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India: The Problem Of Poverty Amidst plenty (This article is a prize winning entry in the Competition Success Review

Nationa l Essay Writing Contest 605) India happens to be a rich country inhabited by very poor people - Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister For the past few decades, India has been categorized as a developing country. In spite of significant landmarks and rapid advancements in various sectors, India has failed to become a developed country. While the nation has been making head lines for economic boom, multitudes of billionaires, construction of skyscrapers , million dollar investments and achievements in technology; the death rates, ma lnutrition, illiteracy and poverty is multiplying manifold. India is a country w hich has prosperity on one side of the coin and poverty on the other. It is the stark impact of poverty that hinders the growth of the country. Gone are the days when India used to be a famine land and had to rely on the Ame ricas for the supply of PL wheat. With the advent of the Green revolution, India , not only eliminated famine but also increased its food production and became s elf-sufficient in food grains. Operation Flood, initiated by National Dairy Deve lopment Board in 1970 introduced a National Milk Grid that was effective in redu cing the poverty and famine levels. It has also made India the largest producer of milk and dairy products in the world. Agriculture has been the base of India s economic development with its existence d ating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Today, India is one of the major ag ricultural economies in the world, in terms of area of cultivation, total produc e, bio- diversity, saturation in food grains and buffer stock. Statistically, in terms of the farm output, India is ranked second in the world. The important ro le that agriculture plays in India s economy can be realized from the fact that it contributes to 16.6% of the country s GDP in 2007 and provides jobs to 52% of the working population. India s agriculturally strong in the world market being the l argest producer of fresh fruits, second in the production of fresh vegetables an d third in terms of poultry products. India has abundant agricultural wealth yet scores of people die due to malnutrit ion and food scarcity. In 2009, 17,368 farmers have committed suicide due to pov erty. Statistics show us that a staggering 42.5 % of children are suffering from malnutrition in India. World Bank has reported that India comes second in child malnutrition and is home to the largest number of underweight children in the w orld. Thousands of people die everyday due to lack of food and proper hygiene. India f aces two nutrition problems- under nutrition and over nutrition. People in Punja b and Kerala suffer from over nutrition where the people consume more than suffi cient food whereas the people in UP, West Bengal and Chattisgarh struggle to sur vive. Naturally, a question arises in everyone s mind- Why are we suffering from food sc arcity and malnutrition when we are capable of being self reliant? The main problem lies in the improper storage and distribution of the food that is produced. The majority of the crops are left to rot in the FCI godowns and th e buffer stock becomes waste. A good storage unit requires proper ventilation, c ontrol of moisture and adequate sunlight. But the only thing that seems to be pr edominant in the food storage units is the rats. In 2010, an RTI query has showe d that over a period of six months in the year, 10,688 lakh tonnes of food grain s were damaged in FCI depots. This amount is estimated to feed around 600,000 pe ople for a period of ten years.

The government does not invest enough monetary funds for the development of agri culture and the implementation of technology in the same field. It feels that th e agriculture sector is not worth the high investment due to a low return but it fails to realize that it is the basis on which the nation survives. Further, In dia is home to 1.15 billion and certainly, the number of people is increasing fa ster than the rate at which food is being produced. As a result, a decrease in s upply and increase in demand occurs. Nowadays, it is common to find the ruling party offering free gifts during the e lection times. In Tamil Nadu, during every state and national elections, certain political parties offer free television, rice at Re.1 per kilo and household ap pliances. Instead, the government can introduce agricultural reforms that would benefit both the farmers and the The other important factor is the economic status of the nation. In the yester years, India was the Treasure Island to the western world and it w itnessed invasions and subsequent colonization where it was stripped of its rich es. When Europe and America cashed in on the tide of Industrial revolution, Indi a failed to catch up with it and as a result lagged behind. Over the past decade , India has made substantial growth and established a firm position in the world economy. India is currently the second fastest growing economic superpower in the world o nly behind China. It is the tenth largest economy in the world in terms of nomin al GDP and fourth in terms of purchasing power parity. In the olden days, India was called the Land of Wealthy Maharajas and today, it is turning into a Land of B illionaires. As of 2010, Forbes has listed out 69 billionaires in the country, w ith steel giant, Lakshmi Mittal coming sixth in the world s Billionaire List. The World Bank report states that India is the tenth wealthiest nation in terms of G DP with the value mounting up to a staggering 1537966 million dollars. Such is t he impact of India s economic surge that it made the American President, Obama rem ark India is not simply emerging; India has already emerged . India is the highest gold importing country in the world. Irrespective of the co nstant shoot in the bullion prices, there are a score of jewellery stores that k eep springing up. For instance, during the Akshay Tritay, jewellery stores are a lways packed with people craving for more gold. Leading MNCs are competing with each other to establish themselves in India, which they perceive has a competiti ve market. As of April 2011, India s Foreign Exchange reserves are estimated at 31 3,511 million dollars which ranks 7th in the world. These numbers clearly reflec t the copious wealth that is present in the nation India has witnessed a major and rapid evolution over the past decade. The number of wealthy people has increased and people are able to afford a wealthy lifesty le. The streets are no longer empty; they are crowded with shopping malls and le isure centres. Cities are packed with restaurants and fast food centres. Teenage rs are sporting branded apparels and latest gadgets and expensive cars on our ro ads have become a common sight. In spite of this massive amount of wealth, India is crippled by the menace of po verty and illiteracy. The Tendulkar Committee report states that 37% of the popu lation lives below the poverty line. Further, 77% of Indians live on less than20 rupees a daywhich is a lot poorer than much Sub-Saharan countries in the economic ally weak Africa. India accounts for 35% of the world s illiterate people and the number is expected to increase. Poverty is not merely present in India; in fact, it has become a nationalized id

eology. And the saddening truth is that poverty thrives amidst the riches. One an still find ill-clothed infants begging to survive outside the posh malls in etropolitan cities like Mumbai and Chennai. The presence of a queue of beggars utside the temples still persists. In many cities, while one might marvel at a kyscraper or a mega mall, a slum area can be easily found in the periphery.

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A classic example of this is the Antilia, the world s most expensive home in Mumba i built by Mukesh Ambani. The twenty seven storey architectural artwork priced a t one billion dollars stands surrounded by the slums of South Mumbai. One of the main causes for this economic disparity is the corruption in the gove rnment. Politicians, from the lower to the upper ranks, all have cash stowed awa y at the Swiss Banks. It is estimated that the Indians have around 7280000 crore s of black money vaulted in the Swiss lockers. Due to this, the common man is de prived of his basic needs and hence the country s infrastructure remains below par . If all the black money were to be retrieved, India would become a developed co untry. The prevalence of caste system, inefficient government policies and a capitalist ic society where only the rich thrive make it all the more difficult for the poo r in our country. Thus, India has its fair share of poverty and riches. The problem is that the ri ch get richer and the poor get poorer. And the country chooses to neglect the po or India and focus only on the wealthy, emerging economic superpower . The present society driven by capitalism has meant that it is impossible to eliminate the ec onomic disparity. But, India must work towards developing its poorer areas so th at our citizens can witness India as a SUPERPOWER in the future!