information and stories about India.

Scam Call Centers in India
India has one of the most sophisticated and developed call center industries, so much so that many other countries outsource their jobs to India. However, scam call centers exist in India, which is an illegal underground part of this industry. While these centers are not a new concept, they had become increasingly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in India. A Microsoft 2021 survey found that India is perceived “as the hub of [scam] call center talent being put to criminal use,” defrauding many countries such as the United States, Canada and even the people within India itself.

This particular survey, comprising 16 countries and 16,254 adult internet users, concluded that seven out of 10 people from India “encountered tech support scams in the past year.” With the prevalence of scam calls in India rising from 23% in 2018 to 31% in 2021, police raids in the nation aim to combat scam call centers in India. The Indian Ministry of Labour and Employment is also taking the initiative to improve job outcomes for youth, indirectly preventing people, especially youth, from resorting to these illegal practices.

Poverty as a Driving Factor

Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to India’s National Statistical Office, India endured a harsh economic contraction of almost 24% “in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 fiscal year,” marking the “worst decline among the world’s major economies releasing GDP figures for that same quarter.” In December 2021, India noted an unemployment rate of 7.91%, up from 6.3% in 2018-2019, according to Al Jazeera. Furthermore, close to 30 million Indian citizens between the ages of 20 and 29 faced unemployment in 2021, which equated to 85% of the total unemployed population, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Due to these circumstances of unemployment, people search for jobs wherever they can find them, sometimes falling victim to fraudulent job opportunities or even participating in fraudulent work as a last resort.

Victims of Scam Call Centers

Scammers will target whoever they can get money from, whether young or old. In the United States, it is common for scammers to target the elderly and vulnerable populations, with scammers allegedly using tactics such as fear to steal money. IRS and Social Security scammers threaten to arrest their victims if they do not receive the money, among other methods. The United States experienced an increase in losing money through tech scams from 6% in 2018 to 10% in 2021. Some victims would lose their entire life savings.

Canada experienced an increase in victims losing money to tech scams from 3% in 2018 to 6% in 2021. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that scammers stole a minimum of $3 million from citizens in 2020 through a bank investor scheme.

However, compared to the rest of the world, scammers target residents in India the most. The victim rate is likely high due to customers in India being more trusting of unsolicited contact. From the same 2021 Microsoft survey, “47% [of Indian consumers] thought that it was very or somewhat likely that a company would contact them via an unsolicited call, pop-up, text message, ad or email.” This is a 15% increase from 2018.

The survey also reveals that scammers misled 48% of Indian consumers into continuing the scam. Millennials in India (aged 24-37) were the most at risk of falling victim to scams in 2021, resulting in 58% of targets losing money through scams. Around 73% of males were likely to lose money when interacting with scammers in contrast to 27% of women. Customers in 2021 lost 15,334 rupees on average, though 88% of those who lost money were able to recover 10,797 rupees on average.

Action to Combat Scam Call Centers

Police residing in multiple cities of India are combating scam call centers and their illegal practices through raids, arresting hundreds of people and seizing data. The Delhi Police raided a group in 2020 for allegedly defrauding more than 4,500 United States citizens, stealing upward of $14 million. Along with this, the Delhi Police’s cyber-crime unit raided more than 25 scam call centers within the same year.

In the Indian city of Gurugram between January and June 2021, police raided eight call centers. New Delhi police also arrested 65 people on July 28, 2021, seizing “58 computers, two laptops, internet routers and data found on electronic devices.”

Addressing Youth Unemployment

Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Gangwar said that India is dedicated to reducing youth unemployment rates in India, making efforts to “improve the bridge between unemployment and education.” This statement came “after the signing of a Statement of Intent between the Ministry and UNICEF” in June 2021. The partnership aims to empower the youth in India to gain the relevant skills and guidance for future legitimate job opportunities.

The National Career Service (NCS) provides “career counseling, vocational guidance, information on skill development courses, apprenticeship and internships” in order to address the youth unemployment rate in India. The Ministry and NCS are taking steps to combat lockdown-induced barriers in the job market, for example, by planning “online job fairs” and providing job seekers with links for remote job opportunities and online skills training.

Both UNICEF and Gangwar hope to make improvements in the next three years to help the youth secure brighter futures. By creating more legitimate job opportunities and making skills and education initiatives accessible to the impoverished, India can prevent youth from resorting to participating in scam call centers. As India recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty and unemployment reduce in the nation, it is likely that the prevalence of scam call centers will reduce too.

– Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Child Lead Poisoning
For many people, child lead poisoning can feel similar to a thing of the past, as developed countries have access to resources and information to prevent it. However, lead poisoning is still an all-too-real health concern to millions of people globally.

What is the Situation Surrounding Child Lead Poisoning?

Around the world, more than 800 million children have blood lead concentrations greater than five micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). To be clear, it is dangerous to have any amount of lead in the bloodstream and five μg/dL is the CDC-established level at which medical intervention is needed. India has one of the highest rates of child lead poisoning, with around 275 million children having a blood lead level (BLL) of more than five μg/dL.

Child lead poisoning in India has many causes, as children can absorb lead almost anywhere in the environment. One can breathe it in, ingest it or absorb it through touch. Water undergoes contamination when it runs through lead pipes. Lead-containing spices and packaging contaminate food. Additionally, toys, paint and traditional Indian cosmetics and medicines can contain lead. Children also undergo exposure when around industries that deal with lead, such as battery recycling plants or mines. Impoverished areas suffer the most from lead poisoning, due to lower levels of awareness, access to medical care and higher amounts of lead in the community infrastructure.

Children’s Exposure to Lead

With so many methods of exposure, it is no wonder that so many Indian children suffer from lead poisoning with consequences that are dire. According to India’s National Health Portal, “Lead is a cumulative toxicant (increasing in quantity in the body over many years) that affects multiple body systems (neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and renal systems).”

Furthermore, lead poisoning is detrimental to mental health and causes disability. There is a relationship between childhood exposure and increased violence, aggression and criminal behavior. Annually, more than 500,000 new intellectual disability cases can be directly traced to lead poisoning. Data from UNICEF has shown that, on average, Indian children lose four IQ points as a direct result of lead exposure. UNICEF has stated that “A loss of five points across an entire population could result in a 57% increase in the proportion of the population determined to have intellectual disabilities…This has tremendous implications for both the capacity of society to provide remedial or special education programmes, as well as for their future leadership.”

Pure Earth

For this issue, preventative measures are the best solution. Pure Earth is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses entirely on lead and mercury poisoning in low- and middle-income nations. The NGO is the largest organization dealing with international childhood lead poisoning and it solves lead poisoning one project at a time using a “5-Phase Solution.” The five phases include blood testing, source analyses, source-specific interventions, ongoing monitoring of BLLs and public education.

Each Pure Earth project is highly specific to the location it targets. First, the Pure Earth team will gather BLLs in the area, then the Pure Earth team will identify the most probable exposure sources. Once they have determined where the lead is coming from, they will design an intervention that eliminates the lead source. Finally, Pure Earth will continue to monitor BLLs and educate the citizens of the area about lead poisoning and how to avoid it.

One such project that Pure Earth has completed worked with lead poisoning in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, an Indian community in close proximity to a formal lead smelter. When an assessment found large amounts of lead in the yard of the local school and daycare, Pure Earth designed solutions to protect the residents. The solutions involved intensive cleaning, paving of dangerous outdoor areas, installing a drainage system to divert the runoff from the smelter and implementing a citizen education program.

The Toxic Sites Identification Program

Pure Earth works all over the world, but it has completed several projects in India. Additionally, it is currently operating a Toxic Sites Identification Program, which has identified more than 700 attention-needing locations in India since 2015.

Child lead poisoning can seem overwhelming. There are countless methods of exposure, and it causes sombering irreversible damage. Pure Earth has proved that change can happen by addressing the issue one step at a time.

Mia Sharpe
Photo: Flickr

Female Solar Technicians
In February 2022, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) teamed up with Renew Power, the prime renewable energy company in India and the Indian Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to train 1,000 women in Gujarat, India, to become solar panel and solar pump technicians. The project provides women who previously worked as salt farmers in India with the opportunity to develop fulfilling, well-paying careers in the solar energy industry. The program may eventually extend to other areas of India and help more women gain financial independence and security. Female solar technicians in low-income communities support themselves, their families and their communities by building infrastructure and promoting renewable energy.

