India is Home to World's Largest Population of Poor, Hungry and Illiterates

In yesterday's Times of India piece titled "Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free", one of India's Green Revolution leaders Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan says, "Our freedom was born with hunger. It was born in the backdrop of the Bengal famine. If you read the newspapers dated August 15, 1947, one part was about freedom, the other was food shortage".



As India celebrates its 63rd independence anniversary, it is very unfortunate that economically resurgent India still remains home to the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterate people. Tragically, hunger remains India's biggest problem, with an estimated 7000 Indians dying of hunger every single day. Over 200 million Indians will go to bed hungry tonight, as they do every night, according to Bhookh.com. Along with chronic hunger, deep poverty and high illiteracy also continue to blight the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians on a daily basis.



India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. Though the problems of poverty and hunger in Pakistan are a bit less serious than in India, Pakistan also suffers from high illiteracy and low levels of human development that pose a serious threat to its future.



India has the dubious distinction of being among the top ten on two very different lists: It ranks at the top of the nations of the world with its 270 million illiterate adults, the largest in the world, as detailed by a just released UNESCO report on education; India also shows up at number four in military spending in terms of purchasing power parity, behind United States, China and Russia.

Not only is India the lowest among BRIC nations in terms of human development, India is also the only country among the top ten military spenders which, at 134 on a list of 182 nations, ranks near the bottom of the UNDP's human development rankings. Pakistan, at 141, ranks even lower than India.

India also fares badly on the 2009 World Hunger Index, ranking at 65 along with several sub-Saharan nations. Pakistan ranks at 58 on the same index.

A recent Oxford study on multi-dimensional poverty confirmed that Indians are far more deprived than Pakistanis and the poorest of the poor Africans. The study reveals that there are more "MPI poor" people in eight Indian states (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh , Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million).



Developed at Oxford University, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) goes beyond income poverty based on $1.25 or $2 a day income levels. It measures a range of "deprivations" at household levels, such as schooling, nutrition, and access to health, clean water, electricity and sanitation. According to Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) country briefings 2010, 55% of Indians and 51% of Pakistanis are poor.

Access to healhcare in South Asia, particularly due to the wide gender gap, presents a huge challenge, and it requires greater focus to ensure improvement in human resources. Though the life expectancy has increased to 66.2 years in Pakistan and 63.4 years in India, it is still low relative to the rest of the world. The infant mortality rate remains stubbornly high, particular in Pakistan, though it has come down down from 76 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 65 in 2009. With 320 mothers dying per 100,000 live births in Pakistan and 450 in India, the maternal mortality rate in South Asia is very high, according to UNICEF.

The health problems in India are compounded by serious lack of sanitation. According to a joint study conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 665 million Indians, or nearly two-thirds of them defecate in the open. While a mere 14 percent of people in rural areas of the country - that account for 65 percent of its 1.1 billion population - had access to toilets in 1990, the number had gone up to 28 percent in 2006. In comparison, 33 percent rural Pakistanis had access to toilets in 1990 and it went up to an impressive 58 percent in 2006, according to UNICEF officials.

In its issue earlier this year, the harsh reality of hunger and malnutrition in India was described by the Economist magazine as follows:

"India-wide, more than 43% of Indian children under five are malnourished, a third of the world’s total. Over 35% of Indians are illiterate and over 20m children out of school. For all its successes, including six decades of elections and a constitution that introduced the notion of equal rights to an inequitable society, India’s abiding failure is its inability to provide aid and economic opportunity to millions of its impoverished citizens."

The reality of grinding poverty in resurgent India was recently summed up well by a BBC commentator Soutik Biswas as follows:

A sobering thought to keep in mind though. Impressive growth figures are unlikely to stun the poor into mindless optimism about their future. India has long been used to illustrate how extensive poverty coexists with growth. It has a shabby record in pulling people out of poverty - in the last two decades the number of absolutely poor in India has declined by 17 percentage points compared to China, which brought down its absolutely poor by some 45 percentage points. The number of Indian billionaires rose from nine in 2004 to 40 in 2007, says Forbes magazine. That's higher than Japan which had 24, while France and Italy had 14 billionaires each. When one of the world's highest number of billionaires coexist with what one economist calls the world's "largest number of homeless, ill-fed illiterates", something is gravely wrong. This is what rankles many in this happy season of positive thinking.

As India and Pakistan celebrate their 63rd independence day, it is time for both major South Asian nations to reflect and act on the urgent need for careful balancing of their genuine defense requirements against the need to spend more to solve the very serious problems of food, education, health care and human resource development for securing a better future of their peoples.

Here's a video clip showing grinding poverty in resurgent India:



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Disaster Dampens Spirits on Pakistan's 63rd Independence Day

UNESCO Education For All Report 2010

India's Arms Build-up: Guns Versus Bread

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

World Hunger Index 2009

Challenges of 2010-2020 in South Asia

India and Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Introduction to Defense Economics

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
A pre-requisite for a responsive and accountable democracy is a substantial middle class population.

An ADB report on Asia's rising middle class released today confirms that Pakistan's middle class now is 40% of the population, significantly larger than the Indian middle class of about 25% of its population.

The other significant news reported by Wall Street Journal today says the vast majority of what is defined as India's middle class is perched just above $2 a day.

Most of this middle class growth in Pakistan occurred on Musharraf's watch.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an opinion piece by Amartya Sen published in The Hindu:

... I managed to resurrect the memory of having said in passing, in a meeting of TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) in Delhi in December, that it is silly to be obsessed about overtaking China in the rate of growth of Gross National Product (GNP), while not comparing ourselves with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Since that one-sentence remark seems to have been interpreted in many different ways (my attention to that fact was drawn by friends who are more web-oriented than I am), I guess I should try to explain what that remark was about.
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Let me look at some numbers, drawing from various sources — national as well as international, in particular World Development Reports of the World Bank and Human Development Reports of the United Nations. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is still 64.4 years. Infant mortality rate is 50 per thousand in India, compared with just 17 in China, and the under-5 mortality rate is 66 for Indians and 19 for the Chinese. China's adult literacy rate is 94 per cent, compared with India's 65 per cent, and mean years of schooling in India is 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. In our effort to reverse the lack of schooling of girls, India's literacy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 24 has certainly risen, but it is still below 80 per cent, whereas in China it is 99 per cent. Almost half of our children are undernourished compared with a very tiny proportion in China. Only 66 per cent of Indian children are immunised with triple vaccine (DPT), as opposed to 97 per cent in China. Comparing ourselves with China in these really important matters would be a very good perspective, and they can both inspire us and give us illumination about what to do — and what not to do, particularly the glib art of doing nothing.
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Life expectancy in Bangladesh is 66.9 years compared with India's 64.4. The proportion of underweight children in Bangladesh (41.3 per cent) is a little lower than in India (43.5), and its fertility rate (2.3) is also lower than India's (2.7). Mean years of schooling amount to 4.8 years in Bangladesh compared with India's 4.4 years. While India is ahead of Bangladesh in male literacy rate in the youthful age-group of 15-24, the female rate in Bangladesh is higher than in India. Interestingly, the female literacy rate among young Bangladeshis is actually higher than the male rate, whereas young females still do much worse than young males in India. There is much evidence to suggest that Bangladesh's current progress has much to do with the role that liberated Bangladeshi women are beginning to play in the country.

