India's Other Growth Story

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported last week that hunger in India has grown over the last three years.

IFPRI said India's hunger index score has worsened over the last three years from 23.7 to 23.9 to 24.1 and its ranking moved from 66 to 65 to 67 on a list of 84 nations....while Pakistan's hunger index score has improved over the same period reported since 2008 from 21.7 (2008) to 21.0 (2009) to 19.1 (2010) and its ranking has risen from 61 to 58 to 52.

Here's an Indian blogger Abhinav who blogged last February about "Indian Growth Story Nobody Wants To Talk About":

Today’s news on the death of fifty people from hunger at Balangir in Orissa is a grim reminder of the little growth story that India has had. It clearly indicates many negative facets of our system, bureaucracy and the public at large. As per the World Food Program, almost half of the world’s population who are deprived of food live in India. Another website of a well known NGO (http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html) offers a grim picture of this particular issue especially when the same is getting the least attention by the policy makers across the world. If 50% of the starving residents belong to India, we do not need to look beyond our borders to nail the culprits.

More than six decades post independence and being counted as one of the key growth engines to the world economy, why are hunger deaths still happening in India? Is it because there is a scarcity of food to offer the ones hungry? Clearly that is not the case.

Those leading a life above the poverty line pay taxes to the Central and the State Governments so that it is used for public facilities, amenities and for the benefit of those living the poverty line. Obviously, those in power have to let go of their hunger for corruption or we have to watch the country going down the drains. Otherwise, it would constantly fail to administer the proper distribution of food and nutrition to people who matter.

We all talk about “3 idiots” and how a college principal is called a murderer who is responsible for the suicide of the students in his college. In the same way, aren’t the following responsible for the demise of people from hunger in our country?

1. Politicians responsible for making food security and food distribution laws.
2. Governmental agencies responsible for proper storage of food grains.
3. Bureaucrats responsible for administration and distribution amongst the right people.
4. Local security agencies which must maintain law and order to ensure proper distribution.

And why is it that they are not punished for these deaths. We have poor being imprisoned for thefts but those in power prosper, while the poor suffer. Is there any accountability for what is being and can be done to break this nexus? Would those in urban cities who are fortunate enough to be writing and reading this blog do something about it? Would they start taking candle light walks in memory of those unfortunate who die in India of hunger every day? Will they go beyond the regular candle marches or force those in power to take responsibility and amend their ways?


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India Ranks Below China, Pakistan in Global Hunger Index

Low Status of Indian Women

India's Commonwealth Games Mess

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…
Here's part 1 of a recent report titled "India: Economic Power House or Poor House?" by reporter The Star's Mary Albino that talks about how deceptive "India's Miracle" is:

India’s economic miracle is a perfect example of how appearances can be deceiving.

The dominant narrative on the country goes like this: as the fourth largest economy in the world, with a steady annual growth rate of close to 9 per cent, India is a rising economic superstar. Bangalore is the new Silicon Valley. Magazines such as Forbes and Vogue have launched Indian editions. The Mumbai skyline is decorated with posh hotels and international banks.

There are numbers to back up this narrative. The average Indian takes home $1,017 (U.S.) a year. Not much, but that’s nearly double the average five years ago and triple the annual income at independence, in 1947. The business and technology sector has grown tenfold in the past decade. Manufacturing and agriculture are expanding, and trade levels are way up.

India is also on the up and up in terms of human well-being. Life expectancy and literacy are steadily rising, while child mortality continues to decline. The poverty rate is down to 42 per cent from 60 per cent in 1981. While 42 per cent still leaves a long way to go, India’s situation seems rosy compared with that of, say, Malawi and Tanzania, which have poverty rates of 74 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively.

If we examine these statistics in real numbers, however, a different narrative emerges, one the Indian government likes less.

With a population as big as India’s, 42 per cent means there are some 475 million Indians living on less than $1.25 per day. That’s 10 times as many facing dire poverty as Malawi and Tanzania combined.

It means India is home to more poor people than any other country in the world.

To put it another way, one of every three people in the world living without basic necessities is an Indian national.

The real number is probably even larger. The recently launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a more comprehensive measure of deprivation than the current “poverty line” of $1.25 per day, uses 10 markers of well-being, including education, health and standard of living. The MPI, developed by the Poverty & Human Development Initiative at Oxford University, puts the Indian poverty rate at 55 per cent. That’s 645 million people — double the population of the United States and nearly 20 times the population of Canada.

By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.

A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.

One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”

What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.

As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's part 2 of a recent report titled "India: Economic Power House or Poor House?" by reporter The Star's Mary Albino that talks about how deceptive "India's Miracle" is:

By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.

A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.

One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”

What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.

As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages. In the same way a tsunami or earthquake garners an intense outpouring of aid and support, being labelled “worst off” or “most poor” tends to draw a bigger share of international attention — and dollars.

When Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971, it was the poorest country in the world, so poor most economists were skeptical it would ever succeed on its own. But being labelled “dead last” worked in its favour: billions of dollars in aid money flooded in, and NGO and charity groups arrived in droves. The dominant narrative of Bangladesh at the time was of a war-ravaged, cyclone-battered and fledgling country on the brink of famine. That seemed to help rally the troops.

