Category Archives: Poverty

The Youth Pulse: Talking to Mr. Rajesh Kumar, Youth BJP Leader From Bihar


By Ankush Kumar

MSK and Ankush Kumar start a series of interviews, where we will showcase the views of our youth leaders and their connect with the Youngistaan.

Joining us today is ‘Mr. Rajesh Kumar’ convenor of the professional cell of the BJP for Bihar. He is a son of the soil, born in a village named Narhat, has done his schooling from there, did his engineering in Bangalore and MBA from Pune. He is currently the Zonal head for Frontline, a company that is into trading and investments. He also has other business interests but most importantly is an active youth leader for the BJP in Bihar.


Ankush Kumar (AK):  Sir why did you choose the BJP and say no to the Congress or any other political party?

Rajesh Kumar (RK): The motto of this party is to work with a difference. It puts the nation as top priority, then the state follows and self is given least priority. They function in a democratic way, unlike the Congress where one family controls its policies. Hence I have chosen the BJP.

AK:  Since you believe in the democratic set up of your party, and the youth is desperate for change. How do you think you can sync your ideologies with the young voters?

RK: The youth has taken to the social media in a big way, any issue and every issue is dissected by them. They are disheartened by the current affairs of our country and its leaders. We as youth leaders want them to know that we empathize with them and we are ready to walk hand-in-hand and bring change to society.

AK: All political leaders say the same thing sir that they will bring in the change. Frankly most leaders choose politics to make money. How do you think this can change?

RK: I agree to a certain extent that most leaders have failed the people of India; they have minted money on people’s misery. But most importantly they have filled their coffers by dividing the nation on communal and caste lines. These leaders can never show us the right direction. They can just do minority vote bank politics. Our NDA Government in has Bihar managed to change that in the last nine years. We have ensured that people in the lowest strata of the society get educated. Because a well educated society can only curb the rampant culture of such selfish leaders.

AK: As you said that we need to educate at the grass root level, India spends very little on elementary education. What steps has the BJP youth wing taken to ensure that education reaches the grassroots level?

RK: As they say Rome was not built in a day. When NDA came to power in Bihar, our aim first was to eradicate the fear of the people by providing security and law and order. We youth level leaders first want to break the syndicate of these selfish politicians who do not let the weaker sections of society to progress. If you remember the induction of 2 lakh teachers happened during our regime. Cycles were provided to girl students to strengthen our education system.

AK: Last time I visited a few schools in Bihar and most teachers under the Shiksha Mitra scheme did not know basic general knowledge about our country. All this eventually hampers the image of Bihar. Even today the perception of a Bihari is wrong in other parts of India. How do you all plan to tackle this?

RK: See there will be some loopholes always. Even we have observed that selection of few teachers have not been up to the mark. And that definitely needs to be corrected. As far as perception is concerned, I don’t care what others think about us, because we too have opinions on them. For example, I believe Maharashtra has the highest crime rate. Furthermore, Maharashtrians haven’t remained in touch with their culture. So, before throwing stones at us, they need to get their own house in order. We are a state that boasts of the best brains, be it from the field of engineering, UPSC or any other. So you cannot judge us uni-dimensionally.

AK: The bitter truth though remains that these brains eventually settle outside Bihar. What steps can be taken to ensure that brain drain does not happen?

RK: Yes that is true! In fact, I too completed Masters from Karnataka. The truth is that the government of Bihar during the nineties in did zilch development. We had neither engineering nor medical colleges, nor infrastructure – no one was ready to invest here hence the intelligent minds decided to migrate. In the last nine years though people have come forward and through public and private ventures medical colleges are opening in the state. IIT came here so did AIIMS. When we came to power our first priority was law and order and once that was achieved we started focusing on other sectors.

AK: As you said your top priority was law and order, but in the past few months Bihar has witnessed terror crimes. How and why did this happen?

RK: Ever since we have split with the JDU, they have only been interested in saving their government. They focus on ways to demean us and harp on NDA’s achievements. The National security agencies had warned them of threats yet no action was taken. It’s a total failure of the state intelligence machinery. Bihar has hardly seen terror attacks based on communal lines, but these people sitting in Pakistan don’t seem to improve.

AK: I disagree here, terror has no face, innocent lives are lost be it any religion. Doesn’t this statement sends out a wrong message to the youth?

RK: Who says terror has no face? Ask a child on the road and he will tell you terror means Pakistan. Yes, I agree innocent people have nothing to do with these terrorists. But these cowards have repeatedly damaged our nation and its time we retaliate in the most appropriate manner.