What about health, which interests every human being as much as anything else? Under-5 mortality rate is 66 in India compared with 52 in Bangladesh. In infant mortality, Bangladesh has a similar advantage, since the rate is 50 in India and 41 in Bangladesh. Whereas 94 per cent of Bangladeshi children are immunised with DPT vaccine, only 66 per cent of Indian children are. In each of these respects, Bangladesh does better than India, despite having less than half of India's per-capita income.
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And perhaps more worryingly, this group of relatively privileged and increasingly prosperous Indians can easily fall for the temptation to treat economic growth as an end in itself........
Riaz Haq said…
Here is an excerpt from a Time magazine opinion piece by Hannah Beach on the status of Asian democracies:

Asia gave birth to people power in 1986, when a sea of yellow-clad demonstrators peacefully overthrew a dictator in the Philippines. Other popular uprisings against authoritarianism followed, from Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan to Mongolia and Indonesia. Watching the events unfold in the Arab world, Asia's fledgling democracies can be forgiven for indulging in a moment of nostalgia. While revolutionary zeal may have toppled the region's strongmen, however, too few of their successors have bothered to build the institutions needed to sustain democracy beyond its first flush. Democracy through revolution is heady stuff, but it's not always a template for building lasting freedom and justice.

The withered potential of people power is best examined on its home turf. This month, the Philippines will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the start of its historic uprising. Those following the events in Egypt will find many parallels. Ferdinand Marcos, a corrupt, aging, U.S.-backed dictator, was ousted by a populace that rallied, in part, thanks to technology. (Then it was radio, not Facebook or Twitter.) But a quarter-century later, with the son of people-power heroine Corazon Aquino now serving as President, the Philippines is still beset by the poverty, cronyism and nepotism that provoked the 1986 protests. (See a brief history of people power.)

These failings are not the Philippines' alone. Across Asia, elections are held, but vote buying taints the results. Politics is dominated by the same old families. Economic growth often rewards the few rather than the many. And from Malaysia and East Timor to Taiwan and Thailand, I have met local journalists who passed information on to me because they felt it was too dangerous to write about the issues themselves. Without the crucial check of a free press — or independent legislatures and courts, for that matter — democracy exists in name only.

Still, Asia also offers heartening lessons for the Arab world. There's South Korea, for instance, which overthrew a U.S.-backed military dictatorship, then carefully constructed a prosperous democracy. And then there's Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. In 1998, after 32 years in power, strongman Suharto was forced out by massive street protests. Since then, change in Indonesia has occurred not in one cataclysmic jolt but instead through years of brick-by-brick nation building. That may not sound sexy, but it works. Indonesia has now peacefully cycled through several secular-minded leaders, and its civil society is flourishing. The country's problems are still immense: graft and poverty persist, as does sectarian conflict. But Egypt could do a lot worse than to follow the model of this moderate, Muslim-majority democracy
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Times of India report on illiteracy in Indian Punjab, particularly among Dalits:

CHANDIGARH: As SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab cries itself hoarse over mega development in the state and improving quality of life, there are a staggering number, nearly 31,000 children below 14 years of age, who have never been to a school, owned books or known what it is like to read or write.

A household survey, conducted by the state government in December 2010 has brought out that the worst sufferers are those belonging to the scheduled caste category. Out of 31,000 children below 14 years of age, who are not studying in any school, about 17,000 are SCs.

Ludhiana has the maximum number of such children, 4610, followed by Amritsar , 3313 and Tarn Taran, 3103. The report was tabled in the Punjab assembly on Saturday by the education minister S S Sekhwan , in reply to a question posed by Congress MLA A I S Mofar. Though meauation, the comptroller auditor general's report clearly blamed the state government for failing to provide even basic facilities like a safe building, chairs and desks to the students.

Besides, the schools are riddled with problems of absenteeism among teachers which is having a direct impact on the results of the schools. The pass percentage of Class XII, said the CAG report, is practically stagnant around 72% during the past five years. sures being taken to bring these children to schools were enumerated but the government has not been able to come up with a justification regarding the staggering high dropout rate in schools.

The Economic Survey, 2010-2011, indicates that in 2008, nearly 50% boys in classes I to X and nearly 50% girls dropped-out from government schools. Though Economic Survey and the government's own report has been silent on the factors that had led to such a situation.
Riaz Haq said…
India's dirty big mess exposed to the public, reports The Australian:

...India is where human waste, discharged along the vast, 65,000km rail network, corrodes the tracks to such an extent the rails have to be replaced every 24 months instead of having a normal 30-year lifespan. This is the human waste left by the 20 million passengers carried each day by Indian Railways.

India is where staggering numbers tell a story of squalor that lies behind so much of the controversy and apprehension surrounding next month's Commonwealth Games.

More than six decades after India won its freedom from British colonial rule, 55 per cent of its people - by one count 638 million - do not have access to a toilet of any kind and defecate in the open.

Paradoxically, more people have access to mobile phones in India than to basic sanitation. A recent estimate suggested about 366 million people have access to sanitation while there are about 600 million mobile phones in service in the emerging economy.

"It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," a UN report has stated.

It is hardly surprising that India's Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has said: "If there is a Nobel prize for dirt and filth, India will win it, no doubt." He is right.

Outside of the glitz of the sumptuous hotels where many tourists stay, the reality is that despite the great strides India has achieved in some areas, hygiene standards in India remain abysmal. The notorious malady known as "Delhi belly" is rampant.

Indians have been let down severely by successive governments since independence. The sort of mindset that has allowed filth to spoil Commonwealth Games preparations is testament to that failure.

N. R. Narayana Murthy, an eminent Indian and founder of Infosys Technologies, has summed up that failure thus: "The enigma of India is that our progress in higher education and science and technology has not been sufficient to take 350 million Indians out of illiteracy. It is difficult to imagine that 318 million people in the country do not have access to safe drinking water and 250 million people do not have access to basic medical care. Why should 630 million people not have access to acceptable sanitation facilities?"

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"It is common to find sumptuous luxury apartments in buildings that are filthy, rotting and stained, whose common areas, walls and staircases have not been cleaned in generations. Each apartment owner is proud of his own immediate habitat but is unwilling to incur responsibility or expense for the areas shared with others, even in the same building.

"This attitude is also visible in the lack of a civic culture in both rural and urban India, which leaves public spaces dirty and garbage-strewn, streets potholed and neglected, civic amenities vandalised or not functioning. The Indian wades through dirt and filth, past open sewers and fly-specked waste, to an immaculate home where he proudly bathes twice a day."


http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/indias-dirty-big-mess-exposed-to-the-public/story-e6frg6zo-1225929083779
Riaz Haq said…
Lack of water and toilets are a major problem for Anna Hazare supporters in New Delhi, according to media reports:

As droves of people flocked to Ramlila Maidan to voice their support for Anna Hazare, lack of water and sanitation facilities at the venue tested the resolve of quite a few supporters.