From Salt Farmers to Solar Technicians

Salt farmers in Gujarat, India, endure strenuous physical labor to build huts, dig wells and extract brine they sift through to harvest salt. Female salt farmers rarely receive contracts for their work and earn minimal pay. As an alternative to salt farming, the UNEP, SEWA and the state of Gujarat provided about 1,000 women with opportunities to develop constructive skills and careers as solar technicians. The women learn technical skills at SEWA training centers and Renew Power solar facilities throughout the state. The Electronics Sector Skills Council of India has also provided participants in the program with technical training. As solar technicians, women in Gujarat who previously worked as salt farmers are able to develop valuable skills and develop stable career paths to support themselves and their families.

Sustainable Poverty Reduction

In 2019, 759 million people globally did not have access to electricity, a resource that plays a key role in efficient cooking, access to health care, education and more. Low-income families are often unable to afford electricity, so they live without it or purchase unsafe, nonrenewable energy options. Many low-income families rely on kerosene for electricity because they can buy small amounts of it at a time with the money they have.

However, kerosene can cost up to 30% of a family’s total income, according to a 2012 Yale School of the Environment article and it often pollutes the air passed safe levels for human health. Solar panels, on the other hand, provide up to 20 years of renewable electricity, but the initial 10-year investment is too expensive for most low-income families. Female solar technicians in Gujarat benefit from renewable energy careers not just through incomes but also the ability to help their communities by building a sustainable energy infrastructure that can serve low-income areas for decades.

Energy and Gender Equality

Women and girls account for 70% of people who live in energy poverty. Energy poverty has serious consequences for women, especially when it comes to cooking, girls’ education and the success of small businesses. Energy initiatives that improve access to electricity and train female solar technicians in low-income areas have social, economic and environmental benefits. Women participating in these initiatives attain well-paying jobs, gain access to affordable electricity and promote renewable energy in their areas.

Initiatives to employ women and install solar panels can be highly beneficial in low-income areas. Private organizations, companies and governmental institutions can work together to increase access to clean energy in countries around the world. Renewable energy boosts the quality of life while simultaneously conserving the environment.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Free Vision Care
With roughly 1.39 billion people, India is the second most populated nation in the world after China. India holds more than 20% of all blind people globally and it has more blind children than any other country. While wealthier people can afford eye care, the impoverished in rural areas or city slums usually go without it. In addition, there are fewer doctors and ophthalmologists in the countryside, which means that people in those regions are underserved. Rural persons with visual disability or blindness often lack accessible health care and education, and for these individuals, it is difficult to find employment. Yet, 80% of visual impairments are preventable or treatable with timely care, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013. One organization working to reverse this trend is the nonprofit Sankara Nethralaya, which provides free vision care for impoverished people in India.

Major Causes of Blindness

According to a 2019 article by India’s National Health Portal, glaucoma affects approximately 12 million Indians and causes the majority of irreversible blindness in India, with close to 1.2 million people left sightless. Yet, a staggering 90% of glaucoma cases in India never receive a diagnosis. Furthermore, refractive error, an eye disorder in which the inability to focus creates blurred vision, causes visual impairments or blindness in the eyesight of almost 40 million Indians. This sobering figure includes 1.6 million children. Many people enduring uncorrected refractive errors are impoverished villagers without access to prescription glasses.

Four Decades of Eye Care

Founded in 1978 in Chennai, India, by Dr. S. S. Badrinath, Sankara Nethralaya’s goal is to provide high-quality free vision care for the impoverished people of India. For those who can pay for these services, Sankara Nethralaya offers affordable vision care. Funded by the nonprofit Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust, each year the Sankara Nethralaya hospital provides 4,000 major eye surgeries to destitute patients in Chennai. It also has branches in Andhra Pradesh, Kolkata and Sri City. Over the past 40 years, Sankara Nethralaya has helped millions of patients to preserve and regain their eyesight.

A Mobile Unit Travels to Remote Villages

The hospital sends out a Mobile Eye Surgical Unit that does free cataract surgeries on up to 200 people over two weeks in rural villages. The unit also screens adults for glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, major causes of blindness in India. In addition, “Sankara Nethralaya provides teleophthalmology services in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, thereby reducing the need for travel.” Finally, the organization’s research division, the Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research, focuses on topics such as nanobiotechnology in relation to visual impairments.

