Are people poor by choice?
A quote generally attributed to Bill Gates and very famous on social media platforms goes like, “If you are born poor, it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor, it’s your mistake.”
Many times when we think of poverty, we think of lazy, inept people who chose not to work in life and hence remained poor notwithstanding the hardships poverty entailed upon them.
Such approach links poverty to individual actions or lack of it and conveniently ignores the socio-politico-economic milieu of individuals. It also partially absolves the state of its responsibility.
India has the largest number of people living below the poverty line despite the underestimation. Are those Indians, millions in number, poor by choice? Does the Indian state bear little responsibility towards them?
Article 21 of Indian constitution gives every citizen the fundamental right to life and personal liberty which among other things includes the right to live with human dignity. Is a life enmeshed in poverty a dignified life?
Imagine a day when you don’t have sufficient money to get two square meals. Imagine this situation continues and you have no idea when this is going to end. How do you feel?
Poverty can not simply be explained in words. It is a disease that saps life out of living. It affects cognitive ability, impairs decision making, dents self confidence and wreaks havoc on health and well being of an individual. To be poor is the worst form of human existence.
No matter how romanticized poverty has been depicted in books, poems, or movies; in reality, it’s brutally enervating.
That is why, the onus to alleviate poverty can not be imposed on debilitated individuals and it becomes important that the state, as an external agent, be proactive in ending this vicious cycle. For any definite action on poverty, every organ of state (executive, legislative or judiciary) and every department of government (health, education, finance, labour, women & child care, law & order etc) will have to work in unison. The methodology (direct vs indirect support, centre vs state support) may be debated upon, but the urgency to have proper state support can not be debated upon.
Since Independence, many governments came and went. Indira Gandhi won landslide victory in general election on plank of poverty eradication. Narendra Modi won it on the promise of poverty reduction through good governance. Still, poverty is a menace plaguing Indian society. Therefore, time has come to forget our differences and unite in putting pressure on state to make the lives of not so fortunate ones worth living. Come on my fellow countrymen: let’s do it for once and all.