With the protests probably stretching over more than two weeks, protesters hope that arrangements will be made soon for clean drinking water and medicines to alleviate the suffering of the people flocking to support the movement.

According to the agreement reached between Team Anna and police, the organisers have to arrange for drinking water, medical aid and mobile toilets.

A protester at the venue said, "There is no water and toilets are in a deplorable condition. People, especially women, who have come from outside Delhi are suffering terribly here."

Scarcity of water and sanitation facilities at the venue have created trouble for the Gandhian's supporters, with one fainting and being rushed to a hospital.

One Vishnu Dutt Sharma from Uttar Pradesh who is fasting in the city collapsed in the morning and was rushed to LNJP hospital where he is being treated. "He did not have food or water for three days. He fell unconscious," an agitator said.

A doctor at the venue said the basic problem was scarcity and the quality of water the protesters were drinking.

"There is no proper arrangement for water supply and people are not carrying bottled water. So they are facing problems," he said.

To provide relief, a group of doctors from Indian Medical Association have set up camp at the venue to ensure round-the-clock emergency medical care free of cost to the supporters.

Dr AP Singh of IMA said, "We have volunteered to provide free medical services because we support the cause of Hazare and his team. Corruption affects everybody, including us and we feel that if we can contribute in some way to this movement, we would have done our part."

Dr Sachin Bhargav, another doctor, said, "we are providing medicines free of cost, and paying for them from our own pockets, because we believe in Anna's cause, and sympathise with the poor people who have come here from villages all over India."

Armed with medicines for common ailments like dehydration, gastro-enteritis and fever, the doctors have treated over 400 patients since the protest began at Ramlila Maidan, and referred around 10 patients to nearby hospitals.

The doctors have put their own practise at stake to volunteer at the Maidan.

"The government is not providing proper facilities because it wants the people to leave as soon as possible. Despite this, people won't leave, and we won't rest till the government agrees to Hazare's demands," Amina Khan, a nurse, alleged.

The doctors are also playing a part in ensuring that the crowd doesn't go out of control. Singh said, "If any supporter becomes too aggressive or starts hyperventilating, volunteers bring him to us, and we give them medicines to calm them down, thus preventing any untoward incident."


http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_lack-of-water-sanitation-test-resolve-of-anna-s-supporters_1577883
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt from Britain's DFID report on open defecation around the world:

58% of the open defecation in the world takes place in India. It is an absolutely astonishing phenomenon. Even just rural India is more than double the open defecation in the whole of
sub-Saharan Africa. The WSP, the Water and Sanitation Programme at the Bank, have recently done an assessment of the costs of this to India, and every
year they estimate $54 billion, which is $48 per head, which is far higher than any other countries in the
region.

http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/reliefweb_pdf/node-420188.pdf

Sense of public hygiene is worst in India among its neighbours – a recent study revealed that India hosts 58% people of the world of open defecation compare to 5% for china, Indonesia and 4.8% for Pakistan. Economic growth is not reflecting improvement in public hygiene.

http://esa.un.org/iys/docs/san_lib_docs/Scaling%20Up%20Rural%20Saniltation.pdf

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2494536.ece

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/monitoring/jmpfinal.pdf
Riaz Haq said…
UNICEF says India tops the world in open defecation, according to the Times of India:

NEW DELHI: With India facing the slur of topping the global list in open defecation, the Centre is keen to put the sanitation programme back on the centrestage by sensitizing the population about public hygiene.

The Union rural development ministry along with states will organize a month-long campaign from October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, to create awareness for its flagship scheme of Total Sanitation Campaign.

According to a UNICEF survey, 58% of the world's population practicing open defecation lives in India while China and Indonesia come a distant second by accounting for just 5% of the world numbers. Pakistan is down to third with 4.5%, tied with Ethiopia.

The numbers are astounding as the prosperity of liberalized India does not seem to translate into better sanitation.

RD minister Jairam Ramesh said, "I consider these numbers a matter of great anguish and shame. We must make sanitation a political campaign like Gandhiji did. Kerala, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Haryana and Himachal are doing well but other states have to pick up significantly."

There is little denying the anguish given that the numbers do not tie up with the sanitation standards expected of improving financial economy as well as urbanizing India.

As per national population figures, 54% of India's population practices open defecation against China's 4%.

The national figures do push up numbers in smaller and poor countries. Like Indonesia has 26% of its population practicing open defecation as against its contribution of only 5% to the world population. The national figure stands at 60% for Ethiopia, 28% for Pakistan and 50% for Nepal.

Neighbouring Sri Lanka, in contrast, has only 1% of its citizens going to toilet in the open.

Ramesh said, "We are going to focus now on `nirmal gram abhiyan' -- today 25,000 nirmal grams are a tiny fraction of 6 lakh villages. These nirmal grams are in Maharashtra and Haryana. Maharashtra is a success of social movements while Haryana an example of determined state government action."

As part of the awareness drive, the states have been asked to take active interest with chief secretaries issuing directions for the awareness drive up to the panchayat level. It may include household contact programme and gram sabha meetings to highlight the benefits of an environment free of open defecation. The panchayats would also train masons to construct toilets.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/With-58-figures-India-tops-in-open-defecation/articleshow/10200781.cms
Riaz Haq said…
India fares worst in terms of low birth weight and underweight children, and under-five infant mortality compared to Brazil, Russia and all South Asian neighbors, says BBC's Soutik Biswas:

Will the proposed law to provide cheap food to more than half of India's people eliminate hunger, the most shameful scourge of an aspiring superpower?

The jury is still out on how the $19bn (£12bn) scheme will work, as is the case with similar big-ticket welfare schemes launched by what many believe is an endemically weak and corrupt state.

But there is little doubt that India needs to fight malnutrition on a war footing, and the food security scheme may well be its last chance to redeem itself.

Many believe that it does not behove a country which never tires of gloating about its red hot economic growth to have millions of malnourished and starving people.

The facts on the ground are startling. India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, a rate worse than the average in Africa.

Nearly half of India's children under three are malnourished. More than half of the tribes' children are underweight and stunted.

India fares worst in terms of low birth weight and underweight children, and under-five infant mortality compared to Brazil, Russia and all South Asian neighbours.

India also has the highest number of Vitamin A deficient children in the world: nearly 6% of the children suffer from eye problems related to the deficiency. Of the 37m people in the world who are blind, about 15m are from India. More than 320,000 children suffer from avoidable blindness.
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Then there are India's notoriously fickle public distribution system shops aimed at providing food security to people. Over 500m people are supposed to benefit through a gigantic distribution network of half a million fair-price shops supplying cheap food grains.

Here too, the results are mixed and contested. In many states, it has failed to make cheap food grains available to the poor. Theft of supplies, fraudulent beneficiaries and hoarding by the shop-owners is not uncommon.
Cart before horse?

So will the latest food security scheme aimed at providing subsidised food grains to 75% of the rural population and half of the urban households work?

There are many economists who wonder how India will cough up the funds to finance the scheme which will see the country's food subsidy bill climb to $19bn from $13bn. The government insists money will not be a problem.