Blindness Creates a Cycle of Poverty

Because of vision issues such as cataracts, many low-wage earners are unable to continue working, thereby reducing the resources of the entire family and creating more financial hardships. With sight restored, individuals can resume work and earn an income to raise their families out of poverty. WHO estimates that preventable visual disorders led to a global economic loss of $110 billion in 2020.

For its excellent work in helping patients with cataracts, glaucoma and other eye disorders, in 2021, Newsweek ranked Sankara Nethralaya as “one of the World’s Best Hospitals” for ophthalmology. The nonprofit continues its decades-long tradition of providing free vision care for the impoverished of India.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Health and Poverty in India
According to the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017, at minimum, 50% of the global population cannot access “essential health services.” The crippling costs of annual checkups, emergency health care and chronic disease treatment often push struggling households into extreme poverty. The dynamic relationship between health and poverty impacts the lives of millions around the globe, especially in India. According to the World Poverty Clock, in 2021, the rate of extreme poverty in India stood at 7% and the income of 84% of Indian households took a plunge. Health issues remain one of the leading causes of poverty in the country. By taking a closer look at how health and poverty in India overlap, one can understand the interconnectedness of the issues.

Poverty and Health Care Debt in India

The Indian Ministry of Health stated that between 2011 and 2012, “18% of households faced catastrophic health costs,” a rate that only grows as poverty deepens and social assistance remains minimal. These unaffordable health care costs push already struggling households into extreme poverty. It is important to note that those in rural areas and impoverished countries make up the vast majority of people who shoulder medical expense burdens. India’s impoverished receive little to no governmental aid as government spending goes elsewhere.

The Indian government continues to underfund the health care sector as it spends roughly “1% of GDP on health.” This percentage is “among the lowest for any major economy.” The scarcity of government funding to support the health care sector often drives Indian citizens to use savings and out-of-pocket money to cover medical expenses. Research shows that, in 2018, almost 63% of Indian citizens’ “total health spending” went to out-of-pocket expenditure, which increases people’s vulnerability to crippling debt and poverty.

Poverty and Health Insurance in India

India’s most impoverished and most vulnerable people consider health insurance a luxury. A report by the National Survey Office (NSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in India states that between 2017 and 2018, only 14.1% of Indians residing in rural areas and 19.1% of Indians residing in urban areas had access to any form of health insurance. In addition, private health care in India is inaccessible to a majority of the nation’s most vulnerable groups due to the high cost. According to IndiaSpend in 2017, India had the sixth-highest private health care expenditure “among low- and middle-income countries.” As for government insurance, NSO reports found that, between 2017 and 2018, only 9.9% of the most impoverished rural Indians and 7.5% of urban Indians “had any government-sponsored health protection.”

Poverty and the COVID-19 Pandemic in India

The COVID-19 pandemic brought devastation to world economies and destruction to health care systems internationally. Specifically, COVID-19 had severe impacts on India’s impoverished. In the first year of the pandemic, the virus caused 7 million job losses in India. In particular, India’s agricultural sector took a hard hit in several ways.

For example, labor and transportation limitations impacted “production and marketing” while the economic impact of COVID-19 on the nation led to “income shock” that increased the price of food and changed household consumption patterns. A survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) confirms these economic shocks. Using data from “a panel survey of 197,000 households” implemented “every four months” up until July 2021, researchers deduced that extreme poverty rose greatly across India due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, especially in cities. As a result of COVID-19 impacts, 44 million more people fell into extreme poverty in India by July 2021.

The DevaMitra Foundation Offers Hope

As India’s most vulnerable continue to struggle with the rising cost of medical care, several organizations aim to alleviate healthcare-related poverty and make health services more accessible. The DevaMitra Foundation is a New Delhi-based organization that aims to reduce the impacts of deteriorating health and poverty in India.

DevaMitra’s main goal is to improve the health of the most vulnerable by offering health care services and facilities and by providing treatments and medications to remote and rural areas across India. The organization also implements programs to increase health awareness and health education in communities.

By allowing vulnerable and underprivileged people equitable access to health care, non-governmental organizations offer hope and pave the way for societal development.

– Nohad Awada
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in India
Period poverty is a serious concern in many countries, specifically India. Period poverty involves a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual education and hygiene and sanitation facilities necessary to properly manage menstruation. Because the impacts of period poverty are far-reaching, several organizations are aiming to address period poverty in India.

