Why the US Should Help Fight Corruption in IndiaFor years, India has struggled with high rates of extreme poverty, as well as mass amounts of corruption within its economy and government. This has created a cause and effect cycle of poverty: creating easy access for corruption while corruption in government preventing a significant change in poverty. As a result, there has been very little change in the socioeconomic standing of many Indians, and foreign aid may seem like a futile attempt to rectify an impossible situation. However, foreign aid is critical to fighting poverty and corruption in India. And investments from the United States will have a promising profound effect on both countries.

Corruption and Poverty in India

In 2019, one in two Indians reported taking or paying a bribe, which was a 10% decrease from previous years. These bribes took all forms and appeared in many aspects of everyday life for Indians, from property registration, the police force, a tax department to municipal corporations. Furthermore, corruption can be found within the highest levels of government, and in legislation in particular. More than half of India’s public officials have received bribes, or acted upon another form of corruption, creating significant inconsistencies and ineffectiveness from the bureaucracy. Most recently, in 2019, the Corruption Perception Index gave India a score of 41 out of 100, suggesting corruption still has a significant presence throughout the country.

While the corruption within the government and economy is an issue on its own, its repercussions go far beyond an internally broken system. India has one of the highest rates of extreme poverty in the world, with one-third of its population considered poor by standards that they live on approximately $3.20 per day. Despite decreasing rates, about 50 million people still live in extreme poverty in India. With so many people resorting to living on the streets or in slums, the poor living conditions lead to disease outbreaks, high infant mortality rates and, ultimately, corruption.

The Connection Between Corruption and Poverty

Corruption and poverty in India work off of each other. Poverty creates desperate situations, leaving people with very few economic alternatives to make ends meet, whether it be food or housing, among other essential needs. Consequently, these vulnerable groups become easily exposed to exploitation. However, corruption not only thrives off of poverty, but it also worsens the situation. Internal government officials, among other community members, tend to pass money around for ranks, rather than focusing on creating effective legislation to change the poverty crisis.

As a result, the government struggles to end the continual cycle of corruption and poverty in India, and cracking down on corruption can have massive repercussions for its citizens. For example, in 2016, in an effort to reduce corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discontinued the 500 and 1,000 rupees. This action began to fix stockpiling, a technique that the upper-class used to avoid paying taxes. The discontinuation voided cash hoarded overnight. And, as a result, many low-income workers had their salaries cut in half, especially those in the transportation industry.

In order to access the new forms of money, many had to go to the ATM or banks to acquire it, despite many ATMs being broken or overcrowded. Without the rich carrying around cash to pay people, such as drivers, in addition to unequal access to ATMs, there was no pay for people working already low-paying jobs. During that year, 97% of Indians didn’t make enough annual salary to qualify to pay income tax, a price of around 250,000 rupees, or $3,650.

The Importance and Benefits of American Foreign Aid

For many Americans, corruption and poverty in India may seem like the exact reason why the United States should not be investing its money in foreign aid, especially to India. However, the solution is contrary to what many may believe. Multiple studies have shown that corruption with foreign aid is an insignificant problem, compared to the solutions it provides, such as access to clean water and vaccinations. Besides the humanitarian solutions, investment in India has significant returns for the United States. With a continually growing economy, India is set to become the third-largest consumer market by 2025. In turn, this will have a significant, positive impact on the United States’ economy. Continuing to invest in India means that more and more people will not only be in the market but will be able to afford American exports, therefore improving the corruption and poverty rates of India, as well as increasing American jobs and the economy as a whole.

—Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Modern Slavery in India
India, with a population of approximately 1.29 billion people, is the world’s second-largest country. The South Asian nation currently has the third-highest overall GDP in the world. However, though it ranks third in overall GDP, India’s GDP per capita is considerably lower. This ranks India as 156th out of all the countries in the world. Certainly, a number of factors affect this disparity between national wealth and individual economic hardship. That said, one thing is certain: with an estimated 21.9 percent of the population living below the poverty line, India’s lack of wealth distribution feeds directly into the intersection of poverty and modern slavery in India.

Slavery is Still Prevalent

Many may not be familiar with the fact that slavery is still a very real issue in countries like India. This is because it simply does not receive the same media coverage as other topics. Slavery is quite prevalent in present-day India, especially in rural areas that heavily rely on agriculture. In fact, according to estimates by the Global Slavery Index, approximately 18.3 million people are living in modern slavery in India. This staggering number represents a portion of the many impoverished people in India who are trying to emerge from their socioeconomic situation.