There are also questions about how beneficiaries will be identified and targeted in a transparent manner in a country where there are different official estimates of the poorest of the poor - from 37% to 77% of the people, depending on whom you believe.

India's state-run cold storage system is shambolic, so where is the guarantee that some 65m tonnes of food grains procured from farmers for distribution for the scheme - up from 55m tonnes presently - will not rot before reaching the beneficiary? How can the food grains be distributed through the leaky public distribution system shops without reforming them?

So is India again putting the cart before the horse? Without reforming its laws and public institutions, welfare schemes with the best intentions run the risk of floundering.

For the scheme to work, the government will need to target beneficiaries properly and revamp the distribution system. The public distribution system, for example, could be made accountable by issuing smart cards to beneficiaries to eliminate bogus cards and fraudulent withdrawal.

If the food security scheme does not work, economists believe, India is doomed to remain a hungry republic. It is already one of the fast-growing economies with the hungriest people in the world. And it can get worse.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16291300
Riaz Haq said…
Here are some excerpts from a piece by Lan Pritchett of Harvard University on India's poor performance on PISA:

Compared to the economic superstars India is almost unfathomably far behind. The TN/HP average 15 year old is over 200 points behind. If a typical grade gain is 40 points a year Indian eighth graders are at the level of Korea third graders in their mathematics mastery. In fact the average TN/HP child is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Equally worrisome is that the best performers in TN/HP - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to complete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.

As the current superpowers are behind the East Asian economic superstars in learning performance the distance to India is not quite as far, but still the average TN/HP child is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Indians often deride America's schools but the average child placed in an American school would be among the weakest students. Indians might have believed, with President Obama, that American schools were under threat from India but the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.

Even among other "developing" nations that make up the BRICs India lags - from Russia by almost as much as the USA and only for Brazil, which like the rest of Latin America is infamous for lagging education performance does India even come close - and then not even that close.

To put these results in perspective, in the USA there has been huge and continuous concern that has caused seismic shifts in the discourse about education driven, in part, by the fact that the USA is lagging the economic superstars like Korea. But the average US 15 year old is 59 points behind Koreans. TN/HP students are 41.5 points behind Brazil, and twice as far behind Russia (123.5 points) as the US is Korea, and almost four times further behind Singapore (217.5 vs 59) that the US is behind Korea. Yet so far this disastrous performance has yet to occasion a ripple in the education establishment.
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These PISA 2009+ results are the end of the beginning. The debate is over. No one can still deny there is a deep crisis in the ability of the existing education system to produce child learning. India's education system is undermining India's legitimate aspirations to be at the global forefront as a prosperous economy, as a global great power, as an emulated polity, and as a fair and just society. As the beginning ends, the question now is: what is to be done?


http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/first-pisa-results-for-india-end-of.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here are some excerpts of BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of Pulitzer-winning New Yorker reporter Katherine Boo's "Beautiful Forevers":

"We try so many things," a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, "but the world doesn't move in our favour".

Annawadi is a "sumpy plug of slum" in the biggest city - "a place of festering grievance and ambient envy" - of a country which holds a third of the world's poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo's first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.

Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live "packed into, or on top of" 335 huts. It is a place "magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich's people's garbage", where the New India collides with the Old.

Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India's official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.
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She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India's right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.
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The local councillor runs fake schools, doctors at free government hospitals and policemen extort the poor with faint promise of life and justice, and self-help groups operate as loan sharks for the poorest. The young in Annawadi drop dead like flies - run over by traffic, knifed by rival gangs, laid low by disease; while the elders - not much older - die anyway. Girls prefer a certain brand of rat poison to end their lives.
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Boo has an interesting take on corruption, rife in societies like India's. Corruption is seen as blocking India's global ambitions. But, she writes, for the "poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained".

On the other hand, Boo believes, corruption stymies our moral universe more than economic possibility. Suffering, she writes, "can sabotage innate capacities for moral action". In a capricious world of corrupt governments and ruthless markets the idea of a mutually supportive community is a myth: it is "blisteringly hard", she writes, to be good in such conditions. "If the house is crooked and crumbling", Boo writes, "and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17038326
Riaz Haq said…
LSE study finds India can not become a superpower, reports The Hindu:

Despite India’s "impressive" rise, its ambition to be a super power may remain just that—an ambition, according to an authoritative new study by the London School of Economics to which several Indian scholars have contributed.

It pointedly dismisses what it calls the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s "unequivocal verdict" during her India visit in 2009 that "India is not just a regional power, but a global power’.

The study, India: the Next Superpower? acknowledges India’s "formidable achievements" in fostering democracy, growth and cultural dynamism but concludes that these are nullified by its structural weaknesses, widespread corruption, poor leadership, extreme social divisions, religious extremism and internal security threats.

India, it argues, still faces too many "developmental challenges" to qualify for "super power" status, or to be considered a serious "counterweight" to China, a role sought to be thrust on it by some in the West. Some of the report’s authors wonder whether India should even aspire to be a super power given its institutional weaknesses and social and economic divisions.

Historian Ramachandra Guha, currently the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at LSE, suggests that rather than being seduced by the bright lights of great power diplomacy, India should instead focus on reforming its institutions and repairing the social fabric that seems to be coming off its seams.

“We need to repair, one by one, the institutions that have safeguarded our unity amidst diversity, and to forge the new institutions that can help us. It will be hard, patient, slow work,” he writes.

The study, a summary of which was released on Wednesday, starts off by acknowledging that" India’s rise has certainly been impressive, and warrants the attention that it has commanded".

"India has been one of the world’s best-performing economies for a quarter of a century, lifting millions out of poverty and becoming the world’s third-largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms. India has tripled its defence expenditure over the last decade to become one of the top-ten military spenders. And in stark contrast to Asia’s other billion-person emerging power, India has simultaneously cultivated an attractive global image of social and cultural dynamism," it says. But then come the "ifs" and "buts".

Plunging the knife into Indian ambitions, the report says:"Still, for all India’s success, its undoubted importance and despite its undisputed potential, there is cause for caution in assessing India’s claim to superpower status. India still faces major developmental challenges. The still-entrenched divisions of caste structure are being compounded by the emergence of new inequalities of wealth stemming from India’s economic success. India’s democracy may have thrived in a manner that few ever expected, but its institutions face profound challenges from embedded nepotism and corruption. India’s economic success continues to come with an environmental cost that is unsustainable."

These problems are compounded by India’s "pressing security preoccupations" arising out of "insurgent violence" affecting large parts of the country and long-festering cross-border disputes.

The best that India can hope for—the study offers as a consolation-- is "to continue to play a constructive international role in, among other things, the financial diplomacy of the G20".

"Yet the hopes of those in the West who would build up India as a democratic counterweight to Chinese superpower are unlikely to be realised anytime soon," it concludes....


http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2969252.ece
Riaz Haq said…
Is India losing its mojo because of bad politics? asks BBC's Soutik Biswas. Here's an excerpt:

It's an obvious question to ask at a time when powerful - and populist - regional parties are again flexing their muscles at a fickle federal government, key economic reforms are seemingly stuck in the bog of messy coalition politics, and the government is struggling under an avalanche of corruption charges. Economic growth and investment have cooled and inflation remains high.

