Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere

In this essay…

According to United Nations, poverty is the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means a lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. There are two types – Absolute and Relative Poverty. Absolute poverty is the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. On the other hand, relative poverty occurs when a person cannot meet a minimum level of living standards, compared to others in the same time and place.

Poverty impacts a person physically as well as mentally. Mental stress due to it forces a person to go to any extent in order to fill stomachs. It is certainly a threat to prosperity everywhere. Kasab was a poor boy of Pakistan. Poverty has made him vulnerable in the hand of terror groups. It ended him in the Mumbai attack in 2008 in India. There would be many Kasab in the world. Mumbai attack 2008 shows how poverty in Pakistan has impacted India.

In this essay, we will discuss the following – What are the reasons behind poverty? How poverty is distributed across the globe? How does it threaten prosperity everywhere? How the world is tackling it? How India is eradicating it at home as well as in the world?

Distribution of poverty on the globe

Poverty has been unevenly distributed across the globe. Post-colonial states are more vulnerable to it than first-world countries. For example, South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh don’t perform better on the global hunger index. Apart from this, countries where emotions and religious values excessively dominate over the reason are more vulnerable to it. For example, the Middle east due to religious extremism is prone to conflict followed by poverty.

Within the geographical boundaries, there is a paradox that there are more poor people live in the area where resources are maximum. RBI report 2019 says that 23% of people in India live under BPL (Below poverty line). Nearly, 45% of the population of Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand live under BPL which are rich in minerals. Similarly, Africa is rich in resources and poverty is prevailing over there is maximum. On the other hand, Island countries like Japan have more forex reserves compared to India in spite of smaller in size and lack of resources.

What are the reasons behind poverty?

Amartya Sen in his paper “Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation” says that poverty and famine are not due to the lack of resources available in our surroundings. But it is due to lack of just and equitable accessibility of resources that throws people into the basket of poverty. Thus, national governments around the world are responsible for tackling poverty in the first place. It is the duty of the national government to intervene and stop the unjust distribution of resources in the state.

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At the national level, there is a lack of adequate access to clean water and nutritious food. Currently, more than 2 billion don’t have access to clean water at home. The global hunger index opens Pandora’s box every year. Undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality are highlighted every year. Poor education and skill development programs restrict the quality of jobs and income to the people. The limited capacity of the national government poorly invests in infrastructure and reduces the scope for foreign investments.

Limited capability of the government and geopolitical interests have failed in some places in countering radicalism. For example, the increasing footprints of ISIS and Bokoharam in Africa and destabilized middle east is merely an example. Conflict in reason diverts resources of the government from development to security. It further worsens the state of poverty. Apart from these, climate change is also responsible for increasing poverty. World Bank has warned that climate change has the power to push more than 100 million people into poverty over the next ten years.

Changing world order since the 1990s is also responsible for the same. Market-oriented economies have made post-colonial countries vulnerable to inequality which ended with poverty. Thomas Piketty in his book “Capital in the 21st century” plotted his study on inequality. According to his study, inequality in India has increased from 6% in 1980 to 23% in 2017. Globalization and the market economy have reduced labor-intensive jobs which leads to unemployment followed by poverty.

Threat to prosperity everywhere

Individual Level

A person facing poverty in personal life shows its implications in other spheres also. A study finds that during lockdown domestic violence at home increased. It is because people break out frustrations of economic stress on the wives. Thus, it has threatened the prosperity of the people at home. Poverty also forces parents to throw their children into child labor. Cases of high dropout in schools increase.

Even if some parents want their children to educate. Amid the limited resource, often a male child is given preference over a girl child. It threatens gender justice, gender equality, and prosperity of the constitution of India where preamble promises for gender justice. Poverty at the individual level weakens the health of the people. Human capital is the most important capital in the factor of production. Thus, it harms economic prosperity in terms of GDP.

Poverty as a social problem

At the society level, people suffering from poverty don’t get recognition and respect. Often poor people are coerced for the work which he/she doesn’t want. For example, economic stress, poverty, and hunger force women to prostitution in illegal brothels. People working against the will and just for the sake of food threatens the right to dignity enriched in Article 21 of the Indian constitution. The increasing number of poor people in the village threatens the prosperity of the area.

