Friday, September 2, 2011

{ rich vs. poor - problems and poverty in India }

In some of these, you can see the stark contrast between rich and poor as they sit side-by-side along the streets of India.

Nice car parked right on the street by the slums with all of these beautiful children!

Woman laboring as posh, wealthy Indians walk around Agra.

Slums in South Delhi.

By the metro station.

Along the highway.

On the side of the highway.

Slums just off the main road. 

A typical Delhi dump.

I will refer to India as a developing country or a lesser-developed country. India is classified as a third world country - but, I hate this term. I hate this classification system.

Adjusting to life in India has been very...interesting. Not so much uncomfortable as I would have expected but more just...unexpected! I came to India with a very open mind and an open heart. I've read lots of stories, watched movies, read the paper, etc. I have some pretty thick skin (so I like to think). But NOTHING can prepare you for India. Overpopulation combined with attempted modernization creates a chaotic environment. It is so dirty and smelly (something I was very much expecting). But...nothing could have prepared me. For the first time in my life, I feel soooo humble - too entitled. with a life far too idealistic. 

Everywhere you walk in India, you see evidence of the poverty, lack of resources, excessive population, lack of education and sanitation. You can walk by the most beautiful, world-class hotel and seconds later, be walking by a slum or an empty street lined with half-naked homeless men. We live in a middle-class apartment community and right outside the gate is a large, very poor slum community. Poverty and Wealth sit side-by-side as strangers, with their backs faced towards one another - trying to ignore the fact that one another exists. 

According to Jolly Sir (at Maitri), India's biggest problems are population, poverty, and corruption. From my wee 20-year old undergrad brain, I would concur.

In 8 (of the 29) states of India, there are more poor people than 26 of the poorest African countries combined.  There is significant overpopulation in this large country with very limited resources. 33% of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Over 78 million homes in India still do not have any electricity. 71% of children have no access to sanitation. Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai are 3 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world. The average lifespan for an Indian is 63.2 years where in the US, it averages 80.2 years.

The population of India has surpassed 1.2 billion and is estimated to pass China (at 1.4 billion) by 2025. Some theories suggest that overpopulation in India is the result of increased government support (enables people to continue having children without means to support them); lack of education and contraceptives; the stabilization of death rates at the onset of industrialization; etc.

Interesting fact: According to the United Nations University, in India, far more people in India have access to a cell phone than to a toilet and improved sanitation.

Auto rickshaws are generally used by the middle-class Indians or tourists.
The Indians try to use the bus or metro (if possible) because it is only 10 rupees (approximately 23 cents). The auto rickshaws can be anywhere from 25 rupees to 120 rupees - depending on how far you go and how many people. This is about 50 cents to 3 dollars. Cheap, right? The most we have paid to go one ride is 80 rupees - and that was to go pretty far from our home to the center of New Delhi.

Some of the problems that India faces are:
  1. high inflation rates
  2. lack of education, especially for women (over 50% of Indian women are illiterate)
  3. poor infrastructure (for example, 40% of the fruit rots before it reaches the market)
  4. high levels of debt and a large budget deficit
  5. rising inequality - although there has been economic growth, the rural areas of India have seen little to no benefit from this growth
  6. corruption - rigid labor laws
{but doesn't America face some of these issues as well???}

I think India's biggest weakness is education - the people just don't know. They aren't aware. They need to be taught! And that is where organizations like Maitri come in :) Teaching high school students sex education and feminie hygienic, helping the slum children to learn English and become motivated in school, educating the rickshaw drivers and the slums about health, STI's, and other diseases. One step at a time.

There is SO much good - so much success - so much beauty -in India as well! It is the most incredible country I have ever been to - and it deserves proper credit.
  1. The world's 10th biggest industrial country and the 5th largest economy by GDP (after the Eurozone, US, China and Japan).
  2. 2nd (U.S. is 1st) in computer software
  3. India has the world's 3rd largest active troops, next to China and the U.S.
  4. The 6th world nuclear power
  5. India has some of the world's most brilliant doctors, engineers, IT specialists, etc. BRILLIANT people.
  6. increased foreign investments
  7. increased exports

India sits on the threshold of power and success in the region, and perhaps even in the world. India faces issues like any country - perhaps to a greater intensity - but problems all the same. I'm beginning to understand thing just a little better. I don't have the solutions but it's all starting to make sense. I can see why the US thinks it needs to step in and tell countries, like India, what they need to do (not that I think they should but I understand it better now).

For now, the only conclusion I have come to is: India is INCREDIBLE. Beautiful. Diverse. But the poverty and the reality of the conditions are overwhelming.

Regardless, India has stolen my heart.

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