So is it surprising that The Economist magazine, in its latest issue, says the politics is "preventing India from fulfilling its vast economic potential"?

Or when Fareed Zakaria, editor-at-large with Time magazine, tells an audience in Delhi this week that India's politicians are "out of touch… they try to portray India as a victim, not the victor".

With uncharacteristic exaggeration, The Economist even invokes a return to the stifling days of the controlled economy.

"Lately, like a Bollywood villain who just refuses to die, the old India has made a terrifying reappearance," says the magazine. It blames a "nastily divisive political climate" for the crisis and believes that India requires "energetic, active leaders, plus politicians who are ready to compromise".
'Corrupt and corroded'

Both the magazine and the pundit are right and wrong.
“Start Quote

Reformers need to be patient; there are no shortcuts in India”

The quality of India's politicians, many argue, has declined drastically, as in many parts of the world. Most of them seem to be out of sync with modern day realities - expectations have fallen so ridiculously low that an iPad carrying politician is described by the media as a modern one!

Most are also seen as greedy, corrupt and disinterested in serious reform. The increasing number of politicians with criminal records and the brazen use of money to buy party tickets and bribe voters erodes India's ailing democratic process.

It is not a happy picture. "Today the Centre is corrupt and corroded," historian Ramachandra Guha wrote recently. "There are allegedly 'democratic' politicians who abuse their oath of office and work only to enrich themselves; as well as self-described 'revolutionaries' who seek to settle arguments by the point of the gun." Only serious electoral reform can ensure a better breed of politician.
---------
Public consensus is harder to come by in an awfully unequal society where the middle class and the rich root for further opening up of the economy, while the poor want the state to invest in health and education and check corruption. The elitist biases in public policy is made easier by a poorly-informed and often unlettered electorate with low expectations.

Many would argue that India never got any magic going, so there is no question of losing it.

Consensus is painfully slow in such a society, and sometimes only a crisis can provoke the government - and the people - to bite the bullet. Reformers need to be patient; there are no shortcuts in India.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17537615
Riaz Haq said…
Here are some excerpts of an interesting story published in The Hindu:


Can anyone really live on Rs. 26 a day, the income of the officially poor in rural India? Two youngsters try it out.

Late last year, two young men decided to live a month of their lives on the income of an average poor Indian. One of them, Tushar, the son of a police officer in Haryana, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for three years as an investment banker in the US and Singapore. The other, Matt, migrated as a teenager to the States with his parents, and studied in MIT. Both decided at different points to return to India, joined the UID Project in Bengaluru, came to share a flat, and became close friends.

The idea suddenly struck them one day. Both had returned to India in the vague hope that they could be of use to their country. But they knew the people of this land so little. Tushar suggested one evening — “Let us try to understand an ‘average Indian', by living on an ‘average income'.” His friend Matt was immediately captured by the idea. They began a journey which would change them forever.

To begin with, what was the average income of an Indian? They calculated that India's Mean National Income was Rs. 4,500 a month, or Rs. 150 a day. Globally people spend about a third of their incomes on rent. Excluding rent, they decided to spend Rs. 100 each a day. They realised that this did not make them poor, only average. Seventy-five per cent Indians live on less than this average.

The young men moved into the tiny apartment of their domestic help, much to her bemusement. What changed for them was that they spent a large part of their day planning and organising their food. Eating out was out of the question; even dhabas were too expensive. Milk and yoghurt were expensive and therefore used sparingly, meat was out of bounds, as were processed food like bread. No ghee or butter, only a little refined oil. Both are passionate cooks with healthy appetites. They found soy nuggets a wonder food — affordable and high on proteins, and worked on many recipes. Parle G biscuits again were cheap: 25 paise for 27 calories! They innovated a dessert of fried banana on biscuits. It was their treat each day.
-------------
Living on Rs.100 made the circle of their life much smaller. They found that they could not afford to travel by bus more than five km in a day. If they needed to go further, they could only walk. They could afford electricity only five or six hours a day, therefore sparingly used lights and fans. They needed also to charge their mobiles and computers. One Lifebuoy soap cut into two. They passed by shops, gazing at things they could not buy. They could not afford the movies, and hoped they would not fall ill.

However, the bigger challenge remained. Could they live on Rs. 32, the official poverty line, which had become controversial after India's Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that this was the poverty line for cities (for villages it was even lower, at Rs. 26 per person per day)?
--------
... Do we really need that hair product or that branded cologne? Is dining out at expensive restaurants necessary for a happy weekend? At a larger level, do we deserve all the riches we have around us? Is it just plain luck that we were born into circumstances that allowed us to build a life of comfort? What makes the other half any less deserving of many of these material possessions, (which many of us consider essential) or, more importantly, tools for self-development (education) or self-preservation (healthcare)?

We don't know the answers to these questions. But we do know the feeling of guilt that is with us now. ....

....And above all — in Matt's words — that empathy is essential for democracy.


http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Harsh_Mander/barefoot-the-other-side-of-life/article2882340.ece
Riaz Haq said…
A billion people were lifted from abject poverty between 1980 and 2010. China accounts for nearly three quarters of these, or 680 million people brought out of misery, by reducing its extreme-poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to 10% now, according to a report in The Economist. The report adds that with "poorer governance in India and Africa, the next two targets, means that China’s experience is unlikely to be swiftly replicated there".

As China's share of the world's extreme poor (living below $1.25 per day per person level) has dramatically declined, India's share has significantly increased. India now contributes 33% (up from 22 % in 1981). While the extreme poor in Sub-Saharan Africa represented only 11 percent of the world’s total in 1981, they now account for 34% of the world’s extreme poor, and China comes next contributing 13 percent (down from 43 percent in 1981), according to the World Bank report titled State of the Poor.

The share of poverty in South Asia region excluding India has slightly increased from 7% in 1981 to 9% now, according to the report.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2013/06/indias-share-of-worlds-poorest-jumped.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Reuters' blog post on lack of hygiene in India:

My Indian friends and I joke around a lot about me as the typical white American guy visiting India. Cows! Con men! Colors! Most people I’ve met in India have restricted their reactions to my westerner-in-the-east experiences to gentle teasing. When I stuck a picture of a man urinating in public on my Facebook page, calling it one more picture of what you see everywhere you go in India, people weren’t as patient. What was I doing? Insulting the nation? Focusing on the ugly because it’s what all the westerners do when they visit India? Why does India provoke such visceral reactions in visitors?

Public urination, public defecation, dirt, garbage, filth, the poor living on the street — talking about these things, even acknowledging that they’re in front of your face, risks making your hosts unhappy, and possibly angry. It’s the third rail of India, and the voltage can be lethal. That’s why I was surprised when B.S. Raghavan decided to touch it with all 10 fingers.

Raghavan’s column in The Hindu Business Line newspaper begins with this headline: Are Indians by nature unhygienic?

Consider these excerpts:

From time to time, in their unguarded moments, highly placed persons in advanced industrial countries have burst out against Indians for being filthy and dirty in their ways of life. A majority of visitors to India from those countries complain of “Delhi belly” within a few hours of arrival, and some fall seriously ill.