AK: Elections are round the corner and social media gives the impression that Narendra Modi is going to become the next Prime Minister. It’s being tipped as a battle between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. What is your take on it?

RK: I would like to start with a proverb we use in our villages ‘kahan raja bhog kahan gangu teli’. Narendra Ji has been in active politics for the last forty years, thrice the awaam of Gujarat have made him the Chief Minister. He comes from the grass root level, whereas Rahul Gandhi, apart from his family, has no credentials.

He returns from abroad and is made secretary overnight. Wherever he has campaigned, the Congress has lost. He went to UP and they were reduced to 36 seats, he came to Bihar as the icon of the Congress and made false promises. What happened? They won just three seats. So those people who are comparing him to Narendra bhai have very little knowledge about politics.

AK: Sir as you say NaMo is incomparable to any leader, then why is there so much infighting in the BJP over his nomination for PM post?

RK: See, we are a democratic party; in our set-up everyone has the right to express his or her views and opinions. We don’t have unilateral power centers like the others; we have a system in place, where even a cadre-based leader can voice his opinion and if his demands are genuine, it will be acted upon. Families do not run us. I will give you an example here. Do you know the name of the father of Narendra Modi or Rajnath Ji? But the country knows the name of Rahul Gandhi’s father or Laloo’s son or Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family.

AK: As you said you are a democratic party, then why did your parliamentary board gag Shatrughan Sinha? Once gagging happens how is the party democratic?

RK: I am a son of the soil, likewise Shotgunjee too is. He commented on NaMo on the basis of ideologies and understanding of politics. I don’t want to comment on that. But I would like to say that before he comments on Narendra bhai he should gauge his own popularity. In his own constituency his banners were removed and NaMo’s banners were put up. We too have done our surveys and we believe the nation is with Narendra bhai hence he should and will be the man who will lead us in the next elections.

AK: Sir, if you all are so confident, why has his name not been nominated for the top post?

RK: As I said, we are a democratic party, and we function step by step. Right now teams are being formed in different states. Who will lead our campaigns in which state, who will handle what responsibilities. Once we complete the nitty gritties of the campaign we will soon announce the name of Narendra Modi jee as our Prime ministerial candidate.

AK: What is that one issue, that you think will help you regain control of Delhi?

RK: The issue of development is that issue. The youth wants change today, we still are using the same infrastructure that we used forty years back, that needs to change, we want to do politics of development. We are not interested in politics of religion or states or division. We have had enough of this. My appeal to the voters is to go by the appeal of Narendra bhai ‘Yes We Can’. Lets vote for change, let’s vote for development.

AK: Before I take your leave, one final question ‘ where do we see Rajesh Kumar’ in five years time?

RK: I want to live amongst my society, work for them, help them grow in life. Place me anywhere without any selfish reasons because I want to work for the betterment of my nation, state and system.

This was Mr. Rajesh Kumar, a rising star of the BJP from Bihar. Keep a tab on this space online for yet another youth leaders take on the Youth’s pulse. Till then signing off!

Reflections On The Understanding Of Poverty


Malathy Madathilezham tries to decipher the real definition and the measures of poverty and more importantly tries finding ways to get rid of the malaise. 

Poverty is a much-debated topic. We all have at some or the other point discussed on some issue related to poverty. The ‘poverty line’ is a recurrent topic that comes into picture during these discussions. How do we define and measure this complex’’ phenomenon? More importantly how do we get ‘rid’ of it?? These discussions are never ending and inconclusive, there is no right answer.

During the major part of my life I had not been exposed to the abject levels of poverty that exist in India (and many other parts of the world!) What I knew was from what I read and heard or what was shown in the media. Even more appalling was my inadequate knowledge on caste (Yes, there WAS discrimination! That’s what I knew and actually thought it was not relevant in these ‘modern ’times!) It is safe to say thus that most of my arguments related to poverty were quite superficial and mostly hearsay!

What has changed now? In short, I can say a better (a long way to go still!) understanding of the theoretical aspects of poverty, some experience from interacting, living with the poor and a stronger conviction that the solution is not simple and neither is it going to be easy to work out.

There are success stories. Those glorified poster picks from various organisation on how so and so person has overcome poverty due to such and such project and his/her own will. Thank god for the fact that there atleast these success stories to take inspiration from! But we also have to look at the kind of society that we are living in. The levels of disparity that exists and that are overlooked by us daily.

