On March 12, 2013, a of the most ‘reliable’ newspaper wrote: After toiling for the entire day, the 26-year Sunny returned to a night shelter for the homeless, which was in the middle of the Delhi Metro Construction site of Mukundpur-ShivVihar Corridor. The work was in full swing, and just as Sunny, along with 20 others, retired for night, workers started to pull down the walls of the fire resistant temporary shelter. The entire structure was reduced to a wreck, robbing the homeless of their humble abode and a night of repose.
Now, one penny question is - Does anyone care about Court Orders? Not long ago, Delhi High Court had given its verdict in no uncertain terms that ‘no night shelter will be removed till further orders’. According to the NGO Rachna Women’s Development Association, an organization running the shelter, on 7th March 2013, the entire structure was demolished. The property belongs to Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) and we have nothing to do with the demolition. To add insult to injury, the CEO of DUSIB said he was clueless, and had only learned about the indiscriminate action at the site of shelter from newspapers.
Next comical situation developed when Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) officials say – “We have nothing to do with demolition.”
As the shelter is gone like the hopes and dreams of poor. It was an act of Almighty God. I am wondering if anyone in this welfare state that is India knows where this unknown identity, TPPI (the poor of the poorest of India) lives. The fact is that nobody quite knows. So we went through old and new records to find the exact number of poor in India and where we could find them.
According to Planning Commission, 29.8% of India's more than around 360 million people currently live in poverty. But one estimate suggests this figure could be as high as 77% of the total population. Here is another juggle of statistics and perception. A new poverty line was invented for BPL and persons living on 28.65 rupees a day in cities and 22.42 rupees a day in villages was crowned. This was lower than last year's recommendation by the Planning Commission to set the poverty line at 32 rupees a day. While we were arguing about the previous BPL, we were shaken out of our roots with the new research. Some people were still in the challenging mode of previous BPL and they had dared the head of the country's planning body to substantiate his claim that Rs 32 / day represented an adequate sum to survive in a country with high inflation and leaky and shambolic social benefits.
The fact is that we may jump from one line to other but whatever the figure we assume, the number of poor in India is staggeringly high. It is more worrisome that demographics and the social character of the poor do not appear to be changing. Farm workers in villages, casual workers in cities, tribes, Dalits and Muslims remain the poorest of poor Indians. Most of them come from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It is also important to note that 85% of India's tribes and Dalits live in these states.
The phenomenon of high or low rate of economic growth means nothing to this unfortunate lot. They might mean anything to planners and everything to Wealthy Clubs but had never been catalysts for poverty reduction on a sustainable basis for Mr. Poor India. According to famous economist Arvind Virmani ‘bad governance, misplaced priorities, unchecked corruption and a huge failure in improving the quality of public health and literacy are to blame.’
I am not an economist but a simple man whose head is still above the drowning water. Every day, my ‘immediate boss’ tells me to reduce the intake of sugar, oil and milk. She says that I could visit a poultry shop if eggs are so desirable. It is not because I am diabetic but according to her, the home budget has become chronically diabetic. I was never rich but the underlying feeling among my circle is that Indian state is increasingly becoming anti-poor. Ironically, the lady who helps in home chorus is from one of the BIMARO STATE and she has another philosophical observation: “Rich Indians are very good. Only our God has forsaken us.” She is probably trying to be politically correct as she considers me rich and easiest way out is to blame God. Her husband who loves Urdu poetry and recently landed in Delhi for a job has the following couplet to narrate:
“Faqeer-e-ey Shahar ke tan par libas baqi hai, Ameer shaher ke arman abhi kahan nikle?” (A tattered piece of garment is still left to cover the naked body of the poor, the aspirations of rich are not yet fulfilled.)
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