Period Poverty in India

According to Feminism India, those who cannot afford menstrual products resort to unsafe alternatives such as “rags, hay, sand and ash,” which can lead to infections. Period poverty is a continuing issue in India due to the cultural stigma surrounding menstruation. Many people consider menstruation a taboo topic that they should not discuss. In India, research has indicated that 71% of girls do not have “knowledge of menstruation before their first period.” This lack of knowledge and stigma surrounding menstruation has led to one out of every five female students dropping out of school once menstruation begins. In addition, more than 40% of female students in India choose not to attend school during their menstrual cycle due to the inability to access menstrual products to properly manage their menstruation coupled with the social stigma menstruating girls face at schools.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Period Poverty in India

Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the pandemic has only intensified period poverty in India. Many organizations that are trying to address period poverty in India by providing menstrual education and free sanitary products are facing difficulties providing either. This is because COVID-19 led to school shutdowns, creating a barrier to free menstrual products and educational workshops that organizations provide to schools. In addition, organizations that were providing free menstrual products could not obtain products due to supply chain disruptions. In rural areas of India, where households struggled to afford basic groceries even before the onset of COVID-19, people do not consider menstrual products as essential.

The Desai Foundation

Samir A. Desai and Nilima Desai founded The Desai Foundation in 1997. The Desai Foundation aims to help people in both the U.S. and India through more than 25 programs covering issues such as “health and hygiene,” period poverty, entrepreneurship and vocational training. In India, the Desai Foundation works to uplift “women and children through community programming to elevate health and livelihood” in more than 568 villages. To address period poverty in India, the Foundation established the Asani Sanitary Napkin Program, which has “created economic empowerment, provided hygiene education, increased community awareness and cultivated dignity for numerous women in the region.”

The Asani Sanitary Napkin Program teaches local Indian women to produce and distribute affordable yet high-quality sanitary pads across three regions in India, with the aim of expanding to more areas. The program has created job opportunities for more than 2,000 local women who have produced more than 2.3 million sanitary pads in four manufacturing units. The Desai Foundation distributed more than 445,000 of these pads without any charge. So far, the program has positively impacted more than 270,000 girls and women.

The Onset of COVID-19

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Desai Foundation was able to adapt its programs to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. In response to the pandemic, the Desai Foundation gave employment to local village women who previously attended the organization’s sewing program. The Desai Foundation paid the women to sew two-layer protective face masks from their homes, leading to the creation of “350 COVID-safe jobs.” The women produced more than a million masks for local villagers. In the wake of COVID-19, the Desai Foundation also handed out “1 million pads to local communities, hospitals, COVID care centers and rural women” to address period poverty.

Through the ongoing commitments to address period poverty in India, girls and women are one step closer to living productive and prosperous lives.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

OneProsper International
With the pressing global issue of world poverty, one can find hope for meaningful change in the work done by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). One particular NGO making its mark in the fight against poverty is OneProsper International, a Canadian-based organization working toward solving poverty and improving rates of illiteracy among females in India, particularly in the impoverished Thar Desert. Here is how OneProsper International is working to reduce poverty in the Thar Desert.

OneProsper International’s Founding

In 2019, 20.8% of India’s population lived below the poverty line. Taking the headcount ratio of poverty into account, one can note that India has made great strides in reducing this ratio since 1973 when poverty stood at 54.9%. Despite progress, this rate of poverty is still notably high. With hundreds of millions of people still living in poverty, OneProsper saw a chance for meaningful change.

Founder Raju Agarwal from Ottawa, Canada, first came up with the idea to start OneProsper International on a trip to India where he was able to observe the extreme poverty and education problems firsthand. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Agarwal described a visit to India in his early 20s. He said that “a girl approached me holding a baby. I asked the girl why she was not going to school. She answered that she would love to go to school but did not have the opportunity.” Agarwal was moved.

Unsatisfied by several unfulfilling jobs at companies, some years ago he came across the book “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” by John Wood. Drawing inspiration from the book, he saw a clear path and purpose, subsequently taking action to begin the nonprofit now known as OneProsper International.

