EDITORIAL

 Poverty at Large : A Dark Spot in Humanity

Sanhita Saikia
(The Writer is Freelance Journalist based at New Jersey, USA.
She can be reached at sanhitasaikia@yahoo.com)

Exponential growth of technology has solved many problems of the 20th century. Yet poverty remains one of the most significant social issues that have troubled nations across the world for years. Poverty is defined as the inability to obtain the basic necessities for life. Its effects are often interrelated and issues like hunger, war, illness, natural calamities are all causes of poverty.
The vicious cycle of poverty burdens generations causing a domino effect resulting in even more poverty.

Today more than one billion people, which is one-sixth of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day.
Poverty and illiteracy are often associated with developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The poorest nations of  the world were once colonies, from which richer countries exported resources and slaves. The entire continent of Africa is a problematic area in terms of poverty and hunger. This happened due to the fact that colonialism contributed to the establishment of conditions where people living in former colonies could not access capital or education. In countries like Syria, Egypt and Ukraine wars and political instability have caused a significant decrease in the quality of life.

It’s difficult to fathom that poverty exists even in the most developed countries. We think of America as a land where the spectrum of opportunity is vast for people who seek to work and rise to the heights to which their effort can take them. Americans have always believed that their country is unique in providing the opportunity to get ahead. Just combining hard work with a bit of talent one can climb the ladder or so Americans have told themselves for generations.

But rising unemployment and financial turmoil are puncturing that self-image. The reality of this “land of opportunity” is considerably more complex than the myths would suggest: Today we seem to have a struggling generation of young people who do not have good jobs, health insurance, pensions, houses or hope. A much higher percentage spend long periods of time unemployed or underemployed, have a trillion dollars of college loan debt, billions more in credit card debt and are often hungry and poor.

Though Britain is one of the world’s richest countries, yet rates of poverty are rising. A record 3.9 m kids live below the breadline and 4,00,000 of them do not even have a bed to sleep. For the last 20 years there has been a mantra among the UK political classes that work is the best solution to poverty. It was the background to the welfare-to-work New Deal programmes in the 2000s. Since 2010, it has been reinforced with more benefit conditionality and punitive sanctions and it has been used to justify many of the austerity measures: the freezing of working-age benefits, the benefit cap, the two-child policy etc . Yet all these work related measures have instead contributed to undermining living standards and increasing poverty. Many people who are working in the UK are not actually able to make ends meet and have to make choices between paying energy bills or providing food for their children.

While India’s economy has been growing rapidly since liberalization was initiated in 1991, the inequality between the rich and the poor has also risen. According to the World Bank India has the largest number of people living below the international poverty line. The Mall of India near Delhi attracts the eyes of the passers-by, but as we go past the swanky structure, the scene suddenly changes to a cluster of tiny, dirty houses, and huts. This unpleasant confrontation challenges our view of economic development in the world’s largest functioning democracy.

One of India’s biggest and largest malls standing right next to a poor locality could be mistaken as India’s diversity, but a tall wall has been erected to prevent the mall’s visitors from seeing the settlement, which points instead to a division of the rich from the poor. India needs qualitative economic development, which is inclusive and not mere quantitative growth which favours the rich. While India has some of the world’s richest people, the number of poor in India is more than 2.5 times as many as the 86 million in Nigeria, which has the second largest population of the poor worldwide.

Dubai is inarguably one of the most prosperous cities in the world. Located on the northeastern coastline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai has become the Middle East’s global business centre and its richest city. Poverty in Dubai isn’t demonstrated in homelessness and joblessness, but rather in the labour conditions of its working class. These people, the high majority of whom come from countries like India and Indonesia, travel to Dubai looking to work. Many times, they are promised good pay and living conditions, although this is almost never the case.

Despite Canada being a developed country nearly five million people in Canada, that’s one out of every seven individuals, currently live in poverty. Poverty is a widespread issue across the country and the world, but vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities, single parents, elderly individuals, youth are more susceptible. An estimated 235,000 people in Canada are homeless, one in ten Canadians cannot afford to fill their medical prescriptions and four million people in Canada experience food insecurity.

Australia is one of the wealthiest countries enriched by the bounty of a once-in-a lifetime mining boom yet Australia has a rising number of its children living in poverty. Trapped by disadvantage are more than 730,000 youngsters. In Australia, the poverty rate has remained stagnant for a decade. Australia has failed to reduce its overall levels of poverty in the last decade  despite 25 years of unbroken economic growth.

All over the world, disparities between the rich and poor, even in the wealthiest of nations is rising sharply. Eradication of poverty is necessary for the sustainable and inclusive growth of people, economy, society and country. The concern of poverty consequently produces problems for everyone, which is why we all should take part in eradicating poverty. Patterns of widespread poverty are inevitable in an economic system that sets the terms for how wealth is produced and distributed. A country’s growth must benefit the poorest the most, and unlock opportunities for today’s extreme poor to get better jobs, access better quality services, and lay the foundations for the next generation to escape the confines of extreme deprivation.

The need of the hour is pursuit of globalization with a human face instead of the current narrative of globalization without social justice. The World Bank projects that to end extreme poverty the number of poor people will have to decrease by 50 million each year. Billion of dollars have been spent on aid, yet the goal of ending poverty is elusive. The fight against poverty is not a crusade, with a well-identified and specific enemy. Fighting poverty is to fight, with patience and deliberateness, the many problems that the poor endure and do something about both the system people participate in and how they participate in it.