There is no point in getting infuriated or defensive about this. The general lack of cleanliness and hygiene hits the eye wherever one goes in India — hotels, hospitals, households, work places, railway trains, airplanes and, yes, temples. Indians think nothing of spitting whenever they like and wherever they choose, and living in surroundings which they themselves make unliveable by their dirty habits. …

Open defecation has become so rooted in India that even when toilet facilities are provided, the spaces round temple complexes, temple tanks, beaches, parks, pavements, and indeed, any open area are covered with faecal matter. …

Even as Indians, we are forced to recoil with horror at the infinite tolerance of fellow Indians to pile-ups of garbage, overflowing sewage, open drains and generally foul-smelling environs.

There’s plenty more that you can read in that story, but I’ll direct you to the article. I’ll also ask you some questions:

Some people say you shouldn’t point out these problems, and that every country has problems. Do you agree with this statement? Why?
Does anyone disagree with Raghavan’s descriptions of these sights and smells?
Is this even a problem? Or should people get used to it?
Should visitors, especially ones from countries where people are generally wealthier, say nothing, and pretend that they don’t see unpleasant things?
As for me, I can say this: I got used to it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice it. Indians notice it too. Otherwise, people wouldn’t suggest public shaming campaigns against people urinating in public, they wouldn’t threaten fines for doing it, and they wouldn’t respond with relief to plans to finally make sure that toilets on India’s trains don’t open directly onto the tracks. Of course, these are people in India. It’s a family, taking care of business the family way.

As for me, the message usually seems to be: “If you don’t love it, leave it.” It would be nice if there were some other answer. Acknowledging problems, even ones that are almost impossible to solve, makes them easier to confront.


http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2012/11/17/indians-inherently-unhygienic-indian-writer-touches-third-rail/
Riaz Haq said…
Here are some findings of UNICEF's Child Survival Report 2013:

1. Pakistan's infant mortality rate is ranked 26th worst in the world.

2. Pakistan remains high though it has been coming down from 138 per 100,000 in 1990 to 112 in 2000 to 86 in 2012.

3. Pakistan is among the five countries (India 22%, Nigeria 13%, Democratic Republic of Congo 6%, Pakistan 6% and China 4% in that order) across the world where half of all under-five deaths occur.

4. The report recommends exclusively breastfeeding all newborns till six months of age, immunizing children and newborns with all recommended vaccines, and eliminating all harmful traditions and violence against children. To ensure children grow up in a safe and protective environment. Besides this feed children with proper nutritional foods and micronutrient supplements, where available, and de-worm children; give oral rehydration salts (ORS) and daily zinc supplements for 10-14 days to all children suffering from diarrhea.

http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/APR_Progress_Report_2013_9_Sept_2013.pdf
Riaz Haq said…
The number of hungry people has dropped in India with its score on the Global Hunger Index improving to 63rd position in 2013, but the country still lags behind China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-10-14/news/43027402_1_hunger-index-hunger-levels-ghi-score

http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Global%20Hunger%20Index%202013.pdf
Riaz Haq said…
In the first 25 days of 2014 (in Delhi), 197 thumbnail images have gone up in the gallery of nameless dead.

Everyday, an average of seven people are dying unidentified and unclaimed in Delhi's winter. But what may be even more heart-rending is that such deaths are not limited to this season. As police data shows, they are an all-weather phenomenon. Around 2,900 died unidentified in Delhi last year. 241 perished in January; 225 in April; 279 in July; and, 238 in October.

The highest deaths, 323, took place in May. Data for last three years shows that unidentified deaths peaked in summer and monsoon. A majority of such deaths were of able-bodied men. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/The-everyday-tableau-of-Delhis-nameless-dead/articleshow/29430667.cms
Riaz Haq said…
TOI on UNESCO EFA report:

India has by far the largest population of illiterate adults — 287 million or 37 per cent of the global total, said a report released on Wednesday.

The "EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2013-14: Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for All", commissioned by the Unesco, said 10 countries (including India) account for 557 million or 72 per cent of the global population of illiterate adults.

"India's literacy rate rose from 48 per cent in 1991 to 63 per cent in 2006, (the latest year for which data was available), but population growth cancelled the gains. So there was no change in the number of illiterate adults," the report said.

Stressing the importance of "quality education", Unesco's New Delhi director Shigeru Aoyagi said India was facing a challenge of quality education.

"Though we have more than 99 per cent children in schools because of the Right to Education Act, the quality of education being imparted is a big challenge that should be addressed," he said.

"The most crucial agents of quality education and learning are teachers and students. Teachers are the most important element that can improve the quality of education," he said.

The report said that without attracting and adequately training enough teachers, the learning crisis will "last for several generations and hit the disadvantaged the hardest".

The report also said that a global learning crisis was costing governments $129 billion a year, and that 10 per cent of global spending on primary education was being lost on poor quality education that was failing to ensure that children learn.

"It leaves one in four young people in poor countries unable to read a single sentence, affecting one-third of young women in South and West Asia," it said.

The countries include Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

At the report launch, Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia said it was essential to change the content in our textbooks, so that the "future generation is more aware" about the various issues prevalent in society.

"The country will not change with IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and IAS. It will only change from the classrooms," Sisodia said.

"There is no other option but to spend quality money on education, and make it a priority," he added.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-01-29/india/46781019_1_quality-education-global-monitoring-report-learning-crisis
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Mint story on British economist Angus Maddison estimates of India's historic per cap GDP:

Was India a wealthy country before the British came? The numbers that have garnered the most attention have been his GDP estimates, because they fit in with the narrative of a strong India and China getting back their clout in the world economy. But what is that to the average Indian or Chinese citizen? What if the only reason these countries had such a high GDP in earlier times was because they had a larger population?
That is what is brought out by Maddison’s estimates of GDP per capita, again in PPP terms in 1990 dollars. In 1 AD, India’s GDP per capita was $450, as was China’s. But Italy under the Roman Empire had a per capita income of $809. In 1000 AD, India’s per capita income was $450 and China’s $466. But the average of the West Asian countries, such as Turkey and Iraq, was much higher at $621. In terms of general prosperity, therefore, it was the Arab world that was doing well a millennium ago. The Caliphate in Baghdad was a centre of power at the time and both science and culture flourished.
By 1500, though, new centres of prosperity had emerged. India’s per capita income was $550 and China’s $600 in 1500. The Arab world had declined. But standards of living in Western Europe at that time had already gone far ahead. Italy topped the table, with a per capita income of $1,100, the Netherlands following with a per capita income of $761. This was the Italy of the Renaissance, the Italy of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, of Raphael and Titian. The UK was not far behind, with a per capita income of $714.
By 1600, the centre of Europe had shifted northwards and the golden age of Holland had begun. Dutch per capita income was $1,381 in 1600, while Britain in Shakespeare’s time had a per capita income of $974.
Recall that 1600 was the year the East India Company was founded. In contrast, India’s per capita income continued to be $550, while China’s was $600. Note that even Ireland, one of the poorest of Western Europe’s countries, had a per capita income of $615, higher than India’s and China’s. In short, the per capita GDP numbers mirror the changes in power, prosperity and cultural and scientific achievement.
It wasn’t till 1981 that India had a per capita income of $977, beating that of Britain in 1600. And it wasn’t until 1993 that India’s per capita income of $1,399 surpassed what the Dutch had achieved in 1600. Maddison’s calculations show that in 2008, India’s per capita GDP ( in 1990 dollars, PPP terms) was $2,975, slightly more than one-third of the world average of $7,614. We have a long way to go.


http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Nb7KkZ3yOVSNW3vHf9K1oM/World-history-by-per-capita-GDP.html
Riaz Haq said…
One can probably get a good historic overview of India's economic and social indicators data by reading British economist Angus Maddison and Swedish statistician Hans Rosling.

Maddison estimates that in PPP terms in 1990 dollars. In 1 AD, India’s GDP per capita was $450, as was China’s. But Italy under the Roman Empire had a per capita income of $809. In 1000 AD, India’s per capita income was $450 and China’s $466. But the average of the West Asian countries, such as Turkey and Iraq, was much higher at $621. In terms of general prosperity, therefore, it was the Arab world that was doing well a millennium ago. The Caliphate in Baghdad was a centre of power at the time and both science and culture flourished.

http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Nb7KkZ3yOVSNW3vHf9K1oM/World-history-by-per-capita-GDP.html

Rosling (www.gapminder.org) has estimated India's life expectancy in 1800 at about 23 years, lower than its peers at the time.
Riaz Haq said…
With nearly a fourth of its 1.1 billion popu-lation hungry, India indeed is the world’s hunger capital.

As more and more reports of the global financial meltdown are pouring in, digest this. It made the world scurry to a grim one billion hungry people, a fact perceived as a grave threat to global peace and security. The UN estimates that hunger now affects one in six people, compounded by factors such as war, drought or floods, high food prices and poverty. Most of the hunger in a world of plenty results from grinding, deep-rooted poverty.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are 100 million more hungry people this year, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day. A spokesman of the World Food Programme said hungry people rioted in at least 30 countries last year, leading to, most notably, deadly riots in Haiti sparked off by soaring food prices to spiral into the overthrow of the prime minister.

“A hungry world is a dangerous world,” he said, “without food, people have only three options: They riot, they emigrate or they die. None of these are acceptable options.” Are not the Kalahandi district of Orissa and Lalgarh of West Bengal illustrative examples of the observation?

Absent State
Commentators note that in the 1990s, when India began to move towards a free market, the Naxalite movement revived in some of the poorest and most populous Indian states. Part of the reason for this is that some livelihood and living-related issues like agriculture, public health, education and poverty-eradication have been given a short shrift, exposing large sections of the population to disease, debt, hunger and starvation. The Indian state is conspicuously absent in most backward areas of the country.



Notwithstanding plaudits such as Thomas Friedman celebrating India as a success story of globalisation, it must be put on record that India has a terrible record in tackling hunger and malnutrition. Amartya Sen has repeatedly pointed out how the ‘very poor’ in India get a small share of the cake that information technology and related developments generate.

India ranked 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries, as per a report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
India has the highest number of undernourished people in the world — 230 million — added to which 1.5 million children are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising global food prices.

The report of the UN World Food Programme is quite unflattering. More than 27 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India, of whom 43 per cent children (under five years) are underweight. The figure is higher than the global average of 25 per cent and even beats sub-Saharan Africa’s figure of 28 per cent. Nearly 50 per cent of child deaths in India occur due to malnutrition.

Left out
“In no case should we allow citizens to go hungry,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admirably said in a meeting of state chief secretaries to take stock of the drought-like conditions in parts of the country. He seemed to be aware that non-utilisation of funds by a few states under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna and National Food Security Mission, the two major schemes for the agriculture sector launched by the Centre, is another factor why, despite the element of goodwill, the target beneficiaries remain outside the loop of development.

The National Food Security Act of the UPA government is a step in the right direction as it envisages food-security-for-all. But the task of expanding our public distribution system must also take into account weeding out bogus cardholders and hoarders, while a stricter vigil has to be kept on both the quantity and quality of the available foodstock under PDS. Incorrect information, inaccurate measurement of household characteristics, corruption and inefficiency must be plugged.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/21720/india-still-worlds-hunger-capital.html
Anonymous said…
Please bear in mind tha my comment says... NOT ALL FIVE FINGERS ARE THE SAME...

" I will not be surprised how Indian workers here are as follows:

1. Backfighter - these people who whisper poison to pull down some expatriates, very nice to the bosses but with hidden agenda...

2. Stealing - taking office supplies to their homes...

3. Loves to eat for free...
Riaz Haq said…
Why witches are still being beheaded in "Shining" #India. Over 2097 killed since 2000. http://usat.ly/1I3Mf96 via @usatoday

NEW DELHI, India — Three hundred years after the hysteria in Salem, in some places witch hunts are still terrifyingly real.

Last week, a mob of 200 people in the Indian state of Assam dragged a 65-year-old woman out of her house, stripped her and beheaded her with a machete. They did so because a self-proclaimed “goddess,” who asked them to gather at a local temple, proclaimed that the woman was a witch and would bring bad luck and illness to the village.

In a country teeming with IT graduates and higher-education institutes, such attacks are sadly and strangely common. Ninety people in Assam, a majority of them of them women, lost their lives in the last six years because they were branded as witches. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,097 murders between 2000 and 2012 were committed when the victims were accused of practicing witchcraft.

With a more active regional media, horrific instances have come to light. Earlier this year, a woman in the state of Odisha was force-fed human excrement for practicing witchcraft. Last October in Assam, hundreds tied up an athlete in a fishing net and tortured her for being a witch. She had represented Assam in several national meets, and won a gold medal for javelin. In 2011, a mother and daughter in Assam were accused of witchcraft, and raped as punishment.

Superstitions like the wearing of gemstones and rings to bring good luck, or marrying on an auspicious day are common across India, and many are not violently harmful. Even in Assam, “good” witches were once socially accepted because of their purported ability to heal maladies. “Even today in many villages, because of the lack of medical facilities, people would go to a witch or a village doctor who can perform some magic to cure you,” said Chandan Kumar Sharma, a sociology professor at Tezpur University, which is located in the district where last week’s beheading took place.

“Modern society is not a monolith. Although we are modern, many segments of our society are still very backward, where education and a scientific temperament have still not reached,” said Sharma, who studies the social and ethnic practices of the Indian northeast. “Everybody knows law enforcement is very weak, and they also play on the ignorance and superstitions of the villagers,” he said of the “goddesses.” Some who practice “white magic” are believed to have the ability not only to cure people, but also to detect witches who practice black magic.

According to Sharma, witch-hunting is most common in the economically and socially marginal tea tribal communities, called so because their ancestors were brought to Assam by the British in the 19th century to cultivate the plantations. At least four other communities in Assam also believe in witchcraft, and their isolation in remote, mountainous areas has allowed these superstitions to persist even after mainstream society has abandoned them.

Because of the uneven terrain and heavy rainfall in the region, many villages are entirely cut off from more developed parts of the state. Healthcare and law enforcement are hours away, and education even more remote. “Until we make these areas accessible, literate and conscious, these kinds of things will keep happening,” says Sharma.