The Importance of Girls’ Education

Since this initial experience, Agarwal has grown OneProsper into a meaningful and thriving organization that now works to reduce poverty in India with a special focus on promoting education for girls. Agarwal recognizes the importance of education as a tool to break the cycle of poverty. Through education, girls are able to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to access stable and higher-paying, skilled jobs. With a stable income, girls are then able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Studies show that girls who attend school are less susceptible to child marriage and early motherhood. Educated mothers are also more likely to prioritize the education of their children, creating a ripple effect of benefits across the nation.

A Holistic Approach

OneProsper adopts a holistic strategy to address the barriers to girls’ education in India. The program outlines seven key steps, each resolving an obstacle:

  1. Time. In the Thar Desert, young girls “spend up to seven hours a day collecting water.” OneProsper constructs “rainwater harvesting tanks” to allow the girls to use this time to gain an education at school.
  2. Clean Water. Without access to clean water, waterborne diseases run rampant with disproportionate impacts on children. OneProsper provides households in the Thar Desert with bio-sand filters “to turn harvested water into clean, potable water.”
  3. Respect. Cultural norms in India often perpetuate gender inequality, fostering the societal belief that females as less valuable than males. To show the importance and value of women, OneProsper engraves mothers’ names on each water tank to teach girls that women are indeed important and deserving of respect.
  4. Nutrition. OneProsper offers “seeds and farm training” so households can cultivate their own nutritious food.
  5. Costs of Schooling. OneProsper pays the primary and secondary costs of schooling, such as school fees, attire and other essential school resources.
  6. Transportation. To address distance and transport barriers, each girl receives a bicycle to get to school in a shorter time than walking would allow.
  7. Income. OneProsper helps farming families increase their incomes by improving their agricultural output through the construction of farming dikes in fields.

The organization’s website expresses that 100% of donations go toward supporting the people in the Thar Desert and directly funding girls’ education. Through this strategy, 260 Indian girls are able to receive an education and 130 families are receiving support to rise out of poverty.

English Learning Buddy Program

The English Learning Buddy (ELB) program consists of English-speaking volunteers virtually meeting with Indian girls from low-income families to teach them English. In this 10-week-long program, partners meet weekly and read from a children’s book, working to develop the Indian student’s English skills. Learning English gives these girls a chance to advance in their education, potentially internationally, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and opening them up to opportunities for success and prosperity.

The Future

When discussing future goals, Agarwal says he plans to continue to expand OneProsper International through events and fundraisers. He stated that “My goal is to engage students in fundraising. For example, organizing a soccer tournament, festival or fundraising event planned and led by students. Students would help to raise funds to sponsor girls in India. Afterward, students will receive videos showing how their giving is making a meaningful impact.”

Through the efforts of OneProsper International, the most disadvantaged girls in India are able to gain an education and an opportunity to bring themselves and their families out of poverty. Through its continued work, poverty in the Thar Desert should reduce.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in DelhiIndia is one of the fastest-growing economies, with a population of more than 1.2 billion people, 30.7 million of whom live in the capital city of Delhi. People frequently view Delhi as an exceptionally wealthy area due to its abundance of posh communities like Vasant Vihar, Jor Bagh and Green Park. However, within India, in its own capital city, people are battling to survive without bare necessities. In Delhi, impoverished people are isolated from the rich. Opulent retail centers and cafés surround slums and some slums are wedged between rich neighborhoods. Poverty in Delhi, concealed in the cracks of luxury, is vastly different from the overall picture of the city as a whole.

Delhi’s Dichotomy

Delhi is one of India’s most economically prosperous cities with an estimated GDP of approximately $293.6 billion. The typical Delhi resident “earns three times more than the average Indian.” Within one of the most affluent communities in Delhi, Vasant Vihar, however, is Kusumpur Pahari, a quagmire of poverty and home to 10,000 slums. Its inhabitants cram themselves into close quarters, deprived of the necessary elements of a stable life. Only miles away is Delhi’s biggest shopping mall and its 102-meter-high civic center. This lopsided situation leaves slum residents working tirelessly to survive as servants to the rich residents of Vasant Vihar. Poverty in Delhi is visible within the city’s slums.

Delhi’s Slums: Kusumpur Pahari and Madanpur Khadar

Kusumpur Pahari is home to mostly migrants from “UP, Bihar, Orissa and Assam.” Slum-dwellers labor as drivers, gardeners and housekeepers for their wealthy neighbors. Kusumpur Pahari residents often live in one-room shacks that have no running water. However, circumstances have substantially advanced in the previous decade as a result of hard work by a women’s association. In 2016, there was no flowing water in Kusumpur Pahari, but owing to the efforts of the women ‘s association, a truck now brings freshwater to the neighborhood every several days.

