Sunday, January 04, 2009

Poverty is holding India back

As India recovers from the recent Mumbai attacks, it has slowly begun to slip from the front page. Now, all we'll hear about is outsourcing, eternal pissing contests with Pakistan, and our friends griping about calling Symantec or Dell only to find they're calling some Indian guy in Hyderabad, remarkably named Phil.

They have indeed experienced exponential growth in many sectors, notably technology. They churn out millions of college graduates each year. I hear and read things about them becoming a world power almost ad nauseum.It's just not true. They could be something really special and powerful. They do have one-point-whatever billion people, and in general, Indians have an extremely strong work ethic. But with every new Honda dealership or Starbucks that comes to Mumbai or Delhi, another few million people go hungry or pick through garbage piles to survive.

Unfortunately, there is not enough to go around, and according to the World Bank, over one third of the world's poor live in India.

That is simply staggering. And disgusting.

I refuse to recognize any country in a positive light if so many people are being left behind.

There are an infinite amount of factors that contribute to this. Much of the population lives in rural areas that lack almost any infrastructure. Large scale irrigation systems and roads are unheard of in many places. Extreme climates also contribute to the problem. Monsoons flood many areas of the South and facilitate the spread of disease and as well as the destruction of crops. A lack of rain in the North makes it difficult for many to eek out a living-- most being subsistence farmers. Urban sprawl, widespread pollution, and environmental degradation is off the charts. The population is straining to sustain itself off a poorly run country. Then of course there is the urban poverty... the ugliest looking of all.

There are also social issues that abound. A legacy of British rule and colonialism seems to have reinforced the Indian Caste system, which unfortunately, still exists to a certain extent. These class divides have never fully dissolved.

I am just so appalled by the large scale destitution that plagues India, and the lack of effort by its government to do anything about it. For a country that has had a an average of a 7% annual economic growth rate since 1997 (CIA Factbook), little of it has benefited the millions and millions of starving, uneducated poor who struggle daily.

In addition, a currently flagging global economy will not help matters. India's pride and joy is its technology sector, which is primarily a tertiary industry. In fact, much of India's new found economic expansion is service-based.

As less Americans and/or Europeans require their services, there will be less need for massive call centers and IT engineers. These folks certainly won't end up picking through garbage, but it certainly does not help matters.

This leads us to the video below. I found it particularly well-done and it struck a chord with me. Here is the original article that went with it. It's five minutes long. Watch it if you get a chance.

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