Vishnu Rao-Sharma, a student who frequented New Delhi, gave The Borgen Project some insight on poverty and modern slavery in India. Rao-Sharma recalled that “Poverty in India is so jarring because of how visible it is. Within just miles of the New Delhi airport, one is plunged into a devastating reality that is foreign to many first-time visitors. This reality consists of mangled limbs, emaciated bodies, and rotting teeth. No one is spared. Indian men, women and children are all prone to India’s seemingly inescapable poverty.”

Lack of Other Options Leads Indians to Become Slaves

The issue with combating poverty and modern slavery in India is that they both affect each other. This is why so many poor people in India have few options to survive. Rather than living on the street and begging, they have little choice but to enter into realities like bonded labor. Bonded labor, one of the most common forms of modern slavery in India, is most similar to many people’s idea of indentured servitude. This is a service agreement in which employers bind laborers to them. They work long, arduous hours in exchange for food, shelter and small sums of money. The lack of sufficient employment opportunities leaves many impoverished Indians with no choice but enter into modern slavery. This feeds right back into the cyclical nature of poverty and modern slavery in India.

Fighting Poverty and Slavery in India

Though India’s poverty and slavery situations may appear dismal, there are groups and initiatives focused on resolving such issues. For instance, the international organization GlobeAware fights poverty in India by sending people to help the poor. Another example is Anti-Slavery International, a group committed to eradicating all forms of modern slavery around the world. Organizations such as these are working tirelessly to try and improve the dreadful conditions for many people in India.

Since the issues of poverty and modern slavery in India are so interwoven, organizations around the world are working to free India from both. Eliminating even one would hopefully result in the elimination of the other issue. If more groups, like the aforementioned, could invest time, money and resources into improving living conditions in the nation, the outlook for the situation in India should improve. Viable solutions may not be so far down the road after all.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Improving Conditions in India: Emerging Economies
Currently, India is a low middle-income country and is set to become an upper middle-income country within the next decade. The improving conditions in India have been shown in many different sectors throughout the country. It is abundantly clear in sectors like the travel sector, health sector, telecommunications, and the space program.

Improving Conditions in India: Travel

The prime minister of India passed the national civil aviation policy which has had a positive impact on the travel and economy in India. It was passed in an effort to make flying more affordable for India’s growing middle class. The national civil aviation policy states that domestic carriers no longer have to operate for five years before they can fly abroad. This change immediately affected Vistara and AirAsia India. The number of passengers on domestic flights increased by 21 percent to over 80 million passengers and this number is estimated to reach 300 million by 2022.

The government has also lowered prices of domestic travel, only on the less popular routes, to be capped at $37 each hour of air travel. This has increased travel within India and has helped airports and airlines welcome more business which has had a large effect on the improving conditions in India. The effect has been shown through increased jobs in the travel industry and stimulating the economy in other parts of the country with new travelers that will purchase things in new cities like hotel rooms, food or even souvenirs.    

Improving Health

The life expectancy in India has doubled in just approximately 70 years. It has gone from 35 years in 1950 to almost 70 years today. This has come from various changes throughout India. One of the biggest changes is the access to toilets in the country. As a result of the efforts of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a movement in India that aims to clean up the city, infrastructure and rural areas of the country. From the efforts of this program, millions of more people have access to toilets in India which has greatly helped improve conditions.  

Improving Telecommunication

The government of India has recently wanted to improve telecommunication in the north-eastern states of the country. To do this the government has invested around $1.7 billion to fund projects that will help the telecommunication throughout the country. These improvements are set to be completed by December of this year. There has been a deal signed between Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Universal Service Obligation Fund (USO) to set up almost 7,000 mobile towers in over 8,000 cities and along the highway in Northeast India. This deal hopes to help people in rural areas of India have the same access to ICT services at affordable prices as people in the bigger cities have. Phase one of this deal was completed in December 2017 which laid a great amount optical fiber cable covering 109,926 GPs (Gram Panchayats) and over 100,00 of them are ready for service. This means that more people throughout rural areas of India have access to high-speed internet at an affordable price which is only helping the country become an upper-middle income country even faster.  

The Space Program

Just over a year ago the Indian Space Research Organization launched multiple record-breaking satellites into space showing the world that India has a strong space program. It launched 104 nano-satellites and a larger satellite for Earth observation. Then even before that, in 2014, it launched the Mars Orbiter Mission. India was the only country to do that on the first attempt and with a budget of only $73 million. The Space Foundation estimates that these smaller inexpensive satellites that India has been building will be of great demand in the next few years. These innovative and cheap satellites and a boost in the Indian Space Research Organization has brought and will continue to bring money into the economy of India. It will create jobs and stimulate the economy.  

Each of these sectors has greatly improved in India in the past several years and will continue to help India to become a less impoverished country and move forward to become an upper-middle-class income country in the next few years.

– Ronni Winter

Photo: Flickr