October 12, 1991
PERCEPTION OF POVERTY
It is an imaginative extension of thought that conceives of poverty as an agent of pollution. This conception extends the physical environment to a social dimension to include living human beings. Environment that includes MAN is certainly polluted by the existence of poverty which means insufficient needs at the most physical level of hunger.
In the 19th century and earlier, a hierarchy in society was accepted, even as the divine right of the king to rule over a country was accepted. Social perceptions changed and with that the negro became black, colonies became free nations and even the sinner who was saved by the church emerged into manhood. The labourer who was the human commodity carrying a price on his head ceased to be a commodity and became the people of the organisation of the company. Subjects like economics shed their label of being arts and joined the scientific fraternity. A newcomer to the respectable gallery of science is agriculture. Such changes in perception were the result of the new prowess several fields have acquired. Recently it is being increasingly recognised that such changes in perception can generate new dimensions of power to any field of activity.
It is in the 20th century that governments have come forward to offer MAN scores of welfare measures since it was recognised that man should not be left to perish in famine or cyclone. Initially it was conceived of as a measure of welfare and even the phrase welfare state was in vogue. Later it was perceived it was MAN coming into his own and the welfare measures are symptoms of government recognising MAN's right on the planet. Today that right is being extended to even to the vanishing flora and fauna.
When man came on earth he did not live in a society or hierarchy nor was he endowed with poverty. Good health, longevity, natural cheerfulness were his own even as he found himself amidst plenty. Like other species he lived or perished as the external resources permitted but he lived or perished as a group. Only when the society organised itself into a hierarchy, it was possible for one layer to exist while another persisted during times of scarcity. Organised ways of living, knowledge of all descriptions, systems created for comfort etc. interfered with the natural living of MAN in hundreds of ways. With the passing of time these stratifications of society come to stay and even create a psychology by which even the victim takes his victimisation for granted. No question arises in his mind.
The slave conceded his slavery and was happy when treated well by his master. Even devotion to the master became a laudable emotion. To this day the notion of rich and poor, rich nations and poor nations is a concept that enjoys social approval. As there are no longer slaves in the world, the concept of poor will not exist in the 21st century. Aristocracy and its graces have become pedestrian members of the society of which commoners form the bulk.
Right to safe drinking water, good health, literacy, basic amenities, the right to vote have all been recognised. The right to employment has also been conceded in the major part of the world. The idea of the poor being uplifted is a 19th century idea and its vestige. By the 21st century, man will cease to be poor or rich and will merely be MAN. Had not the society organised itself in such a way that segments of it are protected and other segments were defenceless, MAN would have remained as MAN and would not have been bifurcated into poor and rich.
Along with the outcaste, unfranchised woman, wage earner, the slave, the subject, the plebian, the capital punishment, the flogging etc. the concept of poor and rich should go, liberating MAN from the social degradation.
Man should give up the attitude of charity and move to the attitude of restoring HIM to his original status of freedom from poverty. By taking this attitude, the entire perception will change and all the programmes drawn up will be of a different character.
The society which has shrunk the scope for the individual for self-employment by organising itself more and more should offer the citizen the right to employment.
Indira Gandhi thought of eradicating poverty. To convert such a thought into a programme, it we must look at it from all the angles, instead of the only from the platform of generating more employment.
Poverty is eliminated by:
-- generating more employment;
-- raising the level of minimum education;
-- making the social elite aware of the possibility of removing it;
-- presenting the government concrete programmes of prosperity;
-- drawing upon the resources of every social institution like
Chamber of Commerce, university, research institutions,
government, voluntary organisation, U.N., U.N. agencies,
-- educating the public opinion that poverty is not inevitable.
-- accepting the principle that the world can compel
a nation to eradicate poverty.
PROGRAMMES TO ERADICATE POVERTY
1) Appeal for the changed PERCEPTION from charity to MAN coming
into his own right -- a right to good living.
2) Assess the effectivity of information, ideas, opinions, statistics,
studies, data, arguments, examples, etc. on the segment of popula-
lation that can move to eradicate poverty and give them in that
measure through appropriate media.
3) Introduce in the curriculum at the right stage a full explanation
that poverty is not inevitable, it is there because it is suffered and
explain how it can be eliminated.
4) Devise programmes suitable to each sector that will indirectly
eliminate poverty. E.g.
-- Craftsmen training schools for industry.
-- Farm schools for the government that try to raise
-- Adult education for voluntary organisations.
-- Development skits for media.
-- Themes for the writers that portray the psychological
endeavour of individuals to escape poverty.
-- Studies for universities that will bring out case studies
where segments of population have come out of poverty.
-- Success stories for journals.
-- Ideas for commerce which when implemented will
remove poverty while they work for their own profit.
5) Appeal for an apex national organisation in each country that will
address itself to the task of creating all these programmes and ideas.
6) Suggest UN should take on itself the authority of accepting the
invitation of any nation to eradicate poverty or illiteracy or major
7) Suggest UN should declare that within 5 to 10 years poverty should
be eradicated from the world. At the end of that period UN may take
over one or more countries under its administration to eradicate it
8) Plead for a World Body that will embark on devising detailed
programmes for each country where more than 10% of the popula-
tion is poor. These programmes should be comprehensive and must
be able to yield results within one decade.
9) Declare that NO nation has the right to keep its population POOR.