Saturday, August 23, 2008

In Your Face Poverty!

In this article that precedes this blogpost, I lamented, rather mawkish-ly, about the family I saw living on the street. It seems there are several such families in South Bombay, it’s as if they had got down from the train and decided to pitch their plastic tents on the street outside the terminus. Serendipitously, I happened to read this article in Time’s website.

“The defining challenge of the 21st century will be to face the reality that humanity shares a common fate on a crowded planet. We have reached the beginning of the century with 6.6 billion people living in an interconnected global economy producing an astounding $60 trillion of output each year. Human beings fill every ecological niche on the planet, from the icy tundra to the tropical rain forests to the deserts. In some locations, societies have outstripped the carrying capacity of the land, resulting in chronic hunger, environmental degradation and a large-scale exodus of desperate populations. We are, in short, in one another's faces as never before, crowded into an interconnected society of global trade, migration, ideas and, yes, risk of pandemic diseases, terrorism, refugee movements and conflict.”

Yes, we are on each other’s faces a lot these days. Have you seen how they stare at you? And we are also prone to diseases: chickenguniya, dengue, viral fever, of which we weren’t even aware. Get used to it, for it’s going to be like this for all time.

$ 60 trillion is not a small amount of money. It’s huge. We are earning more, we are growing richer, and we are wasting more. Imagine this. Try and think of the manufacturing and service industries as a giant suction pump, sucking in wealth and retaining them in smart investments and in banks of rich people. I read somewhere that since the nineties the number of millionaires in the US had doubled. Ditto in India, someone mentioned that the number of crorepatis (Indian millionaires, currently around 20,000 in the country) has also doubled.

Now don’t accuse me of being dumb dimwit when I ask: where did this money come from?

It came by depriving the people living on the streets, in the slums and in decaying housing colonies of their right to a good life. It came by forcing a section of the people into submission and slavery in air-conditioned traps called outsourcing centres. Go to any urban slum and you will find gangs of youth playing cards throughout the day and doing petty thefts and crime at night to survive, because they don’t have jobs. They have lost their will to work hard, and are satisfied with getting enough to get by.

In short the poor are becoming poorer fast and the rich are becoming rich faster. And the world’s resources are limited, it can run dry tomorrow if the rapacity continues. India could become another Sahara because the rich have a choice of emigrating but the poor will stay and die a painful death on the streets of big cities.

The solution? If they offer you – a greenhorn of “zero” years of experience – a salary of 1 crore, don’t take it. And, oh, yes, ask them if they have any shame.

No comments: