Heroes Fighting on Poverty Line

I am of a view that the system- the government, politicians and bureaucrats- is busy today in devising hundred of schemes that will perpetuate poverty and incentivize people to remain below the poverty line. Since Montek Singh’s planning Commission came out with the reference line of BPL as Rs 32 (urban) and Rs 26 (rural) per person per day expenditure, the intellectuals through media are only having intense debate rather a battle on the defining amount but hardly anyone talks about integrating the multitude of poverty alleviation schemes to empower the people to cross the line.

The TV channel reporters are busy in catching the persons under BPL categories from different urban regions and are forcing them to answer questions about the family size, monthly earning, and government assistance to prove the mistakes of planning commission. The answers are almost same from all. The number of family member is five. Monthly earning is around Rs 5000. The PDS is non-existent. The reporters hardly go any further about the accommodation, sanitation facilities or schooling and healthcare. They invariably live in shanties or jhuggis with none of the facilities. In Noida, the households in the villages integrated in the township have built filthy barracks for this working population and are making money.

The Planning Commission and the Jairam Ramesh are trying to resolve the issues of defining those under BPL

I narrate here the actual story of some who are in BPL. These young Indians, from the same deprived class and with not much of formal education and assistance from anyone, are trying to improve their quality of living by working hard.

Hari got known to us when we came to our own house in sector 41 in Noida in 1997. He was the washer man. He washed our clothes and ironed them. He charged Rs 50 person per month for washing. It has gone up to Rs 200. For ironing the charge is now Rs 2 against Re 1 at that time. For the curtains, bedcovers, saris, etc, the unit charges are more. He used to start the day with washing and collecting the clothes for ironing washed on the previous day. He was not married. Over the years he got married and has now three children. He expanded his work. Today he does also clean the cars early in the morning for Rs 200 a month. The rate for the bigger cars is more. As estimated, Hari may be earning Rs 8,000-10,000 a month. He has a room in a nearby village, Morna on rent, where he lives with his family. His son goes to school. His wife is sick and frail. She hardly shares Hari’s work.

Namdev comes from another village where he has a small plot of land on lease for growing flowers. Earlier he used his cycle to distribute the flower in the morning. Now he has bought a motor cycle. We pay Rs 100 now every month. He supplies flower to 100 families. He earns about Rs 6.000-7,000 per month. But he remains sick and absents.

Sam is our newspaper vendor presently and works for main distributor Siyaram. He is from Jharkhand. He lives with his wife in someone’s kothi in Noida as caretaker. For distribution of newspapers, Sam gets Rs 1500 and from the owner of the house Rs 3000. His wife also works with two households and earns around Rs 1500. They don’t have any child As Sam is not to pay rental, he is satisfied with what he earns.

There are hundreds of Haris, Namdevs, Sams and other service providers, be it milkmen and vegetable sellers besides those working for organized ones such as Mother Dairy and Safal in each sector of Noida. Ongoing construction works in Noida keep the demand high.

Evening Bazaars almost once in every sector and permanent vendors for many items around the established markets of Noida keep many self employed engaged and employed. With thriving economy, they all make good money and try to live in better ways. This is how expanding urbanization can help any region of the country.

But I get morose when I see again some lazy young men from the nearby villages coming on every Saturday to beg in name of God Saturn. A number of times, I caught hold of some and appealed to work. With many patrons, how can they shun easy earning? Many residents keep on distributing some food items or few coins to the beggars including small kids in hope of getting the blessings of the Gods and goddesses for success in whatever they do. Many a time I appealed to the kids for going to the schools in the temple. Some have started going. I wish the rich residents of Noida do something to empower these destitute for a better life through RWAs having good cash reserves.

Sai temple is doing a wonderful job for educating the children of underprivileged in Noida. It also provides medical treatment through its dispensary. I wish the affluent residents participate in this task to improve the quality of facilities. The doctors with huge practice and the headmasters of the public schools can contribute a lot with very little change in mindset. Shouldn’t the Noidites take pride in contributing to making Noida a benchmark for other satellite towns?

Can’t the government think of empowering instead of doling through various schemes that leak mostly for enriching middlemen? I believe Jairam Ramesh’ ministry spends Rs 1 lakh crore on welfare and pro-poor programmes annually. Should not 2 lakh poor families be given Rs 50 lakhs each in cash and brought over BPL instead of losing the amount in the hands of persons with vested interest?

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