No doubt India’s government wants the world to perceive the nation in terms of its potential and not its shortcomings. But because it’s home to 1.1 billion people, India is more able than most to conceal the bad news behind the good, making its impressive growth rates the lead story rather than the fact that it is home to more of the world’s poor than any other country.

Still, at least part of the blame should be placed on the way poverty is presented on the international stage. If the unit of deprivation is a human being, then the prevalence of poverty should be presented in numbers of lives. If we know precisely how many billionaires India has — 49 in 2010, double last year’s number — than we should also know precisely how many people live without basic necessities.
Riaz Haq said…
India is emerging as diabetes epicenter, according to Bloomberg:

More than 50 million Indians are struggling with the same frightening predicament. The International Diabetes Federation in October 2009 ranked India as the country with the most diabetics worldwide. The umbrella group of more than 200 national associations estimates that the disease will kill about 1 million Indians this year, more than in any other country.

With 7.1 percent of adults afflicted, India is on a par with developed countries such as Australia, where 7.2 percent of adults suffer. India now fares worse than the U.K., where 4.9 percent are diabetic. In the U.S., where more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, 12.3 percent have diabetes.

Doctors say a perverse twist of science makes Indians susceptible to diabetes and complications such as heart disease and stroke as soon as their living conditions improve. As a decade of 7 percent average annual growth lifts 400 million people into the middle class, bodies primed over generations for poverty, malnutrition and manual labor are leaving Indians ill- prepared for calorie-loaded food or the cars, TVs and computers that sap physical activity.

Researchers are finding the pattern begins before birth: Underfed mothers produce small, undernourished babies with metabolisms equipped for deprivation and unable to cope with plenty. Sonar’s mother, a widow who spent her life in a village and raised seven children by doing farm work, was active and healthy into her 70s, Sonar says.
Riaz Haq said…
Diabetes is exploding worldwide, according to International Diabetes Federation:

Diabetes now affects seven percent of the world’s adult population. The regions with the highest comparative prevalence rates are North America, where 10.2 % of the adult population have diabetes, followed by the Middle East and North Africa Region with 9.3%. The regions with the highest number of people living with diabetes are Western Pacific, where some 77 million people have diabetes and South East Asia with 59 million.

India is the country with the most people with diabetes, with a current figure of 50.8 million, followed by China with 43.2 million. Behind them the United States (26.8 million); the Russian Federation (9.6 million); Brazil (7.6 million); Germany (7.5 million); Pakistan (7.1 million); Japan (7.1 million); Indonesia (7 million) and Mexico (6.8 million).

When it comes to the percentage of adult population living with diabetes, the new data reveal the devastating impact of diabetes across the Gulf Region, where five of the Gulf States are among the top ten countries affected. The Pacific island nation of Nauru has the world’s highest rate of diabetes, with almost a third of its adult population (30.9%) living with the disease. It is followed by the United Arab Emirates (18.7%); Saudi Arabia (16.8%); Mauritius (16.2%); Bahrain (15.4%); Reunion (15.3%); Kuwait (14.6%); Oman (13.4%); Tonga (13.4%) and Malaysia (11.6%).
Riaz Haq said…
Here are some exerpts of a review by Ashok Mitra of Amit Bhaduri's "The Face You Were Afraid to See" as published in Calcutta's Telegraph:

Surely Amit Bhaduri is dead wrong. His recent book bears the title, The Face You Were Afraid to See. The “face” he has in mind is the stark reality of destitution, malnutrition, illiteracy and joblessness which is still the fate of a huge lot of citizens in independent India. The “you” Bhaduri addresses his epistle to are the roughly 10 — at most 15 — per cent of the nation at the top of the social ladder who, thanks to economic liberalization, had never had it so good: industrial tycoons, financial conglomerates, ruling politicians and assorted hangers-on of each of these species, including the media and the so-called intelligentsia. These latter categories, Bhaduri seems to assume, are scared to come face to face with the other India, the India of progressive immiserization and ruthless exploitation. Quite the contrary. For the first time since the British left, the richer layer of society has come to acquire an extraordinary self-confidence. The lurid contrast between how, on the one hand, its members are indulging themselves at spas, shopping malls, five star hotels and golf links and, on the other, the fact that at least 300 million of their countrymen exist at subhuman levels and, perhaps another 300 million or thereabouts, while not exactly starving, are bereft of a minimum of housing, education and healthcare, does not disturb them. The bizarre combination of happenings like India slipping down every year in the human development index constructed by the United Nations even as it attains the dubious distinction of having the largest number of billionaires after the United States of America is taken in its stride. More than half of Mumbai’s population lives in ramshackle jhoparpattys; awareness of this grim fact does not deter a tycoon from building in the city the obscenity of a mansion costing more than Rs 5,000 crore as his residential abode. Consider yet another instance. The loss to the national exchequer because of the 2G spectrum shenanigan, the comptroller and auditor general has estimated, is around Rs 1,80,000 crore. A public distribution programme covering the entire national population, which could reach food to each and every starving citizen of this country, would cost only one-half of that sum. But the powers that be are unwilling to endorse the programme; they even have the effrontery to suggest that public distribution reeks of corruption...
Bhaduri unravels these complex themes with an equal measure of acuity and elegance in The Face You Were Afraid to See. As one who identifies himself with the bottom 90 per cent of the community, he is, however, not satisfied with mere analysis; he is, so to say, stripped for action. And he has his own ideas regarding what activism should consist of. The established political parties, Bhaduri is convinced, are in cohorts with the ruling hegemony. He has equal contempt for the organized trade unions; these are, in his view, interested only in their own narrow interests and ignore such issues as the plight of villagers dispossessed of their cultivable land. He apparently forgets that the trade union movement, too, is itself a victim of the Machiavellian growth model fathered by economic liberalization. Any way, salvation, Bhaduri suggests, lies only in initiatives on the part of civil society groups in different spheres; these will then come together and accomplish the heroic task of smashing to smithereens the conspiracy hatched by corporate bosses and their crony politicians.
Riaz Haq said…
India has decided to stop receiving British aid starting in April, 2011.

This is a pre-emtive move by India because the Brits had told Indians they were going to announce cuts in aid anyway as part of budget cuts in London.

This aid cut will hurt India's poor the most with less food and even fewer toilets for their growing numbers.

Here's an Indian Express report:

The External Affairs Ministry has instructed the Finance Ministry to inform London that India will not accept further aid from next April.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told the ministry that “internal discussions” within UK’s Department for International Development — which accounts for over 80% of all bilateral aid to India — were “to limit the aid further and channelise it to specific projects of their choice in certain states instead of routing it through the Central government”.

“Rather than wait for such a situation to develop... it would be better if our decision not to avail any further DFID assistance with effect from 1st April 2011 could be conveyed to the British side in an appropriate manner at the earliest,” she wrote to Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla.

Ahead of Cameron’s visit, India had considered rejecting DFID offer in view of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”.
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 an excerpt from a BBC report on British aid to India:

The government is expected to freeze the level of assistance given to India at £295m ($480m) a year. But why does a nuclear power with its own space programme need British aid?

In a widely-signalled move, it is anticipated that International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will announce the amount of aid given to India will be maintained at 2009/10 levels.

But the decision has attracted criticism from newspapers and politicians who say the UK taxpayer does not need to donate to a state that is itself a foreign aid donor, which is classified by the World Bank as a middle income country (MIC) and whose economy is growing at nearly 10% a year.

However, advocates of aid say a third of the planet's population who are below the World Bank's extreme poverty line live in India. They also argue half of all children in the country are malnourished and it does not have the tax base to eliminate poverty though internal wealth redistribution.

Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies says: "If UK aid was reduced, there is no guarantee that the funding to the poorest states where most of India's chronically poor live would be topped up by the Indian government."

Although the Department for International Development's budget has been unaffected by the government's spending cuts programme, the UK is expected to stop direct aid to 16 countries, including Russia, China, Vietnam, Serbia and Iraq.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12607537
Riaz Haq said…
Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange has told Times of India that rich Indians are stashing money in Swiss bank accounts:

Julian Assange, made a stunning disclosure, that there could be Indian names in the data that WikiLeaks would publish. In the course of the interview, Assange appealed to Indians to absolutely not lose hope that the names of those with secret Swiss accounts will come out at one point in the future. Hinting that Wikileaks might work with specialized agencies before releasing the Swiss bank data he pulled up the Indian government for not being aggressive like Germany in going after the list of Indian account holders. In fact he said India should be more aggressive because India seems like it is losing per capita more tax money than Germany

This is the first time Assange has spoken about Indian accounts in these Swiss banks, and comes at a time when the national debate over Swiss Bank accounts has sharpened.

Arnab Goswami: You have strong views on it. And I completely appreciate that you can't talk about it in detail. But let me ask you more generically, that is your heart, you would like to reveal the details...in your heart. I am not asking you when and under what circumstances, but having known about it, you would like to reveal details of how the system operates, wouldn't you?
Julian Assange: Well, we have various types of information about different banking operations in the world. Over time, we have revealed those. In fact, most of the legal attacks on us have been from banks. Banks in Scotland...banks in Dubai...banks in Iceland. We all received legal attacks from these banks. And we will continue publishing data on these banks as soon as we are able to do so.

Arnab Goswami: Have you encountered any Indian names? I am not asking you to tell me where, which banks...
Julian Assange: Yes there are Indian names in the data we have already published or going to publish. I can't remember specifically whether there are Indian names in the upcoming publication. But I have read Indian names. Similarly, in these private Swiss banking concerns, where you need at least a million dollars...which is a significant amount of money...Not an average Indian.

Arnab Goswami: And it is difficult to identify those names. Anything else you can tell us?
Julian Assange: I can't tell you anything more at this stage. As we go through the process of releasing data, as always we have to do extra research. And once we understand which media organizations are best placed to help us with that research, then we operate with them. But we are not at that stage yet that I know all the research that is going on.
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

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