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September 1, 2007

Arjun Sengupta report:836 million Indians live on less than Rs 20 a day

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An overwhelming 836 million people in India live on a per capita consumption of less than Rs 20 a day, according to the findings of the Arjun Sengupta report on the Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihood in the Unorganised Sector. The report is based on government data for the period between 1993-94 and 2004-05.
While the numbers rose by a staggering 100 million, the numbers of the new rich has also grown by 93 million. “Our survey is very scientific. The other poverty estimates looked at the absolute poor only but we look at different categories of poor,” Chairman, National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector, Arjun Sengupta said.So, who are the ones who have actually benefitted from the boom in the economic growth of the country?

The middle class and the rich grew from 162 million to 253 million while the neo rich of 91 million. The middle class grew from 15.5 per cent to 19.3 per cent but the extreme poor have also benefited (274 to 237 million) – 43 million of them to be precise. Their per capita consumption has gone up from Rs 9 to Rs 12.“The rich tend to hide their consumption. So if you account for that, they are actually richer than the report reflects. This again reflects the fact that the gap between the rich and poor is even wider,” Sengupta explained.

One is classified as absolutely poor if the per capita consumption is less than Rs 9 a day. However, if the per capita consumption is Rs 13 a day, then the individual is above the poverty line. So, the definitions of poverty are sometimes difficult to understand.The justification for economic reforms was supposed to be the trickle down effect but for those who live in trying conditions 10 years of economic reforms seems to have made little difference. Is it any wonder that those leaders who are seen to be reformers can never win the popular vote?


August 31, 2007

Rueters reports: Climate change looms over India

Filed under: Uncategorized — odrf @ 12:33 pm

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Climate change might get some blame for South Asia’s catastrophic floods, but government ineptitude has dramatically magnified the misery facing tens of millions of people in India, aid groups and experts say.Global warming is likely to cause even heavier monsoons with more devastating storms in the region, and India needs to wake up fast to the risks.The United Nations says state governments, especially in Bihar, simply do not have the capacity to deal with a crisis of almost unprecedented proportions. The governments themselves admit to being overwhelmed and say they are doing their best.

But a lack of planning for the vagaries of the annual monsoon seems to have left parts of India cruelly exposed.”How do we stop a disaster becoming a crisis? That is exactly when disaster preparedness comes in,” Unnikrishnan said.”If we make an investment of one pound in disaster prevention and reduction, that has 100 times more effect than after disaster strikes.”

Measures like building shelters on higher ground, raising borewells to prevent drinking water becoming contaminated and developing early warning systems can all help. Officials need to be trained and systems put in place to deliver food and water.

“The measures are there, it’s only a question of the government being conscious, worried and serious about it,” said Aditi Kapoor of Oxfam. “The response would still be needed, but at least peoples’ lives would be saved.”India has set up community early warning systems on its east coast after frequent devastating cyclones and the 2004 tsunami.

“You can blame it on climate change or you can blame it on other factors, but the frequency and misery due to flooding is increasing with each passing year,” said P.V. Unnikrishnan, ActionAid India’s emergencies adviser.”But what we are seeing is more of a knee-jerk, reactionary response that lacks both sensitivity and vision,” he added. “The government is not going the extra mile to reach out to the poor.”

At least 490 people have been killed and 50 million affected by the floods hitting northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal in the past three weeks.More than 100,000 people are still marooned — many perched on rooftops — in Bihar, a state that is a byword for poverty at the best of times. Anger is rising at what is seen as the lackadaisical response of the state government.

PicO1: Indian Floods 2007

Four air force helicopters were pressed into action in Bihar this week, not nearly enough to bring food and drinking water to all the victims, U.N. officials say.To add insult to injury, officials have been accused of stealing or hoarding food, while a 17-year-old boy was killed when police opened fire on an angry crowd.Low-lying Bangladesh is also better prepared these days for storms and floods, with warning systems and provision for evacuation, shelter, food distribution and healthcare. Two-thirds of the country is submerged and 164 people died in flooding this year, but the annual tolls have fallen since the 1998 floods killed more than 3,500.But in northern India, many experts say, state governments have taken completely the wrong approach.

Embankments built along many rivers have simply made matters worse, causing catastrophic flooding when they break and preventing water draining away again — just as the levee breaks did when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.Siltation has reduced the effective height of many embankments, which have also been poorly maintained.Nevertheless, this year has been exceptional. Many Biharis had never seen as much rain in their lifetimes, around 900 mm, close to a year’s quota in just two weeks of incessant deluge.

At the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), officials are unwilling to blame global warming for any individual weather pattern, and say that the average annual rainfall across India does not appear to have changed much.

What has changed — and risen significantly — is the number of “extreme rainfall events”, says the IMD’s M. Rajeevan.

UNICEF’s India health chief Marzio Babille says what many now believe — climate change has led to a dramatic increase in the scale and frequency of natural disasters, and demands a completely new response.

“What emerges from my experience in Bihar is that the scale of the inundation is so vast, even communities that are used to coping with floods were completely overwhelmed,” he said.

“We cannot continue to respond to these kinds of challenges with the same pace or technology we did 10 years ago.”

Source: Rueters

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August 30, 2007

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