Yesterday evening, I saw a group of 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys sitting outside the apartment that I have taken for rent. They were basically searching for dry wood, plastics and other materials in the dump. They seemed to be from a nomadic tribe. Unfortunately I could not understand their language. But here they were, all children of school going age right in front of the house of a principal, scavenging!! How do we ensure that these children and many more like them have a better future ahead and not just in terms of an education?

We need to work on identifying the reasons why generations after generations, families continue to live in extreme poverty, with little or no improvement in the quality of life. This is in spite of the various agencies which include the government having different kinds of schemes, projects and programmes aimed solely at poverty alleviation/eradication/elimination! There is also a need to introspect about so many kinds of inequality and inequity that we have accepted as part of life and may be even consider it right!

It is still a wonder for me that just by the virtue of my birth in a particular kind of family I have a set of options and choices about the kind of life I can aspire for. Yes if I am one of the few persevering and determined kind of people that exist in this world, I can may be, reach the uppermost echelons of success. But largely our choices and options are governed by where we are born, who are our parents, our caste (a sad reality for many even today!) etc. It is important to realise that most people in our country do not even have any options to make a choice! They lead the same kind of lives that their parents, their grandparents lead… TV, mobile, bike and a formal education hasn’t done much to change their lives in a profound manner!

So what makes this happen? Does the society perpetuate one or the other kind of inequity and inequality?  Is it the poverty that leads to inequity and inequality or vice versa? What can an individual do to bring about change at one or the other level without being cynical about everything? These are some questions I am pondering on….

Greed Becomes Indistinguishable From Human Life


Sarvesh Mehrotra in this classic writes how greed is the new God. Read on

I was reading an article today about how technology is the new religion. It explored how people gather at Apple conferences with a sense of anticipation and euphoria at a new product launch, and how a shared world of technology that was common between everyone created a sort of tribe that celebrated the “god” and worshipped together. I believe that is because in today’s world, two fundamental beliefs form the basis of our world-view and lifestyle: first is that there is no continuity to our existence beyond birth and death.  We are born, we die, and that’s it. The second one, which actually in some ways follows from the first, is that only what is experienced through the senses is important and real. Everything else is either overrated, or unimportant, or at least dispensable.

These two fundamental beliefs give rise to the next set of beliefs, some of which are: a human being starts his/her life as a blank slate, and must achieve or become something to make their life a success; a successful life is one in which there are signs of material prosperity and a relatively large ability to possess material things; the aim of life is to make it successful in this manner; problems in life must be resolved through application of the mind; any course of action of decision taken in life can be evaluated through its impact on one’s ability to possess material things; every right/good thing, person, or decision can, must, and should be measured in material terms; failure is a decrease in the ability to possess material things; all available time must be utilized; and so on.

This structure of beliefs then gives rise to a value system, in which we categorize things, situations, decisions, and people as right/wrong, good/bad, etc. which then becomes the basis of our decision-making in everyday life. Examples of thoughts that form this value system are: the creation and consumption of material things is a great way to fill the time available in life; increase in the ability to acquire material things is good and decrease is bad, unless it can later help take a decision that leads to an increase; the best way to solve problems in life is to use the mind’s logical and analytical abilities; anything not perceived by the senses is most likely a hoax or hallucination and therefore not to be trusted; success is good and failure is bad; time spent not working to increase one’s ability to acquire material things is time wasted; and so on.

Living in a world where the belief and value system described above is commonly shared, it is natural that things become our saviours from the uncertainties of life, and anyone who creates great things becomes a hero or god, which is where Apple and Steve Jobs (and a host of others) currently are in popular mindset. And while it is true that things have resolved problems humans have faced for survival on the physical plane, I believe we’ve taken the fascination with things too far at this point because anything that’s not a thing isn’t important anymore. In today’s world for an artist to matter, their art must sell; for a sportsperson to matter, they must win; for a worker to matter, they must bring the greatest profits to their employer; for a parent to matter, they must leave the greatest inheritance for their child; for a partner to matter, they must bring the ability to earn money to the relationship; for a forest to matter, it must be attractive to tourists; for a tree to matter, it must provide wood or fruit or leaves or pulp or sap which can be sold; for an animal to matter, it must be eatable, or have the ability to be a pet, or an attraction in a circus, zoo, or a wildlife sanctuary; for the rain to matter, it must increase the yield  of our farms; for the air to matter, it must provide ventilation in our homes and offices and electricity in our windmills; and for the planet to matter, it must fulfil the unending and ever-increasing greed of its human inhabitants.

Because greed is so common today and percolates and suffuses the entire mental, emotional, and social experience of human existence, it has become indistinguishable from human life. In today’s world, to be human is to be greedy. To be a good human is to be greedy with a little bit of conscience. In today’s philosophy, greed is good and is our saviour. Greed is the definition of modern and the new model of idealness.

