Poverty Talk - A new fashion?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

When a beautiful Bollywood babe talks about "poverty in India", it becomes a top story in page 3; when a politician gives assurances of poverty alleviation, it makes headlines; when the "contemporary" youth talk about poverty, 'really nice guys' tag is fixed on their foreheads; But when the poor man shouts about his inability to feed his family, no matter how louder it is, no one hears! Couple of days back one of my friend was talking on and on about poverty, poor people, "rich" Indian culture, corruption, and so on. After some time I told him, "there are very few celebrities who really feel the pain of this "poverty evil" and who silently does lot of contribution. There are some celebrities who need a nice photo with orphan children when they visit orphanage, which category you belong to?" I do not blame him. He is still "a nice guy". Only things is, his knowledge about poverty is superficial and that too it is influenced by the media hype. I thought about this incident over and over again. I was convinced that, today, if you talk about poverty alleviation, you can be sure of drawing attention of the public. Thats exactly what our politicians do. No wonder why they come up with new poverty alleviation programs with catchy slogans just before the elections. The question here is, "Is talking about poverty a new fashion?"

Speaking is one aspect, but doing "something" is what we need. Most of us are fed up of hearing "there are still more than 300 million people below poverty line", "27% of India's population lives below poverty line", "govt has to do something about poverty alleviation" and more interesting statement is "this is politics, nothing much can be done!". I believe we should be bit more rationalistic when we make such statements. Its not fair if we just carried away by the media hype. What have we done in last 60 years to get rid of poverty? Is it right to pass on the blame to the govt? Is our govt really committed in implementing its poverty alleviation programmes? Very few people know that govt has done a decent job by introducing many innovative programmes right from 1950s. [Click here to see all programmes]. For example consider the recent National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) of 2005. This programme guarantees rural household 100 days of work every year. It is already operational in 330 districts across the country. According to The Hindu [Editorial, August 25, 2007], "While failures and disasters tend to hog media attention, there are several success stories. Tamil Nadu shows the largest participation of women at 81%. In Rajasthan, where public awareness of NREGA is quite high, the programme generated as many as 77 days of employement per rural household in 2006-07. A recent field survey in Chhattisgarh (Surguja and Koriya Districts) found that most families have 'job cards'; contractors have disappeared; minimum wages are being paid; corruption levels have gone down; and employment is being generated on massive scale."

But YES, there are few drawbacks on the other side. In some Programmes like Community Development Programme, Integrated Rural Development Programme, Indira Awas Yojana, Samll and medium farmers' development Agencies programme, Jawahar Rojgar Yojana, etc, not all the identified beneficiaries received the assistance. Why? Here are few reasons
  1. Some of these programmes are implemented without testing their local suitability.
  2. There were problems in identifying the "actual poor".
  3. Lack of awareness about the programmes.
  4. Lack of meticulous planning.
  5. Lack of funding or some times the lapse of govt funds due to the unawareness of funds.
  6. Lack of publicity etc..
In totality, most programmes intended to alleviate poverty have revealed new drawbacks. Every Programme implemented has shown how the resources can be misused. The Process of poverty alleviation programmes is facing an endless phase of experimentation. Now that we have learnt invaluable lessons from the past failures in implementing the poverty alleviation programmes, we must focus on overcoming the obstacles and succeeding in "changing the lives around".

Okay, all said and done, what can we do? "Some of the programmes like NREGA are invaluable initiatives that need to be stabilised, strengthened, and taken forward". Now that we have Right To Information (RTI) Act implemented, we have a huge potential to make a real difference to the lives of the rural poor. There is an urgent need to create an awareness about these programmes in rural areas. Media can be a crucial factor in this task. We need to "Educate and Organize" the "actual poor" to get the benefits out of public funds. If we still do not succeed even after "Educating and organizing", there is a democratic way of "Agitating" to get the work done! Lets talk about poverty to create an awareness about all these factors, lets talk about poverty to get rid of it and lets not make this "Poverty talk" a new fashion.


Anonymous said...

Hey Manju, a well thought, well put up blog. Yes, I too feel that 'poverty', for that matter many other negative aspects in society is somehow being projected as a jargon and a buzz word to gain attention! Actions are very much lacking in these aspects...

Manjunath Singe said...

Hey Mallu! thanks maga... keep visiting this place.. i can assure you more good stuff.. :)

Anonymous said...

dude.. i appreciate your sentiments and concern on the issue. but you do realize the fact that all *very* few people would actually take off from their comfortable air-conditioned apartments and cubicles and go make a difference at the grass root level. what have corporates(talking about almost-metros like bangalore) who have a huge presence and help bangalore to have the highest software exports in recent times done to reduce this problem?
the bottom line is that everyone is selfish and self-centered. we love just ourselves.
god bless.

Unknown said...

Hi Manju,

Really nice to see the blog. But, when we think of the actual implementation, no one is ready to come forward. As you mentioned, each one of us just try to put the blame on others. Kind of escapism.

How many of us have even thought of giving something back to the society. How many of us would go and educate the poor people about any of these Programs that the government has initiated.

Recently, I read in a newspaper that many of the IT people get tied up with NGOs to help them in gaining seats in foreign countries for further studies. Once, they accomplish their goal, update their resumes with the NGO details, and then all set to fly off, never to even think or remember about the kids or people whom they would have used as bait to accomplish their goals. They would have actually spent months together with these poor people conducting some workshops or educating poor kids. But, who cares!!!

Again, sitting in an AC room and talking about the poverty and doing something to the poor will be considered as a Fashion and a good visibility to be named as "a nice guy". :)

Anyways, it was really good to read about the hot topic. Really "a nice guy" ;)

Manjunath Singe said...

Nalini and "anonymous",
If you still have an impression that i am that kind of "nice guy", i guess you are wrong... some ideas have been cooking in my mind and time is the only answer!

Unknown said...

No Manju,
I am not saying that you are putting up role as 'a nice guy'. I was talking in general. You can hardly find people who are actually giving back to the society.

No hard feelings. :)

Manjunath Singe said...

Hard feelings? not at all... :)
i am glad that my writing has at least fueled some thought...

Ravish said...

i support you.... if u are thinking to do anything in which u need help.... I will be there for you

Anonymous said...

welcome to the real world, brother! :-)

Manjunath Singe said...

why did you say that? I am still in the matrix! title says "TheOnlyOne!"

Anonymous said...

Your effort and stand against poverty is worth appreciating but for a moment can you yourself think of taking a stand against this.It is the youth of the country who need to take part in the government rather than just becoming a nice guy. Any one can be a nice guy by just showing some sympathy talk towards the poor people. I admire your article on this particular social crisis. but let me clear one thing we all be just nice guys. no one will take the stand to change the existing social system.our country has bunch of problems.child labour,unemployment,poverty and a lot more have eaten this country. you take a step ahead to decipher the system but on the contrary it is actually the system which changes and refutes you.i agree with there are only few who actually care but just have a slight think over it who actually care for the poor. but no mumbling!!!

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.