What is poverty?
A penniless father sleeping with an empty stomach to comfort his son’s hunger. A woeful mother selling her valuable ornaments to pay the house rent. A child forced to take up odd jobs at the cost of his childhood. And, in whole, a family defeated by circumstances, accepting their beggarly life as the will of God.
This appalled and unfortunate condition defines the existence of 363 million people who live below poverty line[footnote]Poverty line – Minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life. [/footnote] in India. Also, India’s population is nearly 1.3 billion which shows that one-third of our population is under poverty.
To analyse more precisely, the chart below validates India’s extreme poverty condition with over 300 million people in absolute poverty. China and Pakistan hold the 3rd and 8th position with over 84 and 23 million people in absolute poverty.
According to World Bank, a person earning less than Rs.83/day suffers from absolute poverty.
(The figure Rs.83/day significantly includes people of the urban sector who remain poor in spite of being wholly surrounded by the metropolitan growth. It also covers people from rural areas who are acutely deprived of basic necessities like food and water.)
Though the above statistics tell the inconvenient truth but the reality is predicted to be far more adverse. As we dig deeper, we also find that GHI (Global Hunger Index) ranks India at 20th amongst the leading countries with the problem of malnutrition.
These poverty-stricken people, whether by choice or by fate, have become a part of the vicious cycle of poverty.
You probably would have heard of this cycle but you might not know what exactly it is.
It is a fatal trap of repetitive events that keeps a family poverty-stricken generation after generation. No person in the family is financially strong and sufficiently educated to change this indigent phase.
As per the chart above, this cycle largely depends on the state of development of the country which majorly affects the average income of the people with needy circumstances. People with low income are unable to buy adequate food for their families and hence the whole unit suffers from under-nutrition. The scarcity of basic necessities like food, water, shelter makes them physically and mentally weak.
In addition to this, they are also deprived of proper education due to a lack of the culture of knowledge and hence they don’t feel the need to study further after matriculation. They engage themselves in low-paying laborious jobs to aid their families.
With no fair capital in hand, they are unable to provide a good financial environment to their children. Thus this state of poverty passes onto the next generation, making them even more poorer.
But the rich people are getting richer because they are merely affected by the external factors as their economic foundation is strong.
Their tendency to survive and prosper is largely dependent upon them as they already have the right availability of resources with them. Being educated and well-informed, they have the ability to understand the markets and study them as opportunities to expand their wealth.
Most importantly, they have a steady source of income. Through this, they create multiple sources of incomes, making them richer.
Only 1% of the Indian families have an annual income of more than Rs.17 lakhs, whereas 56.5% of them earn below Rs.1.5 lakh. (Source: OPEN)
Another reason why poor is getting poorer is due to their unhealthy surroundings.
Well, poverty is not just about income deprivation! A poor is more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases as their working conditions and lifestyle do not have adequate sanitation. Many poverty-related diseases spread as a result of inadequate access to clean drinking water.
Contaminated water and inadequate sanitation lead to diseases like Tuberculosis, Malaria and Parasitic diseases.
India recorded the largest number of Tuberculosis cases in the world in 2014. According to WHO, 1.5 million people died in 2014 from the disease which ranks alongside HIV as a leading killer worldwide. (Source: Hindu)
According to WHO, 43.5% of the children in India are underweight – highest in South Asia.
Poverty and diseases are interrelated. Poor hygiene, non-availability of safe drinking water, inadequate nutrition worsens the mental and physical health of an individual. It reduces one’s ability to break away from the cycle of poverty.
Is there a way for the poor to break away from the cycle? Can a poor dream of living a normal life with basic necessities in hand?
The answer is: Yes, they can!
1. Being educated is the primary thing. Because if they are not minimally educated then earning a well-paying job is next to impossible. Sacrificing studies plagues in the long run.
2. They must learn to fight things that are holding them back financially and have a burning desire to acquire wealth.
3. They should study to know how money works and apply them practically by making the right choices.
4. Making money should be seen as a responsibility so creating opportunities to do so should be what they need to focus on.
5. Change in the belief system is essential. Some people remain poor because they think it is too late for them to become rich. This is so untrue. There are people who started off late but could still achieve their dream of being rich.
Nelson Mandela had these wise words on poverty: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”