However, the negative impact of greed is all around us. Increase in crime, breakdown of relationships, pollution of the planet, ecological disasters like floods and famines, increase in stress and obesity-linked health problems, and poverty are all related to the increase in greed. Ralph Waldo Emerson had once said “Things are in the saddle, and riding mankind”. His prediction has direly come true and is evident in front of us. The solution to the world’s problems lie not in complex technological solutions, but a simple change of human emotional orientation – away from greed and towards compassion as the model of life.

India Needs More Anna Hazares to Control Corruption


By Pinaki Pratihar

‘62% Indians had first-hand practice of paying bribes ’

I saw the figure for the first time during Anna Hazare’s anti corruption movement. The Indian youth and the corporates had made an effective online campaign for the world’s most successful event of recent times. Huge number of people, who were active online and offline, raised their voice. Yes! It was a too much of an incident for the ‘world’s largest democratic country’.

We did it!

Mass active people, less important political impacts!

India did it! ……

A large number of Indians were a part of the campaign, and it was unfortunately delayed; nevertheless, it turned out to be an inspiring event for India.

Corruption probably has always been a part of the human society (as a whole) and has definitely been nurtured many a times over by corrupt people in history. We were conscious about the facts and the bad impact of corruption. May be the repetition of same crime again and again in the timeline of our country, forced us to believe that just like poverty and illiteracy corruption is also a part of our social life. An Indian grows up experiencing a corrupt traffic police at a check-point, and visiting only doctor who practice privately since the government medical professionals would be too lackadaisical!

All of us know the dealer of ration, sells one third of the allotted grains to a local shop, and the shopkeeper who purchases and resells it.

It has been discussed and concluded that awareness should be in everyone across the country against corruption. FMCG companies are proved successful to reach any rural part of An estimated 18-20% among villagers (Where 55% people use at least one HUL product regularly) knows about Anna and 10% can initiate a discussion about Anna Hazare and ‘the anti-corruption movement’.  This campaign was unable to reach them by TV-News channels, Reality shows, and Internet media. Word of Mouth! This traditional and most effective medium also unable to reach these villagers! How this issue can be solved by this type of poor reach? So, don’t think, these media are the only way to reach rural India. Maximum young people in India don’t mind to get corrupted or to bribe someone at a small level. How such a large nation can control corruption?

Few Ways I’d like to focus on,

Two-front model: There will be only two political parties, Like USA. It will always reduce the political corruption level. When there is a third party, the society normally gets corrupted.

Constitutional modification: So the constitution should be modified in a way. May be it is changing day by day, or we are changing the interpretation. But the process should be fast, we Indians are adopted with our frequently changing buying behavior. We had adjusted with changes of petrol price. We can adjust with few political changes. Politics! It can reach you easily!

Whistle Blower: Provide us an effective set of channels to blow the whistle on time. Online is not the solution.

Law should be changed! Protesters will be encouraged, when they can feel Govt. is taking prompt action regarding their demand!

Media: I can remember a line of my childhood. I read on a wall of our Panchayet office, “Dadu-nati bhai bhai/ Eksathe pathsala jai” (Enjoying school days with my grandson), a symbol of an old Govt. initiative ‘mission literacy’. The line was successfully placed and reached the root of our society. If postman can reach these people, if HUL can do it, Media definitely can. Govt. should be open to face the music of mass. Theatres and local movies, please shout in the name of a corruption free India.

I feel ashamed, when I find many rural people least bothered about the country, in fact, they don’t have a clear idea, about the map of India. Gram-Panchayat , Govt. Servants and political parties are their Government. What more you expect from just one Anna?

India needs more Anna Hazare, just to educate people about corruption, in a proper way.

The only and only way to stop this corruption today is to de-root the issue by psychological, mental & spiritual growth of people. Make the life meaningful for them as there is no such corruption measures and solution for this problem.

Another day will come, when a new group of people will claim for justice against some old social and constitutional drawbacks. Today’s school goers are affected internally by this Anna Hazare movement as they have seen the naked facts of corruption. They will come-up with a strong base like us. Next movement will be a bigger success. This is the only way to get recovered from such traditional negative practices. The more we will know, the more we can control corruption.

सड़ा हुवा अनाज, सड़ी ही प्रणाली है!


