India, the largest democracy.

By Sabena Siddiqui

India accounts for world’s poorest nation, says World Bank. It’s not a shining India as it is widely perceived in India or projected in the world and that is a ground reality. An Indian, Navjyot Singh wrote “a global powerhouse India with a dark underbelly of thousands of poor dying or living in chronic hunger or a globally competitive India with majority of its population well fed and thinking of issues beyond mere struggle for next morsel of food.”

It is ridiculous to see such large variations in efficiency by the same government. On one hand, they enact laws and create regulations to attract foreign investment, and on the other hand they fail to fix such basic, fundamental flaws. India Shining is a myth when such a large portion of the Indian population cannot have a single meal in a day due to institutional inefficiencies. Poverty in India is still a major issue even in this day and age. The population of people living below the poverty line in India is the highest in the world and the problem is not going away .Some sources suggest that now almost 60% of the world’s poor now call India as their home. It is also the country with the highest rate of Malnutrition among children under the age of 36 months; a massive 46% of infants.

The poverty and situations that people are forced to live in coupled with the burning desire to survive have resulted in people doing some undesirable and incomprehensible things to stay alive. Extreme poverty has led to a lot of social crimes. There are an estimated ten million prostitutes in India, a quarter of the total number of prostitutes are minors. Indian girls account for 80% prostitutes in world -according to some estimates. Nearly three million girls are “missing” in 2011 compared to 2001. Girls are considered a burden on society. Female infanticide is leading to an ever-increasing imbalance in the sex ratio.

According to census statistics, the number of female children per male children in India has dropped from 972 girls per 1000 males in 1901 to 929 girls per 1000 males in 1991, and continues to decrease ( This is the lowest gender ratio recorded since India’s independence in 1947.There are entire villages sans girls specially in UP, Bihar India has been labeled the worst place to be a woman. But how is this possible in a country that prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy? The number of Indian brides burned to death for not bringing adequate dowry payments is on the rise. In 2010, 8391 dowry death cases were reported across India, meaning a bride was burned every 90 minutes, according to statistics recently released by the National Crime Records Bureau. A decade earlier this number was 6995, but climbed to 8093 dowry deaths in 2007.

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According to the latest figures released by the Government of India, a woman is now raped in India every 20 minutes. Despite the increase in sexual violence the number of convictions is falling. Delhi is the rape capital of the world. The latest rape statistics released by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has once again put Delhi on top of the shame table with Mumbai is a close second on the list. Female tourists have shunned India in record numbers since the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a Delhi bus last December. There has been a 35 percent decline in the number of female foreign tourists and a 25 percent decline overall since the attack .More than ten million Dalit women are raped, while they are untouchable but they are raped. More than 2000 rape victims in Kashmir have come forward and their cases have not been heard. Today in India, a girl is neither safe inside or outside of the womb.

An Indian family unit can be often very large, which can exacerbate the effects of poverty. Also, the caste system which is still found a lot in India (although it is getting less) is a major reason for rural poverty for it keeps people locked in the endless cycle with less facilities and opportunities for the lower casts. In fact India accounts for one-third of the world poor, people living on less than $1.25 (about Rs. 65) per day, a World Bank report on poverty has said.

The report said that 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty across the world. “The State of the Poor: Where are the Poor and Where are the Poorest?,” using data released in the latest World Development Indicators, shows that extreme poverty headcount rates have fallen in every developing region between 1981 and 2010 from half the citizens in the developing world to 21 per cent in spite of a 59 per cent increase in the developing world population. However, a new analysis of extreme poverty released on Thursday by the World Bank shows that there are still 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, despite the recent impressive progress. This figure should serve as a rallying cry to the international community to take the fight against poverty to the next level.

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The extreme poor in SSA represented only 11 per cent of the world’s total in 1981, they now count
for more than a third of the world’s extreme poor. India contributes another third (up from 22 per cent in 1981) and China comes next, contributing 13 per cent (down from 43 per cent in 1981). The state of Uttar Pradesh alone has 8% of the world’s population who live in extreme poverty. 43% of Indian children are still malnourished, and that is also a third of the world’s total. A 2010 report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) states that 8 Indian states have more poor people than 26 poorest African nations combined which totals to more than 410 million poor in the poorest African countries. The latest UNICEF data shows that one in three malnourished children worldwide are found In India, whilst 42% of the nation’s children under five years of age are underweight. It also shows that a total of 58% of children under five surveyed were stunted.

India’s census form ask whether people own certain basic assets such as TV, phone, radio or bicycle. People who mention that they don’t own any of these can be considered poor. India is home to 170 million slum dwellers: 63% of all slum dwellers in South Asia and 17% of the world’s slum dwellers. Living in slums or dwellings on pavements alongside busy roads, many of these people contend daily with the difficulties of not having access to water and sanitation. Around 25,000 pavement dwelling families live in shacks alongside roads in Mumbai, India. Excluded from city development plans, they are the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized of Mumbai’s poor.

The mass overcrowding and extreme deprivation have resulted in huge man made slums, the largest of which is in Mumbai. Miles and miles of rubbish, mangled iron, human excrement and open sewers form what millions of people call home. The water is rank, there is no waste disposal, no jobs, no healthcare and little support. There is little opportunity for education so there is no end to the poverty cycle. The slums are affected by frequent outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and malaria and are often ravaged by water shortages and wild fires.

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It is predicted that the population of India will surpass the population in China by 2025. In the past numerous years, the rapid rate of rise of population has impacted the quality of life of the people in India. Experts believe that if the population continues to rise at the same rate, it will devastate the country. If the people do not realize the problem and solutions are not implemented, the population explosion could result in fighting over food and water, riots, etc. The artificial scarcity of food that leads to Starvation is because the food is not available at a price point wherein it will be available to the people who are starving. Indians blame incompetence and corruption within the system. “In these places the politicians don’t care, the bureaucrats don’t care and nobody “cares” about the state, the people or the nation.”

Over the past 15 years, a scourge of suicide has claimed lives of an estimated 250,000 farmers in India. And the death count is still climbing, according to a new report by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University. “On average, one farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes in India,” said Smita Narula, director of the CHRG.

India accounts for world’s poorest nation, says World Bank this year India’s official poverty rate stands at 29.8%, or close to 350 million people using 2010 population figures.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Sabena Siddiqui is a Lawyer and a social activist, observer at large. She has been doing welfare work in Karachi with a great commitment and courage.[/author_info] [/author]