The Indian media has been giving plenty of coverage to the recently released Forbes list of billionaires which has placed four Indians in the global top ten while India has 36 dollar billionaires. They have been describing it as a “coveted list”. I simply do not understand what is so coveted about a list that makes me uncomfortable, not because I hate or dislike billionaires but because I prefer to look at the reality.
A majority of people are barely able to eke out a living . . .
. . . things are improving for a sizeable minority . . .
(Computer generated image of a planned apartment building)
. . . while a microscopic handful lead ostentatious lives right in their midst . . .
The fact remains that in a country of more than 1.1 billion people, only a very few have benefitted enormously by India’s growth over the past decade-and-a-half. While some of the benefits have trickled down to the upper middle class and fewer to the middle class, the fact remains that life in India is a struggle for the vast majority of people including the lower middle class. The plight of the poor is terrible and that of the destitute is simply mind-numbing.
A reality check
Here are a few facts that Indians and Indophiles should be seriously worried about:
- Take a look at this map from wikipedia. India is a low-income country. The fact is that despite the growing wealth of a tiny number of billionaires, India is still classified as an underdeveloped nation along with countries such as North Korea, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- India’s rank in the human development index actually slipped by two places to 128th in the list. India is actually ranked below Equatorial Guinea at 127, Gabon at 119, Mongolia at 114, Indonesia at 107, the Palestinian authority at 116, El Salvador at 103, the South Asian countries of Maldives at 100 and Sri Lanka at 99, Paraguay at 95, Ecuador at 89, the People’s Republic of China(PRC) at 81, Venezuela at 74, Brazil at 70, Russia at 67, Libya at 56, Cuba at 51 and Barbados at 31. What is worse is India’s position is slipping while that of others is improving. India is nowhere near the first world countries or even the second world countries.
- India is ranked 145th in the world in terms of life expectancy. This is below Tuvalu at 144, Peru at 136, Iran at 130, Nicaragua at 126, North Korea at 117, the Gaza Strip at 115, Colombia at 113, the PRC at 103, Suriname at 96, the West Bank at 94, Sri Lanka at 84, Dominica at 78, Paraguay at 73, Libya at 58 and Cuba at 56. The European Union is ranked at number 36.
- India is not exactly a good place to be born in. The infant mortality rate is shockingly high in India. In the negative ranking infant mortality list, India is ranked at 53. This is below Nepal at 55, Bangladesh at 58, Laos at 59, North Korea at 62, Botswana at 63, Bhutan at 65, Western Sahara at 67, Maldives at 72, Guatemala at 79, Honduras at 84, Indonesia at 87, Brazil at 90, China at 93, Ecuador at 100, Vietnam at 103, Colombia at 106, the Palestinian Authority at 111, Russia at 115, Sri Lanka at 137, Guam at 143, Guadeloupe at 157, Cuba at 168. Switzerland is ranked at number 187.
- India is not a great place for women either. The sex ratio is extremely skewed in India due to female foeticide and to a lesser extent female infanticide. Have a look at this map in which red represents danger for women. India values its women only as much as countries like China, Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Women in India are valued even less than their sisters in Pakistan and Bangladesh. I wonder if Indians should be proud of this. I am terribly ashamed of it, even though I am a male.
- India lags behind even the rest of the developing world in terms of literacy rate. Only 61% of the population in India is literate. And more women lack literacy skills than men in India. India is ranked at 152, below Malawi at 151, Uganda at 149, Congo at 148, Cameroon at 146, Nigeria at 142, Madagascar at 139, Kenya and Cambodia at 136, Lesotho at 122, Iran at 120, Gabon at 118, Equatorial Guinea at 108, Zimbabwe at 98, Myanmar at 96, Sri Lanka at 93, China at 92, Philippines at 83, Mongolia at 62, Kryzystan at 55 and Tonga at 52. India is nowhere near the almost totally literate countries like Uzbekistan, the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Guyana, Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Eritrea, Comoros, Australia, Austria and others at 15. The top 14 literate countries in the world are Georgia, Iceland, Cuba, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova in that order. Except Iceland and Cuba, the rest were a part of the former USSR.
- India lags behind much of the world in terms of the percentage of population with access to the internet. This should be a bit surprising since India is getting recognised for her IT prowess but it not surprising in the least to someone who is aware of the poverty problem in India. Take a look at this map for further details.
- The poverty figures in India should shock anyone! 80.4% of India’s population lives below the international poverty line of two dollars a day! Why should we take the international poverty line? Simple! Since India’s billionaires are now measured by the international wealth list, India’s poor should also be measured by the international poverty line! Is that not fair? Why should we apply double standards while measuring the wealth of citizens within a country?
So India is a land of 36 billionaires and 884,400,000 (884.4 million/88.44 crore) poor people! What kind of growth is that? Which coefficient can measure such disparity? Why do we fool ourselves into thinking that India is an “emerging superpower”? Reality bites and bites hard!
Fellow citizens and Indophiles, we need to be aware of facts and should not believe what the Indian mainstream media dishes out to us.
I do not have any ideology to promote and I do not believe in any kind of ideology either. This post is just a small attempt to measure the disparity in my beloved country.