Are Indians Really That Poor?

Time and again, the politicians and columnists are emphatically quoting the report of an economist saying 77% of our population, 836 million, lives under less than Rs 20 a day. I feel some thing is messy somewhere.

Yamuna pays Rs 1500 per month for a maid who cleans our utensils and cooks two meals at around noon and leaves. She hardly works for four hours a day. And she works also in two more households. Thus a simple uneducated unskilled woman can earn about Rs 3000 or more per month. Moreover, the lady has other members of the family also are engaged in some or the other occupation. Husband pulls riksha. Daughters also work in households. Overall the family does earn much more than what economists have estimated. Every few months, a situation comes when we get forced to part with the maid rather the maid leaves us. And thereon we do employ another one on the same and more salaries.

Hari washes our clothes and irons it. There are many like him in Noida in every block, in every sector. Perhaps with washing machines becoming popular, Hari found his earning threatened. He started cleaning the cars in the morning. He does also take up some odd jobs such as cleaning of water tanks and gets a good remuneration for it. His earning per month is much more than what economists estimate. And we are to keep Hari in good humour; otherwise it will be difficult to find another replacement.

Ashok visited us recently. He brought some home-prepared sweets from my aunty in village. We were discussing the situation of labour force in villages. According to him and my brother-in-law from another village, a full time person is given an acre of land per year plus the morning snack and daily rates in form of grains, about 3 kgs. It adds upto Rs 40,000 per year. It is certainly much more than the economists estimate. And it is difficult to find a man to work even in village. The young men from the families have gone out of village to work in fields or workshops in other states. They still are loyal to their family at home. They regularly send money. It has brought another social change. The ladies of the house do no work any more in the houses of those in village, who were engaging them earlier and need them even now. Those left in villages idle away their time instead of doing something to add to the household earning.

I do certainly not mean that the people whom the economists mention as poor are not poor. But I insist that all those who are poor must be empowered and encouraged to increase their earnings by working extra hours, to get educated formally or informally, to get engaged in new professions that is the order of the day. With tractors taking over bullock-pulled ploughs, the men becoming redundant must be trained to become a driver or mason, or electrician. And every village must have the training facilities so that the new generations can join workforce more confidently. Will the leftists demand retaining of the ploughs and bullocks or change? Introduction of the tractors and harvesters in rural India has saved billion worth of grains that used to be wasted in the traditional time-taking processes of harvesting.

As I understand, the plan panel is set to redefine ‘poor’ of the country. As another vote catching formula, all SCs and STs may be listed in BPL (Below Poverty Line). Will it solve the problem?

Unfortunately, the rural India is hardly known to the economists who plan for its future and allocate funds under different heads. Will the bureaucrats or for that matter any one who deals with the rural assignment spend few days, particularly the nights in the villages of the different regions? I am sure that will help them in doing their jobs better with more affectivity and ultimate gains for the beneficiaries.

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