poverty in india

One of the first things you notice when you arrive in India is the poverty – it hits you very hard. Associated with that is the crumbly infrastructure – even as you get off the plane you don’t see the sleek new air terminals you might expect from news reports of a country which is an economic powerhouse, instead there is flaking paint, confusing signage, haphazard security and dimly lit hallways. After a day or two you could get blinded by the more modern facilities – the hotels, offices and restaurants I went to while I was there appeared to be extremely clean and new, but there’s always the catch and the things which remind you that you are most definitely in a still-developing country.

So I was interested to see this article where the Indian Finance minister aims to “end poverty by 2040″. Obviously that’s a highly laudible goal, and I hope that they make progress in this area. However just “ending poverty” I don’t think is as easy as making sure everyone has more money. With that we’re likely to see more and more people wanting cars, bringing even more congestion on the roads, if such a thing were possible; more people wanting more space to live in; resentment as the country continues to be “new” and lose touch with the past; and more use of energy and therefore more pollution. So it’ll have to be done carefully.

Then there’s what is in my opinion one of the hugest hurdles of all – the quality of water. The reminders I alluded to at the end of the first para of this post were mainly around water. As a visitor you’re constantly being reminded not to drink tap water, keep your mouth closed in the shower, use bottled water for brushing your teeth, don’t eat food which will have been washed (such as salad or fruit you wouldn’t peel). I would guess that locals are more used to the water than occasional visitors, but even so surely water-borne disease must be a huge impact on the health and economic viability of individuals, local communities and the whole country.

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