Vantage point

Friday, January 28, 2005

Hate Poverty, not the Poor

A cheesy Hindi movie Ishq, had a dialogue that went - Yeh hai Seth Harbanslal. Log kehte hain gareebi hatao, inka kehna hai gareebo ko hatao".

Blame it on the widespread poverty in the country, but I feel most Indians tend to hate the poor people than the concept of poverty. The way in which we treat the poor people on the streets is appalling. The ad hoc manner in which the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai administration are destroying slums is an excellent example of this.

There seems to be absolutely no planning, no thought about what is to happen to the poor people living in those slums. They left their hometowns or villages and came to Mumbai to earn a livelihood, so you can't expect them to just pack up and go back. Their needs to be some roadmap for resettlement, some answers to the questions about their lives.

The root lies in poverty. And the answer lies in liberalisation. WQe all think the license-permit-quota raj has been abolished, but it has been abolished only for big businesses. The tiny-service-sector still reels under it. Even today, a person wanting to drive a rickshaw, or to run a tea shop, suffers the same horrors of the license-permit-quota raj.

Leftist politicians and intellectuals will feed the poor nonsense saying that liberalisation has impoverished them even further. But the reality is that greater liberalisation will free the poor from socialist shackles, the way the reforms of 1991 freed the middle class and the upper class.