WHO OWNS POVERTY IN INDIA?

Is it the hundreds of millions of people hovering around the ambiguous line, otherwise ‘termed’ the ‘poverty-line’, a line that is as controversial as the second tenure of Manmohan Singh as India’s prime minister?

Or is it the politicians who, in collaboration, with bureaucrats and number-crunchers, define who should be poor and who should not be poor and who should not be ‘so poor’, obviously, more on the paper?

Or is it the Indian democracy that has come to evolve as an exploitative System where the millions of the poor, who are as important in the eyes of its Constitution, the world’s most extensively written Constitution, as the elite politicians hibernating in the plush environs funded by the pubic money, but have been pushed to the extremes of the periphery where they are not seen even as the entities to be co-opted to mitigate the chances of emerging threats?

Or is it the multitude of the hundreds of millions of ‘poverty-line’ stricken Indians who seem to have forgotten or seem to have never known what should be the ‘quality’ of their ‘quality of life’?

Or is it the multitude of the hundreds of millions of ‘poverty-line’ stricken Indians who have come to reconcile with the developments making them subservient to the political class?

Over 1200 millions of Indians that make India the world’s largest democracy – more or less, it is a functional democracy it is said!

But this functional democracy is yet to find how to count its poor. There are many ways. There are definitions. There are methodologies. And there is confusion. Huge sums are spent on finding how to define the ‘poverty-line’ yet the controversy remains. The Rs. 30 a month ‘poverty-line’, the average of all the expertise involved. Why?

Because, the poor here are not seen as human beings by the prevailing political thought process. They are yet another votebank, a significantly large votebank that cuts across the layers of religion, regionalism and caste.

This significantly large votebank has the tendency to act most impulsively of all the votebanks. Impoverished they have been, impoverished they are, and it can be understood. They don’t know what to expect from life than to survive every coming day. They are not expected to expect from life.

Poor, they are, but they do not own their poverty. They would do all to get rid of it provided they are given the help they need to do so.

But that help is not extended to them by those who own their poverty.

Those, who run the System, the politicians, the policymakers, the elite, the business people, and the likes of them, they own their poverty.

Instead, they are given occasional shots of calculated empowerment, empowerments that gives them borrowed moments of hunger-free and relatively easier days when elections approach. A food security bill is announced in 2009 but is put in motion in 2013 when elections are due in 2014. Farm debt waiver was announced in 2008 when elections were due in 2009.

The borrowed moments of hunger-free and relatively easier days push the voters from this votebank to react impulsively to cast their votes in favour of the political outfit doling out the ‘largesse’, something that should rightfully be their fundamental right.

Those, who run the System, their interest is in keeping this votebank poor.

Once out of poverty, the prospect to get the votebank react impulsively gets a certain negative hit. Why to take this risk?

They, who run the System, own the poverty in India and they don’t look in the mood to bequeath it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IT’S IPL MESS ALL OVER! COULD YOU HEAR THEM SPEAKING OF THE DPCO?

It has swept over the thinking horizon. A mercurial, controversial but a glamorous cricketer, a high-octane, high-decibel but low-sportsmanship spirit form of the gentleman’s game, a manifestation of the perennial human greed again and a hyperactive Indian media in an over-competitive market – the last week has been a potboiler with minute-by-minute coverage of what we know as ‘the Indian Premier League Spot Fixing scandal’, that the efficient-but-reckless-but-insensitive Delhi Police, by chance, came to know and pursued and dug more. The revelations are still a work-in-progress.

That is good. Cricket ‘was’ like a religion in India. Millions would sleep and get-up remembering and analysing the last seen game. Even now, if it is an India-Pakistan game, the whole nation still comes to a standstill.

But, the sorry state of affairs is, we cannot write now something like this – ‘cricket has been like a religion in India’ –that we used to read and write so frequently in the past!

And the major factor behind it is the credibility crisis that began to erode with the match-fixing scandals the first big casualties which were the likes of Mohammad Azaharuddin, seen as one of India’s most successful captains. Since then, cricket-fixing (betting) has taken away the sheen from the game. Cricket is now no more a game of flow of emotions. Rather, it has become a form of calculated, commoditized entertainment to be purchased, much like an IPL tournament.

Nothing wrong in that! Existence of the human mind needs entertainment but why to get swept away in the wave. Except that we are slipping in the quagmire of the misplaced priorities!

The IPL spot-fixing story has pushed everything else to the periphery as if nothing else is moving in this country of over a billion. In all this business of market sentimentalism and priority-shopping, a very important development was left almost untouched, very comfortably.

The development has the potential to change the lives of the millions, millions of the Indians who cannot afford the healthcare due to exorbitantly high prices of medicines.

The development is a must for a developing country like India which has the world’s second largest population.

The development is a must for a country like India where the majority of the population is quality-illiterate, where school dropout rate is a national shame, where education and healthcare, though necessary, are seen as additional burden-heads on the monthly household budget.

The government on May 16 cleared the long pending Drug Price Control Order 2013 (DPCO) under the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy 2012 to bring 348 essential medicines and 652 formulations under a controlled-pricing mechanism.

The DPCO that is to come into force in July is expected to bring down the cost of the essential medicines by 20-25 per cent and in some case, like the anti-cancer drugs, by 80 per cent.

27 therapeutic areas that are to be covered under it include cardiac, pain killers, anti-allergic, gastro-intestinal, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-leprosy, anti-tuberculosis and anti-hypertensive medicines.

The DPCO has the mechanism to keep the prices in check with only annual price-revision allowed and that too, has to be a market-based revision unlike the cost-based one that is in practice now. Another good aspect is the prices of the imported drugs, too, would come under this pricing-control regulation.

Now, this is a significant social empowerment milestone. Increased access to the essential medicines for millions means improved health of the nation. It is a good beginning and it is needed to be talked, discussed and spread if we intend to build further on it.

Increasingly, we have seen the governments come easily under the pressure of the industrial lobbies and we have all the reasons to think that this watchdog too, would be vulnerable to manipulations. We need to develop a vigilant voice to keep a check on it and that needs a healthy tradition of debate over it.

Non-governmental organizations and various social groups have been fighting for the controlled-pricing mechanism to regulate prices of the essential and life-saving drugs and this is indeed a significant victory. But there are many other necessary requirements on the agenda. There have been debates on introducing and promoting generic versions of the costly medicines to meet the healthcare demands of the majority of the Indians and that has to be implemented on priority.

The DPCO notification could well have been an opportunity to extend such debates from the environs of the social groups to the larger public sphere to make the ‘populations’ a direct stakeholder in the process.

But the speakers of the public interest didn’t see a glamour-quotient here and such an issue of social vitality was conveniently buried under the debris of the IPL mess.

When would we understand to prioritize? Why do we need some Aamir Khan to push us to act on the matters of social relevance?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/