Madanpur Khadar is another slum in the suburbs of Delhi. With narrow streets and a sewage line that runs right through it, these slums’ residents suffer.  In 2000, the government chose it as the area for relocating vast numbers of slum families from other locations of the city. The bulk of the people that live in Madanpur Khadar collect and sell rags. Inhabitants suffer from polluted drinking water and sanitation issues. Though they experience less than desirable conditions, NGOs have taken notice of this area. Madanpur Khadar’s women and HIV-affected dwellers are receiving help from these organizations, as reported by So City. Additionally, the slum is now on the map after 15 female residents collaborated with local nonprofit organizations in 2018 to help their community benefit from increased internet visibility of their location.

Sangam Vihar, Kathputli Colony and Seemapuri Slum

Sangam Vihar is a slum community that houses people moving from surrounding states, primarily Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, according to So City. It has no freshwater access and a lack of community toilets, which leads to exposed defecation, producing sanitary concerns in the area. Poverty in Delhi and water shortages have transformed Sangam Vihar into a refuge for thieves and brought rise to gangs whose members are willing to murder for water. Fights and killings are commonplace in Sangam Vihar, where water is limited.

Kathputli Colony is the most interesting slum in Delhi with illusionists, puppet masters and many different types of entertainers living in the area, according to So City. People recognize Kathputli Colony for its colorful buildings and roads bustling with street performers. Due to the prevalence of poverty in Delhi, India tries to hide its slums. However, whenever it wants to demonstrate its cultural prowess, India showcases this particular slum. Though a sluggish source of money and transformation, slum walk tours through Kathputli Colony appear to be creating more financial opportunities for the dwellers. Slum walk tours are helping to fund a school and provide the residents with a quality of better life.

Seemapuri slum is home to around “800 of the locality’s 1,700-odd residents.” The slum-dwellers battle to secure basic sanitation, water and electricity because the area is an unofficial community that is cut off from the city’s essential utilities. According to So City, Seemapuri serves as an example of poverty in Delhi with exposed sewers where women fetch contaminated drinking water and reside in mud dwellings where it is normal for seven to eight people to occupy only one small room.

Addressing the Problems of the Slums

Dr. Kiran Martin, the founder of the Asha India organization, is a well-known name in the domain of poverty reduction. Asha’s programs aid more than 700,000 people in more than 91 Delhi slum colonies. Martin’s efforts have earned her the Padma Shri, one of the country’s highest civilian honors. The Asha India organization dedicates its time to reducing poverty in Delhi, particularly within the slums. It aims to empower residents, provide better health care, increase educational opportunities and make environmental improvements. In 2018, the organization celebrated its 30th birthday and continues to push toward its goals today.

With the ongoing efforts of organizations, hope is on the horizon for the divide between the wealthy and the impoverished in Delhi to one day come to a close.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in India
In India, a country with a population of more than 1 billion, almost 700 million people use solid fuels, such as wood and charcoal, as their primary energy source. Solid fuels have health impacts that can lead to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. The Lancet Global Health report from 2016 on India identified the air pollution from these fuels as the leading cause of chronic respiratory conditions, more than smoking. Squatter settlements are common in major Indian cities and often have informal power lines tapping into larger grids. These serve as an unreliable supply and source of electricity to large portions of the Indian population. Energy poverty in India affects all aspects of people’s quality of life, from health, education, productivity and even income-generating activities.

Renewable Partnerships

Energy poverty in India affects all aspects of people’s quality of life, from health, education, productivity and even income-generating activities. These affected areas strain the already stretched infrastructure in India and work against elevating the 8% in poverty.

In rural areas, dependence on solid fuels for energy requires long trips to forests to fetch these energy sources. According to the Encyclopedia of Social Work, this is a responsibility that women normally have. Because of its time-consuming nature, it prevents women from participating in income-producing activities that may elevate their economic conditions.

In light of the 244 million people experiencing energy poverty in India, Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company and The Rockefeller Foundation have formed a partnership to address the issue. By utilizing Microgrids, this new initiative will be able to provide renewable electricity to nearly 5 million homes in India’s rural areas. Clean energy through these microgrids is set to assist businesses in Indian states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where 40% of enterprises rely on solid fuels such as diesel.

