Has our government created an environment to retain poverty?
The other day, I got talking to a colleague of mine, who belongs from the interiors of Bengal. While speaking with him, I realized that he is the only earning member of the family of eight. And religiously, every month, after keeping whatever is required to manage a basic living here at Delhi, he sends all the money back home. Upon asking, he told me that other than his mother, the other dependents on his income are his two elder brothers with their respective families of three each, and one sister.
Mother and younger sister dependent was something that I could still understand, what I could not understand is how could two brothers, elder to him, be dependent on him along with their respective families. On asking him, he said that his brothers have never worked for a livelihood and would never do the same in future too. However, the reason sounds more intriguing – they have three BPL cards – one for the mother and the other two for the other two families respectively. And on account of the BPL (Below Poverty Line) card, they get enough free food from the government under various poverty eradication schemes. And with a small piece of land at their disposal, whatever short they fall, they make up. For them even electricity is free. So, when for all the necessities for survival are at their service, for what do they need to earn? Schooling is free and hospitalization is free too, though none of them upto the mark. So, for these people where there exists no threats and no sense of urgency, why do they even need to work for a livelihood?
As if this was not enough, the government has made a further plan to give free mobile phones to BPL families. Under the scheme popularly known as "Har Hath Mein Phone," the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has decided to distribute around 60 lakh phones to all BPL families. Moreover, 200 free minutes of free local talk time every month. The entire project is estimated to cost the Central Government about Rs.7,000 crore. What more do they need? Aren’t we creating an environment to retain poverty? Is it that we would ever be able to bring these people out of poverty? And my answer is never. More so, on account of lack of worthwhile opportunities, who in this world would ever like to leave this life of full of freebies and struggle to make it any better?
Now the dilemma is whether at the policy level one should think to continue to provide the basic minimum so that the basic threshold to survival is ensured, or one should leave it on them to fend for themselves. This reminds me the proverb "necessity is the mother of all inventions." Moreover, this free mobile phone is just another cheap populist approach for vote bank politics, has no real intention to reduce poverty. Historically, for nations who have been able to come out of poverty, has been through revolutions or through systematic interventions. The cases in point are Europe and China. Though very discreet in nature what has been unique in both the above is that, the path to overcome poverty has been hard earned – be it through bloody revolutions or through sheer hard work! Nowhere in this world poverty has been nurtured, like the way we have done in this nation. And it is for all of us to see that even after so many years, poverty figures remain as it is. And it would remain so, for we have successfully created a happy environment to remain poor.