By Satish Tehlan

मेरा चिराग-ए-घर गया लील।
तुम्हारा घटिया मिड डे  मील ।।

घटिया मिड डे मील, वो भूखे ही अच्छे थे ।
नहीं सालता घाव, हमारे भी बच्चे थे ।।

सड़ा हुवा अनाज, सड़ी ही प्रणाली है।
मासूमों के हाथों में, चम्मच थाली है।।

चाहते हो क्या, थमा हाथ में उनके कटोरा ।
उनको भिक्षु बना रहा, जिनका मन है कोरा।।

‘For The People, Of The People, Lets Buy The People’ – Part II

indian school image


By Ankush Kumar

My editor played spoilsport last time around. Now I know why writers and editors do not share great chemistry. Because both varieties work on different experiments and both hate each other.

Anyways last time I worked hard to generate humor on the article ‘for the people, of the people, lets buy the people’ but my editor it seemed was in a quandary over its content. On one hand he supports Arvind Kejriwal and hopes for a change on the other hand he gags his writers by deleting content and changing the wholesome entertainment value of the post.

The problem is that he knows I will write only for him hence has a habit of taking liberties anyways I am taking forward the last post by highlighting achievements of the Congress party in the education sector.

A) The last time I visited a middle school in North India, the teacher and staff sat idle in their offices waiting for their salary, long overdue for an year, the students waited for their masters to teach. Since none bothered to care, only the mid-day appeared and disappeared day in and day out but the meals were missing. The only day I saw 110 percent capacity in the premises was when the children were given money to buy uniforms. Even those who had never bothered to see the school building (by the way that existed only on paper) had come for their share. That evening I was offered a feast, but seeing the apathy it was a tough pill to swallow.

(B) A certain pharmaceutical company paid almost a crore to the government and ensured that each state was sent a letter highlighting how disturbing malnutrition has become in our country. Celebrities have now been roped in to highlight the issue. This company wants to eradicate the problem by selling their food supplements. If anything they will manage to do it will be create customers not cures. Putting a child on a chemically manufactured diet is a potential scam in the making. If the government can ensure supplies of nutritious meals at the micro levels, all this nonsense will never be needed. But since our ministers have their children’s abroad education expenses to cover, the poor are becoming the scapegoats.

C) On one hand we have private urban schools turning to smart classes as the new way of learning, our schools at the village level still don’t have enough chalk and blackboards to last a year. Some children still manage to shine through, but the percentage is terribly low. When we have governments in states that try doing innovative things to promote education, we have our leaders at the center doing buffoonery as opposition. Nitish Kumar gave cycles to girls; Lalu had the brains to offer bikes. How we wish our leaders had some sanity left in them.

D) The Congress has been brilliant in shrinking our education systems to an all time
low. The guilt of Rahul baba failing in his education (he really dint need that) has propelled our central leaders to ensure that the masses are a few notches lower than their charming prince. Otherwise fooling the nation time and again will become a tough exercise.

P.S: You chop and change this one Mr. Scissors, I’ll stone you.



The Stoning of Soraya M: A Potent Tale


By Kushal Sakunia

Based on an incredible true story of horrific injustice, The Stoning of Soraya M. is the powerful tale of an entire village’s persecution of an innocent woman. Originally described in 1990 in a book by a French-Iranian journalist named Freidoune Sahejam, the film tells the story of Soraya Manutchehri, a 35-year-old woman, who was stoned to death in rural Iran in 1986.

James Caviezel plays Freidoune, an Iranian expatriate visiting Iran on assignment when he meets Soraya’s aunt, Zahra (played with strong intensity by famous Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo), who convinces him to visit her to listen to her story.

Soraya (Shohreh Aghdashloo) has two boys and two younger girls and is financially trapped in a marriage to her prison guard husband Ali (Navid Negahban). Ali wants a divorce so he can marry a 14 tempting pre-teen girl, but does not want to commit to the financial support of Soraya and their daughters.

Fearing disgrace and unable to support her daughters, Soraya refuses to divorce Ali. So he devises an alternate plan: accuse Soraya of adultery. He blackmails the local Ayatollah (a former hatchet-man for the Shah) into helping him. Soraya’s uneducated employer Hashem is easily threatened into testifying that she had “slept in his bed,” and the fair but weak mayor of the village goes along with the accusations and convicts Soraya of adultery.  Given the title of the film, we all know exactly what is going to happen and my heart was in my throat anticipating that ending.  The film’s strategy is to slowly draw out the horrifying details: the gathering of the stones; her burial standing and of course the chilling bloodlust of the mob.

As a condemnation of violence against women, The Stoning of Soraya M. is quite effective. The message of the film is extremely clear throughout: that abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, and that even the most kindly disposed person can be swayed by mob mentality. The film will certainly bring tears especially when you see the terror of stoning in Soraya’s eyes and the scene where Ali forces Soraya’s two sons to abjure her and throw stones.

Stoning is a terrible, unjust practice, and it is often used against women even when the women in question have done nothing deserving of punishment. The film is definitely not an easy to watch with its uncomfortable scenes of stoning, but it tells a story that needs to be told, and tells it well.  

stoning of soraya review

Meet Shyam, The 11-Year-Old Snake Charmer

Shyam-11 year old snake charmer

This is the story of Shyam, whom this author met at a restaurant at the Delhi-Agra highway. He had a tale to be told so here it is.

How many of us have come back home after a bad day at office and thrown things around because of a bad meeting, bad boss, poor traffic, a stuck deal etc. While doing all this, little do we realise, that in a country where a third of the population lives upon what Montek Singh Ahluwalia calls enough income (Rs 30 per day), we are blessed to actually be on that road with a car, in that office with an AC and a computer, in a job with a 6 figure salary. Look around you and there are numerous without even basic amenities of food, clothing and shelter. This is one such story.

Meet Shyam, an 11-year-old, snake charmer from Kosi. For my western friends am sure being 11-year-old and being a snake charmer might sound a little unbelievable but in this country which is often presented in marketing meetings as the biggest market in Emerging countries, there are villages where 2-year-kids start training on learning to charm snakes as without any formal education and support, this is the only career they entitle themselves to.

I happened to jump onto this young lad when I was stepping out of a restaurant at the Delhi-Jaipur old highway. As usual after having splurged Rs 500 on a unnecessary lunch alongside my wife, I was headed towards my car for an afternoon siesta as my Driver would drive me back to Delhi. Suddenly I heard the sweetest “Bye Bye” I had ever heard. Just outside I saw Shyam with his friend, a snake.

As Shyam saw me interested, he lifted his snake and moved towards me with enthusiasm you only associate with someone who loves his job. At 11 years of age am not sure whether he really loved his job or whether he was trained so well. As he came towards me, I could not stop but wait to talk to him and here I am, narrating his story to all of you.

Shyam is all but 11-years of age. Studies and after his school helps his family by sitting outside the restaurant alongside his snake. I could not refrain myself from asking a foolish question. Whether he was scared of the snake or not. His reply was obvious “He is like my friend, I know it since a long time now and it never bites me”.

Shyam has a father who often drinks and beats up his mother, a mother who is often ill and two sisters who are 2 years and four years elder to him respectively. He says that they will get the older one married soon (I did not ask him whether he was known to the fact that getting a girl below the age of 18, married, entitles legal action).

So what does Shyam wants to become when he grows old. He wants to become an engineer and wants to study in the prestigious IIT. Believe me the kid knew this and also wanted to touch the tab I was carrying in my hands. I gave him that opportunity and he thanked me with all glitter that he could generate in those small eyes. I continued to talk to him as he fondled with my machine. I was a little scared about it but then Shyam was one kid who knew how to handle machines, he gave that feeling at least.

So how do you study I asked at home? “Oh that is not a problem at all, we have a light just outside our house which works almost all the time, that is where I study”. Remember the stories our mom’s used to say of IAS officers having become what they are studying under the streetlights. Why go far, don’t we remember the kind of struggles APJ Abdul Kalam undergo while he was studying to become India’s best weapons scientist.

So what kind of problems do you face I asked and what are you scared of. “My father beats me when I get home with less money.” It is here that I felt a pain pang in my heart. Such a sweet kid, wants to study, helps the family at a tender age when kids his age would be playing in the sun and still gets beaten up, I thought. How many times does he beat? Almost daily he said.

Leaving the beating aside our Shyam was happy with everything life has bestowed on him. He was happy to be sitting outside the restaurant with a wild snake while people eat in air-conditioned restaurant inside. But yes he has big dreams, he has dreams of gifting his mother a restaurant like this because he says that his mom cooks awesome food and he would like everyone to eat what she makes.

Moral of the real-life story is simple. Life outside is as tough as anything can get. Only the toughest can and will survive but the one’s that will be remembered would be the ones who survived it with a smile. I will thus definitely for all my life remember Shyam, the 11-year-old snake charmer.

It was time to say good bye and again the thank you that he said when I gifted him packets of chocolate, biscuit and money was the biggest gratification I could have received for anything I had done till date. Shyam, I would again meet you and pray that you step up the gas further and become India’s biggest and bestest engineer ever.

सब खवाब हुए धूमिल…..


