startling statistics

A report based on government data for the period 1994 - 2004 reveals the startling fact that over 800 million people or 75% of India's population lives on a per capita income of less than 2o rs a day. The report goes on to say that a person whose consumption is less than rs 9, is below the poverty line, whereas Rs 13 makes him above that line.

The report is startling and even if it not 100% correct, it still raises many questions that need to be asked. We have heard of India shining, India poised, India on the threshold of becoming a super power and yet if we peruse the statistics of this report we see that India shines only for under 30% of its population.

In recent days I have heard some other startling figures that are also a reality: a 4 bedroom flat rented at 500 000 rs a month, a bottle of vintage champagne sold at rs 50 000 a piece in an upmarket eatery which is the actual mecca for the young rich of our capital and where a few such bottles are sold every night, and even a never to be advertised gourmet menu in a luxury hotel at a mind boggling price. You just have to flip the pages of any women's magazine to see shoes and bags at 50 000 or more, and cosmetics that would burn a hole in your pocket, not to mention the cryptic price on request appended to many a luxury items.

The new, or rather suddenly rediscovered urban laws that are being applied with new found vigour will result in swelling the quoted 70% as most of these hit the livelihood of the poor: street food, small shops etc. Slum relocation undertaken without viable options and with the aim to make our capital city fit for consumption for the forthcoming sports show will have a similar effect.

The writing is on the wall but no one is willing to look at it. No self respecting nation, let alone a democracy, can arrogate itself the right to be called shining if more than 50% of its population barely eeks out a living. As I have often held there are two Indias: one that maybe shines and another that lives in ever increasing darkness.