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Due to poverty, people in society are vulnerable to bonded labor. It increases crime at the local level. People try to get money through the wrong mean like stealing vehicles and snatching valuable articles. These things are against human consciousness and values. Thus, poverty doesn’t only erode the morality of the individual but also ethics in society.

National level

At the national level, poverty is responsible for less income generation in the country due to a lack of good health and skill development. In politics, democracy is threatened since people would be easily cajoled to vote in return for a few rupees and alcohol. People won’t be able to bargain politically. Corrupt and criminalized politics could be the outcome when people’s participation in democracy is threatened due to poverty.

It will further lead to a lack of probity in governance. It is because the poor suffering from poverty is unlikely to keep checks on the governance and politics. Similarly, Ashutosh Bhardwaj in his recent book “The Death Script” on Naxalism stated that due to lack of accessibility to resources and extreme poverty make tribally vulnerable in the hand of Naxals. Followed by which the government resources are diverted in containing Naxalism. In a vicious circle, it further threatens the prosperity of the tribal areas.

Global level

In South Asia, it is often argued to stop the water of the Indus river in order to punish Pakistan for giving a safe haven to the terrorist organizations. But stopping water will make people poorer who live on both sides of the Indus river. Thus, it will make the people more vulnerable at the hand of terrorist organizations. In fact, it will give reason to mobilize youngsters for terror acts. It will have certain implications on India’s security interests as well as the prosperity of India.

Similarly, Africa is rich in mineral resources. But increasing footprints of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and Boko haram would misuse minerals. Instead of sustainable development, terrorists may use minerals for funding instead of the development of the people of Africa. It will leave the children in the African continent vulnerable in the hand of terrorist organizations. The meaning of “Boko Haram” in English is “western education is sin.” Poverty which led to extremism is further reducing the scope of the reason-based education system.

How the world is tackling poverty?

United Nation Development Program (UNDP) has come up with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where the first SDG is committed to ZERO hunger by 2030. It has been helping countries in eradicating poverty. In this process, World Bank is helping nations in assisting financially. For example, World Bank is working with India’s Ministry of Jal Shakti in Atal Bhujal Yojna. Similarly, it is working with other countries also.

Various NGOs like the Red Cross organization and Amnesty International have also been working to eradicate poverty. World Economic Forum, a non-governmental organization publishes the Global Gender index and other NGOs publish the Global hunger index to track poverty and suggest the national government to take necessary actions. Leaders from the world signed the Paris agreement to contain climate change and its implications on poverty.

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Efforts were taken by India

Following the footprints of the sustainable development goal, the government of India has increased spending on people to curb poverty. World Bank report suggests that out-of-pocket expenditure in India is more than 60% in India. Thus, the government has come up with the Ayushman Bharat scheme to secure health up to Rs 5 Lakh per year. National food security act 2013 covers 67% of the total population of India which provides grain at a very low cost to APL and BPL families.

The public distribution system has been very much successful in some of the states like Chhatisgarh. Under Swachh Bharat Mission, the government is providing toilets at every home. It is improving the quality of life and poverty. Under PM Awas Yojna, houses are being built at the expense of the government pocket for homeless people. For the lower middle class, affordable houses are being provided at reasonable rates. Under RTE 2005, the government provides free education to children from 6 years to 14 years.

India is not only working to eradicate poverty at home but it is also eradicating poverty in other countries. India provides grants in budgets of smaller countries like Nepal and Bhutan. India provides an easy line of credit to generate wealth in poor countries. Recently, India has donated 250 houses to the conflict-prone regions in Myanmar for Rohingyas. Similarly, India has increased share to UN work and relief fund for Palestine refugee from $2M to $5M. India has been working in Afghanistan on developmental agenda like building parliament and Salma Dam for economic prosperity.

We have discussed poverty and its types. Along with the distribution of poverty, we have also discussed the reasons behind it. Followed by which we have discussed how poverty threatens prosperity at the individual, local, national, and global levels. Along with the world system, India is also fighting against it not only inside the territory but also nearly by territory as well as vulnerable states around the world like Myanmar and Palestine.

Thus, India is following the footprints of the Indian civilizational value of “Vasudev Kutumbakam” (i.e. whole world is our family). India is eradicating poverty not only in India but also helping other countries for the same. To achieve a prosperous global village, the whole world needs to fight against poverty and achieve SDG1 (ZERO Poverty) on time.

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