TP Renewable Microgrid Ltd. will run until 2026 and will deliver clean and cheap energy to rural households and businesses. Its unique microgrid design also aims to create 10,000 job opportunities in the green sector and assist the local farming irrigation systems. It could also make Tata Power the largest microgrid developer in the world.

Conclusion

Addressing energy poverty not only provides people with reliable energy sources but also connects them to the wider world. It backs the running of local infrastructures such as hospitals and schools, advances sanitation programs as well as farming and business techniques making them less costly and more efficient.

With the financial resources of The Rockefeller Foundation and Tata Powers’ ideas, this joint venture is a solid example of how innovation can enhance one’s impact when fighting poverty. Innovative microgrid design creatively uses already available resources and scales them for maximum impact.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in India
India has become “the fastest-growing major economy in the world” with growth expected to continue upward over the next decade. However, despite India’s recent economic development, women and girls find themselves at the tail end of this progress. With a population of more than a billion, a National Family and Health Survey between 2019 and 2021 points out that there are more women in India than men — “1,020 women for every 1,000 men.” Despite women constituting a majority of the population, women in India face challenges that largely stem from societal perceptions of gender roles. The impacts of this discrimination and gender inequality are far-reaching. To address this issue, organizations are dedicating efforts to empowering women in India.

The Current State of Gender Equality

On the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index of 2021, India ranks 140th among 153 nations, “becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.” India fell 28 places from its 2020 rank of 112th. The report cites several reasons for this fall. In terms of political empowerment, the number of female ministers declined from about 23% in 2019 to just 9% in 2021. The female workforce participation rate also decreased “from 24.8% to 22.3%.”

Additionally, the “share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low.” The report also indicates that women in India earn just one-fifth of what men earn. Furthermore, “one in four women” endure “intimate violence” at least once in their lifetime. Although India has achieved gender parity with regard to educational attainment, illiteracy rates among women remain high. The report indicates that just 65.8% of women in India are literate in 2021 in comparison to 82.4% of men.

Women also endure inequality with regard to land and property rights. A 2016 UNICEF report noted that only 12.7% of properties in India “are in the names of women” despite 77% of women in India depending on agricultural work as a core source of income.

Benefits of Empowering Women in India

As the majority of India’s population, women represent a significant portion of the nation’s untapped economic potential. As such, empowering women in India through equal opportunities would allow them to contribute to the economy as productive citizens. With higher literacy rates and equal pay for equal work, women are able to thrive economically and rise out of poverty.

Protecting women and girls from violence and abuse while challenging the stigmas against reporting crimes would overall create a much safer society. Improving the female political representation rate would enable more women to serve as role models for young girls and allow a platform to bring awareness to the issues affecting women in India. Overall, gender equality allows for women to live a better quality of life, allowing them to determine their futures beyond traditional expectations.

Women Of Worth (WOW)

According to its website, “Women Of Worth exists for the growth, empowerment and safety of girls and women” standing “for justice, equality and change.” WOW began in 2008, created by a group of women who longed for change in a society rife with gender discriminatory practices. Its ultimate vision is “to see women and girls live up to their fullest potential.” With a mission of empowering women in India, the organization has three focal areas:

  • Advocacy Work: WOW utilizes social media platforms to raise awareness on gender inequality and “change attitudes and behavior.”
  • Training and Health Services: WOW provides training to both men and women in schools, tertiary institutions and companies on women’s safety and rights. It also presents lectures and “keynote addresses” on the topic. Furthermore, WOW provides counseling sessions to improve mental health.
  • Rehabilitation and Restoration: WOW offers “counseling, life skills training and therapy” to children and women who are victims of abuse, neglect and trafficking.

WOW’s efforts have seen success. The organization helped to rescue 200 girls from abusive backgrounds, providing them with rehabilitation services. WOW also gave 11 girls scholarships to continue their education. WOW provided training on gender equality to about 800 working people and “1500 students” along with “200 parents” and 300 educators.

Gender equality is a crucial cornerstone in the advancement of any society or nation as it affects all areas of society from economic growth to education, health and quality of life. Gender inequality in India is a deep-rooted, complex and multi-layered issue but it is also an essential battle to overcome to see the fullest potential of the nation.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr