty where farming techniques for many remain unchanged for decades, and the millions of farmers who just have enough land to make a living wouldn’t dare dream of a different future.
In Kushalpura village in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, people have little hope for change in their future. Cheap food and guaranteed temporary jobs that New Delhi offers are little better than a bandage on a big wound. There isn’t any electricity here and there are barely any toilets or latrines.
“What’s the point in talking about a future? It’s not going to happen, so why think about it?” said Tinku Singh, a 20-year-old whose family includes five brothers and three sisters. He’s about to set off to look for work as a brickmaker for four months in neighbouring states of Haryana or Punjab. He might bring back about 20,000 rupees ($320) if things go well.
The government says things are improving. In 2011 and 2012, 26 percent of people living in the countryside were categorized as poor, down from 42 percent in 2004 and 2005. That’s still 217 million people who survive on less than 816 rupees ($14) a month each — and many are only a handful of rupees better off.