Monday, November 11, 2013

Demographic Dividend or Population Problem - Impact of Individual Decisions on the country's GDP

The second thing I spoke about was Per capita income aka an ability to make enough money to make ends meet.

Every time we talk about poverty, we talk about the failure of poverty alleviation problems. But the question we also need to ask is:
Why do we need poverty alleviation programs?

It is the state's job to provide administration. Perhaps, in a welfare state, also to provide health care.

But why is the government's job to ensure that you are not a poor person? Where is the individual's responsibility?

Lets ask a question: What makes a poor person a poor person?
There are no easy answers. The favorite answers are destiny and lack of opportunity because of social bias.

But lets try to understand a story. This is the story of Manglu, a poor child from remote any-part-of-india who comes to a big city, works as a rag picker, makes a very little money, lives in barely habitable conditions. Then, Manglu gets married and has children. And more children. Because more hands to work means more money. He forgets that part of the equation which says that more children also mean more mouths to feed. Now, he has 5 mouths to feed, and maybe 4 earning members in the family, but only 1 adult earning member, since the mother has to take care of the 3 children. Even if she is employed, she is under employed. and the children make very little money, even if all 3 are put to work. In addition, there is malnutrition and frequent illness.

Contrast that with another story. This is of Pappu. Same background as Manglu. Comes to city, works as rag picker, gets married. Except, that he has only one child, and is determined to send this child to school. Now, Pappu has 2 earning members and 3 mouths to feed. And a school going child whose earning potential is way above the combined earning potential of his parents if he continues in school.

The government did not give birth to Manglu's children. Nor is it responsible for his flawed thinking. The government cannot be blamed for lack of common sense. The government is not responsible for parents who push their children into child labour. Nay, people who bring children into the world with the specific intention that they will work as soon as they can walk, or latest by the age of 5.

What the government is responsible for, however, is punishing people who are responsible for child labour - even if it is the parents themselves.

In appeasing the adults who are potential voters, the government has failed the children by not protecting them from abuse meted out by parents.

Poverty Alleviation programs are an anomaly.

It is also unfortunate for India that instead of harping on the failure of povery alleviation programs, we do not ask questions on the continued need for these programs. If they were effective cures for poverty, surely 60 years is long enough to wait. And at the end of 60 years, poverty is unmoved. Maybe we are applying the wrong combination of medicine? Perhaps it is time we made people responsible for their financial state, at least in part?

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