The Unnoticed Pain and Disappointment of India’s Poor

The pandemic saw the poor becoming poorer and the issues of unemployment, poverty and financial distress magnifying. With state neglect and sustained apathy, what about India’s poor?

A woman migrant worker with her children. | Photo - Pondspider / Flickr

Let’s not practise digression which our top leaders apparently leading the country are very apt in and say it out loud to add to the innumerable  voices of the retarded poor and lower middle class that they are suffering; our people are suffering – we are suffering. Already, more than a fifth of our total population lives below the poverty line (2011 census) and a situation like the current one could push millions of more people into the deep chasm of poverty. And we know that poverty is a bane- it’s painful which our plate banging balconied population will never be able to relate to. As Covid-19 hammered India’s economy and hundreds of millions of Indians struggled to eke out a living under a punitive national lockdown, our leaders largely turned a deaf ear to their cries. Over a hundred million who were close to the poverty line have been pushed at the risk of becoming the new poor.

With the Indian economy slumping and GDP for the 1st quarter of the current fiscal year plummeting to minus 23.9%, it insinuates the worst with crores of people having lost their jobs both in organised and unorganised sectors and the rest facing salary cuts. Every sector is facing a downfall, jeopardizing India’s development prospects.

It’s obvious that the lockdown failed because neither the contagion could be controlled nor have several governments been able to better the healthcare and medication system. As per WHO data, while China spent $398 on each person towards healthcare for its 1.4 billion people, Indian government spent just $63 for each of its 1.3 billion people in 2016. So, it’s been a recurring tendency not to spend in the public sector and slowly let the private players take over.

People would think that an establishment whose leader claims to have sold tea at railway stations would work to make essentials accessible to people at subsidised or cheaper rates but sadly the government’s approach is upper middle class and elite centric. The government is already privatising railways and airports and preparing to privatize public oil and gas companies and the leader has chosen to tie his lips. Does Indian politics lack ideological commitment?

India has her own intricacies and policies have to be in sync with what people desire for. A government which has vowed on the Constitution to serve people has its moral obligation to work with people for their betterment not arbitrarily. We know that privatisation reduces job security and that is one thing people don’t want. Privatising almost every sector will be not in favour of the Indian masses. If the government can’t manage and control the public sector being the most powerful agency with the largest human resources then I wonder, what should it be doing?When our countrymen are desperate to find livelihood, the government engages in the rhetoric of direct cash benefits, often equivalent to what a plate banging balconied urban Indian pays as a monthly cable bill.

Looking at such critical issues,  I feel a socialist approach can only lead us forward. The government ought to be investing more in strengthening the public sector while also letting the private sector thrive and also making private institutions from education to healthcare accessible to everyone. And it should also focus on thrift-economy- on increasing people’s savings. Had it been done, people wouldn’t have suffered this much. Also it’s high time that the government understood that policies have to be common people centric, not  crony-capitalism centric.

 

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