Non-governmental and social organizations, some founded by victims of witch-hunting themselves, have been working on raising awareness against these beliefs. Brothers, an organization that promotes development in Assam, has worked on in areas where such superstitions are rampant, and has assisted in rescuing and providing medical services to victims. Over the last few years, the organization has also initiated its own awareness campaigns against beliefs in witchcraft.
Riaz Haq said…
Myth of #India as an Upcoming Asian #Economic Powerhouse. Rising #Poverty and Social Inequality. #Modi https://shar.es/18TzGH via @grtvnews

India is no doubt one of the biggest democracy in the world; because it has the highest population, Simple! (China highly populist, and officially “communist”). India is the second biggest nation in the world in terms of population and seventh largest in terms of area. According to the IMF as of 2015, the Indian economically nominally worth US$ 2.182 trillion, it, it’s the eleventh largest economy in terms of market exchange rates at US$ 8.027 trillion, third largest by PPP, with an annual GDP growth of last decade’s 5.8%.[1]

These numbers in retrospect are nonsense which feed the illusion to the general public so they can keep on living like they are in a hope that their life will get better.

These numbers do not represent the true picture of the country, not only India`s but any country. Like GDP can be a good indicator, but the real measure is GDP per capita. Which measures how a single person achieves the share of income among its citizens. When it comes to India the GDP is $2.182 trillion, but per capita income is only $1581 which is not much higher than Bangladesh`s $1086 and Pakistan’s $1316 per capita, but less among many African countries, like Nigeria $3203, South Africa $6,482, Zambia $1721, Sudan $1875, Namibia $5408, Ghana $1441, Djibouti $1813, Botswana $7123 and many more to mention here.[2] In fact, India is like “ticking time bomb” by 2026 the world population will be 1.5 billion largest in the world and the economy is not growing enough to meet the demands to create 20 million jobs per year.[3]

Yes, I know India is part of BRICS and they have announced in creating their own kind of bank but then what? India still owes money to the IMF; their public debt to GDP is nearly 70%,[4] Likewise, India is worst in terms of BRIC countries when it comes to GDP per capita, human development, education, poverty and so forth. India is lagging behind in BRIC countries. And Yes, then there is IT, the huge investments in India by the foreign companies just because those corporation can have cheap labor rather than paying their people in home countries with high wages. The beauty of globalization which no body mentions and no one talks all they care to show people the random numbers and apathy of people to consent without barely eliciting a yawn.

One of the main hurdles in the progress of India is poverty, poverty which should have been brought under control, but in India it is more or less same ratios of poverty post-independence.

The figure shows the total population every decade with poverty in percentage and how much the poverty has declined in India, the percentage may have decreased, but the total number of people living under the poverty line has been more or less same.
Riaz Haq said…
#NBA’s #KevinDurant on #India"Cows, Stray Dogs" "Bunch of Underprivileged People" "20 years behind" #Poverty #Filth
https://www.thequint.com/sports/2017/08/11/nba-star-kevin-durant-on-india

NBA champion Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors had visited India in July to help the NBA make inroads into the nation of 1.3 billion.
Durant took part in a camp in New Delhi, where he helped set a Guinness World Record for the largest basketball lesson – 3,459 people participated in it across multiple venues.
The NBA finals MVP met young players at the NBA Academy, with many more joining via satellite from four other cities across the country.
However, after returning to the United States, he said in an interview to The Athletic that India is 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience.

I went with no expectation, no view on what it’s supposed to be like. I usually go to places where I at least have a view in my head. India, I’m thinking I’m going to be around palaces and royalty and gold — basically thought I was going to Dubai. Then when I landed there, I saw the culture and how they live and it was rough. It’s a country that’s 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience.
Kevin Durant
Durant added that there are “just a bunch of underprivileged people living in India”.
You see cows on the street, monkeys running around everywhere, hundreds of people on the side of the road, a million cars and no traffic violations. Just a bunch of underprivileged people there and they want to learn how to play basketball. That was really, really dope to me.
Riaz Haq said…
Trashing #India sells better for #Western audiences. #Slumdog #Ray #Roy #Gidla #Dalit #Boo #Economist http://www.dailyo.in/politics/intellectuals-satyajit-ray-arundhati-roy/story/1/18920.html … via @dailyo_

More contemporaneously, Slumdog Millionaire by British director Danny Boyle was a rage abroad. The one stomach-churning scene in the movie starring Frieda Pinto, Anil Kapoor and Dev Patel where a child falls into an excreta-filled sewer was played and replayed on foreign television networks with feigned horror. (The excreta was, in fact, a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate sauce.)

Books receive the same treatment. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity which retells her experiences living in a Mumbai slum for three years, sparing no gory detail, was published to international acclaim in 2012.

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness received an equally rapturous welcome abroad as it wended its laborious way through India’s graveyard of troubles: Kashmir, Maoism, poverty, communalism, violence. Roy’s sense of bitter hopelessness about India enthrals foreign publishers.

Now a book by Sujatha Gidla, Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, is the latest toast of the West. A Dalit Christian, Gidla tells the story of her uncle Satyamurthy, a Maoist leader who fought the Indian state from the jungles of central India.

In a gushing review, The Economist (July 29, 2017) described Gidla as heralding the “arrival of a formidable new writer.” The magazine added: “Ants among Elephants is an interesting, affecting and ultimately enlightening memoir. It is quite possibly the most striking work of non-fiction set in India since Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.”

The names trip of the tongue nicely: Ray, Roy, Boo, Gidla. Of course The Economist wouldn’t dare review Shashi Tharoor’s excellent book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India which exposes Britain’s horrific crimes during its colonial occupation of India.

Even the British edition of Tharoor’s book was re-titled to make it less offensive to the British. An Era of Darkness became the anodyne An Inglorious Empire: What the British Did To India. In an interview with the BBC for the book’s British launch earlier this year, one of the panelists was dismissive of Tharoor’s evocative and detailed description of the brutalities of the British Empire and the financial ruination it brought upon India.

In contrast, Arundhati Roy’s dark vision of India has been lapped up by newspapers like The New York Times and television channels in Europe and America. Should all of this matter? Emphatically not. India has many flaws – violence, poverty, rape, corruption, casteism. It is right for journalists and authors, Indian and foreign, to write about them.

It is equally right for filmmakers to show the underbelly of India – from the coal mines of Dhanbad to the slums of Mumbai. Sunlight is a disinfectant. Shine it mercilessly on our imperfections. Only then will change take place. The problem though is balance.

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In its review of Gidla’s book, The Economist gives its Western readers a detailed tutorial on India’s caste system: “One in six Indians is a Dalit, which means 'oppressed' in Sanskrit. That is to say, 200 million Indians belong to a community deemed so impure by the scriptures that they are placed outside the hierarchical Hindu caste system and are commonly called ‘untouchable’. Upper-caste Hindus traditionally treated untouchables as agents of pollution. To come into contact with them was to be defiled, they believed. Indian villages depended on untouchables to provide field labour and clear away human waste. Yet untouchables were excluded from village life.

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