Of course, that sort of information, concerning unreliable infrastructure, does not help
Mother India's image as an emerging economic power house....Check out this article:
India: Economic power house or poor house?
India’s economic miracle is a perfect example of how appearances can be deceiving.
The dominant narrative on the country goes like this: as the fourth largest economy in the world, with a steady annual growth rate of close to 9 per cent, India is a rising economic superstar. Bangalore is the new Silicon Valley. Magazines such as Forbes and Vogue have launched Indian editions. The Mumbai skyline is decorated with posh hotels and international banks.
There are numbers to back up this narrative. The average Indian takes home $1,017 (U.S.) a year. Not much, but that’s nearly double the average five years ago and triple the annual income at independence, in 1947. The business and technology sector has grown tenfold in the past decade. Manufacturing and agriculture are expanding, and trade levels are way up.
India is also on the up and up in terms of human well-being. Life expectancy and literacy are steadily rising, while child mortality continues to decline. The poverty rate is down to 42 per cent from 60 per cent in 1981. While 42 per cent still leaves a long way to go, India’s situation seems rosy compared with that of, say, Malawi and Tanzania, which have poverty rates of 74 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively.
If we examine these statistics in real numbers, however, a different narrative emerges, one the Indian government likes less.
With a population as big as India’s, 42 per cent means there are some 475 million Indians living on less than $1.25 per day. That’s 10 times as many facing dire poverty as Malawi and Tanzania combined.
It means India is home to more poor people than any other country in the world.
To put it another way, one of every three people in the world living without basic necessities is an Indian national.
The real number is probably even larger. The recently launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a more comprehensive measure of deprivation than the current “poverty line” of $1.25 per day, uses 10 markers of well-being, including education, health and standard of living. The MPI, developed by the Poverty & Human Development Initiative at Oxford University, puts the Indian poverty rate at 55 per cent. That’s 645 million people — double the population of the United States and nearly 20 times the population of Canada.
By this measure, India’s eight poorest states have more people living in poverty than Africa’s 26 poorest nations.
A 10-year-old living in the slums of Calcutta, raising her 5-year-old brother on garbage and scraps, and dealing with tapeworms and the threat of cholera, suffers neither more nor less than a 10-year-old living in the same conditions in the slums of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. But because the Indian girl lives in an “emerging economy,” slated to battle it out with China for the position of global economic superpower, and her counterpart in Lilongwe lives in a country with few resources and a bleak future, the Indian child's predicament is perceived with relatively less urgency.
One is “poor” while the other represents a “declining poverty rate.”
What’s more, in India there are huge discrepancies in poverty from one state to the next. Madhya Pradesh, for example, is comparable in population and incidence of poverty to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. But the misery of the DRC is much better known than the misery of Madhya Pradesh, because sub-national regions do not appear on “poorest country” lists. If Madhya Pradesh were to seek independence from India, its dire situation would become more visible immediately.
As India demonstrates, having the largest number of poor people is not the same as being the poorest country. That’s unfortunate, because being the poorest country has advantages. In the same way a tsunami or earthquake garners an intense outpouring of aid and support, being labelled “worst off” or “most poor” tends to draw a bigger share of international attention — and dollars.
When Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971, it was the poorest country in the world, so poor most economists were skeptical it would ever succeed on its own. But being labelled “dead last” worked in its favour: billions of dollars in aid money flooded in, and NGO and charity groups arrived in droves. The dominant narrative of Bangladesh at the time was of a war-ravaged, cyclone-battered and fledgling country on the brink of famine. That seemed to help rally the troops.
No doubt India’s government wants the world to perceive the nation in terms of its potential and not its shortcomings. But because it’s home to 1.1 billion people, India is more able than most to conceal the bad news behind the good, making its impressive growth rates the lead story rather than the fact that it is home to more of the world’s poor than any other country.
Still, at least part of the blame should be placed on the way poverty is presented on the international stage. If the unit of deprivation is a human being, then the prevalence of poverty should be presented in numbers of lives. If we know precisely how many billionaires India has — 49 in 2010, double last year’s number — than we should also know precisely how many people live without basic necessities.
Mary Albino has lived and worked in India and writes on economic issues.
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