पैदा हुवा मै जिस दिन, माँ-बाप मुस्कुराये I

थी तंग घर की हालत, लड्डू ना बाँट पाये I I

बस आस उम्मीदों में, बचपन भी मेरा बीता I

हर हसरत रही अधूरी, लगता रहा पलीता I I

ना शिक्षा मिली ढंग की, ना काम ढंग का पाया I

संघर्षों ने जर्जर, कर डाली मेरी काया I I

शादी भी मैंने कर ली, पैदा किये दो बच्चे I

हालात अपने फिर भी, हो पाए नहीं अच्छे I I

महीने से हफ्ता पहले, घर में ना टिकता राशन I

तब खाने को मिलता है बीवी का केवल भाषण I I

पीता हूँ ख़ूनी आंसू , है ह्रदय मेरा ज़ख्मी I

जीवन में सदा मुझसे, रूठी रही है, लक्ष्मी I I

सब खवाब हुए धूमिल, अरमान सारे टूटे I

है आखिरी तमन्ना, ये प्राण तन से छूटे I I

हे ईश!  मेरे मुझको, बस इतना डर सताता I

जिस राह से मै गुजरा, बच्चों का ना हो नाता I I


Conceptualizing Urban Poverty: A Case Study


Malathy Madathilezham has conducted a tour among communities of the urban poor. Here is a case study on urban poverty – the health, housing and livelihood problems of the urban poor.

The Moragaon community, located in Juhu, which initially developed as a community largely dependent on fishing and fishing related activities for their livelihood has grown both in number and diversity. There are about 400 households currently in this community which comprises of the Kolis and migrants, including Christian migrants. This has resulted in conflict within the community, more so because of the increased land value and also increased commercial interest on this particular stretch. During the visits to Moragaon for an assignment, I was able to build up a rapport with a Koli family which gave me certain insights on urban poverty.

The first time I had the opportunity to interact with them was during the initial visit to conduct a pilot survey of the community. The family was generally friendly and open about answering all my questions. The living conditions were not as dismal as many others in the same place, but their ‘home’ consisted of a single room of about 120 sq. ft. which had all of their belongings neatly arranged in it.The structure was made of brick and the roof was of tin. They told me that they had renovated the earlier structure about ten years back and after that could not afford any further modifications. This is where they slept, cooked and washed. The lane outside was barely a metre and half, covered.

While dealing with the urban poor, housing is one of the major concerns. With the increased urbanization, there is increased cost of housing in terms of land, construction etc. Thus the poor are left with no options but to convert unused, unsafe kind of land to meet the need of shelter.

The responsibility of managing the household falls on the shoulders of Laxmi Mangelga[1]. She used to sell fish till last year when she had to stop because of chronic health problems. She did not disclose the exact problem. In spite of this, she now works as a domestic help in the residential complex nearby and earns about Rs 3000-4000 per month. The husband, Asok Mangela, works in a boat and draws a salary of Rs 3,500. I asked him about what he did during the off-season time, he said there is nothing to do during those times and he prefers to rest. There may be some maintenance work which crops up which he undertakes. So basically during those two three months, Laxmi is the sole earning member.

Here it can be seen that health and livelihood are the other main concerns of the urban poor who are mostly engaged in informal work which denies them the benefits of formal work such as insurance. In addition in this family, the burden of income falls on the woman which makes this family even more vulnerable to the traps of poverty.


Laxmi said that she had to collect water from the common tap some distance away as they could neither afford a common nor a single connection as normally done in the community. She said that she was recently only able to get a valid gas connection for cooking. They did have a direct electricity connection, but complained about high bills in spite of using only one CFL lamp and a fan. They had to use the public toilet that was built for the community which neither had direct water connection nor electricity. She also complained that the toilets were poorly maintained.

Services to urban poor residing in such ‘slums’ or ‘gaothans’ are given the least priority by the authorities concerned. One of the reasons that is often given by officials is the non payment of user charges. With the advent of neo liberal policies, the thrust is towards reducing expenses and increasing revenue.Thus most of the common taps in Mumbai are becoming dysfunctional and there is a rise of water mafias in most of such settlements. This actually means that the urban poor have to pay more than they would have for government services. In addition even the amount of water that the urban poor have access to is much less than the required per capital consumption and they also lack the space to store water in case of shortages.

Whenever I have gone to their house I have found Asok in a semi-inebriated condition and Laxmi in charge of the situation even though she looked resigned and exhausted. They have three children; 2 daughters, Devi and Bhanumati and Hiren who is about 4.  Devi is the eldest one, 12 years old and Bhanumati is 9 years old. Laxmi told that even though both of them were illiterate they want their children to study. She added sadly told me that they were sending both of them to an English medium school nearby till last year but because of her health problem and financial constraints, they had to put them in the municipal school. She said that hopefully by next year they would be able to put them back into the English medium school. Hiren is to join school next year. I asked her whether she would want her daughters to work when they grew up. She said that is the reason that she wanted her daughters to get a good education so that they could get a stable job and marry good men who would be responsible and also have a stable job. She also wanted her son to study and get a stable government job. When I got an opportunity to talk to the children, I asked them about what they wanted to do when they grew up. Devi, who seemed to be wise beyond her years, said that she wanted to be teacher while Bhanumati said that she wanted to be an athlete. Hiren, like most boys his age, wanted to become a bus driver.


Laxmi had a bank account in her name and tried to save at least Rs 500 per month. Talking about their monthly expenditure, Laxmi said that they were rarely able to save anything nowadays because major part of the income was spent on food and her medicines. According to her, they spent about Rs 4,000 per month on food. She said it was very difficult with three growing children in the house to compromise on food. In addition they spent about 2000 per month on the girls’ education. As she enumerated their expenses I realized that they actually exceeded the amount they had quoted as their income.

When I asked Asok if he is happy with his current situation he said that he is happy because he has a roof above his head and this is the best they can achieve with the given constraints. But Laxmi said that though there is a limit on how much they can improve their current condition, she would want her daughters to have a better life. She was ready to take on extra hardship for that.

It can be seen that the family has high aspirations and wants to come out of the exisitng situation. They very well understand the importance of nutrition, savings and education in this. This actually is against the concept of the ‘culture of poverty’ which in a way blames the poor themselves for their dismal conditions. One of the problems they face is that of alcoholism in men which pushes back their ability to cope up and increase their incomes. This could also lead to additional expenses in the future due to potential health risks.

Laxmi was more actively involved in the community association than her husband and once the interview had to be cut short since a man from the association had called her to be present in a meeting. I asked about this and she said that in times of need she could always fall back on the community. Thus she wanted to maintain a good relationship with the community and take part actively for the good of the community

Conceptualization of Poverty 

While interviewing Laxmi Mangela and her family, there are various perspectives of poverty which can be understood. In terms of the official definition of poverty the family is definitely above the poverty line in terms of income.  But let us try to apply the nine point index of urban poverty that Kudumbashree has used in identifying those vulnerable to poverty.A family is treated as a ‘risk family’ if it satisfies at least four out of the nine point.

Conditions                                                               Are the conditions are met?

1        No Land /Less than 5 cents of Land                                                  Yes

2        No house/Dilapidated House                                                  No

3        No sanitary latrines.                                                                            No

4        No access to safe drinking water within 150 metres                          Yes

5        Women headed household/ Presence of a widow/ divorcee  No

/ abandoned lady / unwed mother

6        No regularly employed person in the family                           No

7        Socially disadvantaged groups : SC/ST                                              Yes

8        Presence of Mentally or physically challenged person /                     Yes

Chronically ill member in the family

9        Families without colour TV                                                                Yes

Based on this framework, this family can be categorized to be in the risk family category. But analyzing their situation we can realize how even this seemingly broad framework ignores aspects of alcoholism, education, variations in income, occupational risk etc.

According to me, due to Asok’s alcoholism, for all purposes, Laxmi was the head of the household. All the responsibilities were on her shoulder.  It was she who had to ensure that she could take care of the current needs and also save for future requirements. In this case she contradicts the general thinking that the poor live a day to day existence and do not plan for the future. The condition was such that in spite of her recurrent and chronic illness she was forced to work to provide for her family. This shows the vulnerability of the family to poverty. The health risk that Laxmi is taking for the good of her family could have a backlash in case she falls so sick that she is not able to work. This would put the family in a dire situation.

In terms of access to amenities, they do have access but it is questionable in terms of the price they have to pay and the quality of these amenities. It is a drain on their limited resources or requires an added effort to obtain (eg : water).

The aspirations part is also interesting to note. There is a resignation and realization that she may not be able to achieve a better standard of living but at the same time she wants her children to live a better life. There is understanding about the importance of education in providing a solution to their current condition. They do not want their children to follow the same livelihood that they are forced to choose because of various constraints. It can be said that they want to prepare their next generation for a better future.


By understanding the situation of poverty in the case of Laxmi Mangela, it can be seen that there are many dimensions to poverty which needs to be examined. This can help not only to understand the problem of poverty but also to tackle the manifestations of poverty.

[1] Names have been changed