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madrasa
Walk into a Dar-al Uloom (a house of knowledge) in India, and you will hear what sounds like the buzzing of bees. It is the sound of hundreds of students reciting The Holy Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, as part of their daily studies. But you may be surprised to know that many students reciting the Qur’an are Hindu.

The madrasa is one of the most important institutions for millions of Muslims and Hindus in India. For the millions of children that attend them, they are a means to alleviate poverty in India.

Madrasa is an Arabic term meaning place of study and specifically refers to schools that teach an Islamic curriculum. Institutions vary greatly from the countries they are in, the subjects they teach and the ideologies they adhere to. The only common denominator are that they are administered by Muslims and incorporate some form of Islamic coursework.

Many madrasas receive their bad wrap from the small fraction of institutions that spread Wahhabism and are associated with terrorism and global threats. These institutions are catapulted to the spotlight and used to paint a broad picture of all madrasas as breeding grounds of fanaticism, but this is not true.

Madrasas in India are established Islamic seminaries that provide many children with the opportunity to receive basic education and life skills. These are opportunities that they would otherwise be unable to receive on their own due to living in extreme poverty.

In India, madrasas are also a strong pillar of community services. They offer boarding for many orphaned students and provide young women with access to basic education and skills such as cooking and sewing­ opportunities they would not have access to if madrasas did not exist in their villages.

For years, madrasas have worked to incorporate modern education alongside their religious curriculum. In West Bengal, nearly 600 government recognized madrasas are teaching mainstream curriculum and have a healthy non-Muslim population of students.

Anwar Hossain, the headmaster of the Orgram madrasa in India located 125 kilometers north of the state capital, Kolkata, says that it is mostly the madrasa’s modern curriculum that has made the institution increasingly popular in the Hindu-majority society.

The benefits of such madrasas in India are numerous in fighting poverty in a country with an enormous population of impoverished citizens. Student’s fees are very cheap or free for all students who cannot afford them. This is because many madrasas are funded privately by donors and are occasionally state sponsored. The madrasas also offer free uniforms for their students and a free meal every day, helping low income families provide food for their children.

Graduates of such madrasas are accepted into universities to study a variety of subjects. Madrasa graduates are going on to become scientists, doctors, engineers and other professionals, which is attracting more and more youth who feel they have a chance at a better life.

The madrasas are also working to bridge understanding and cooperation between Hindus and Muslims in India. University of North Eastern Hill professor and social activist Prasenjit Baswas says, “madrasas based on strong intellectual traditions that draw from other cultures and religions can help overturn the historical divide between Hindus and Muslims.”

With the help of proper funding and aid, many madrasas are reforming their curriculums in an attempt to empower graduates with the tools to combat poverty in India. However, this month the Indian government has de-recognized certain madrasas stating they are not teaching proper modern curriculums.

Instead of de-recognizing madrasas, more support and aid is needed to make sure that such institutions are given the tools necessary to reform, which will in turn help prevent youth from becoming radicalized. This process is not only beneficial to India, but the world as well.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: Al Jazeera 1, Al Jazeera 2, New York Times
Photo: FT

poverty in calcutta
Calcutta is a region that is rich with history, culture and destitution. Calcutta was the former capital of British India, and is one of India’s largest cities and ports, for it is located on the east bank of the Hugli River. Calcutta proves to be the dominant urban center of Eastern India, as it acts as a point of commerce, transport and manufacture. The city holds a diverse range of people, as multiple Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists resides in this city.

Languages spoken In Calcutta range from Bengali, Urdu and Oriya to Tamil and Punjabi. Due to the wide range of people and activities, the population density is extremely high with over 4.5 million people, thus overcrowding is an immediate issue. The conflict in Bangladesh during the 1970s has also contributed to refugee colonies in the northern and southern suburbs. Migrants from less urban areas have migrated to Calcutta in search of employment as well, as it is a major export center for tea, petroleum, jute, coal, iron and manganese. Unfortunately, poverty in Calcutta is a huge problem and severe unemployment has been an issue since the early 1950s.

Calcutta has a housing shortage, and approximately one-third of the city’s population lives in poverty-ridden neighborhoods composed of a collection of huts standing on a plot of land that is at least one-sixth of an acre. These dwellings are often not ventilated, single-story rooms with few sanitary facilities, and very little open space.

India is growing into a substantial open-market economy; however, the economy includes a wide range of modern industries and services, including village farming, modern agriculture and handicrafts. The economic downturn in 2011 affected poverty significantly, and the inflation and high interest rates have yet to be alleviated. Furthermore, problems such as corruption, environmental degradation, overpopulation and increasing economic development contribute to the perpetuation of poverty while decreasing the capacity of the government to significantly alleviate any one problem.

According to USAID, “One-third of its population still lives on less than $1.25 per day. Projected to become the world’s most populous country by 2030, India faces tremendous energy, education, health, water and sanitation challenges. India is an important U.S. partner in maintaining regional stability, deepening trade ties and addressing development challenges in India and globally.”

The impact of overcrowding, displacement by natural disasters and lack of sustainable urban policies contribute to the marginalization of Calcutta’s poor; there is simply a lack of means for the homeless to progress and gain material wealth.

The importance of education and farmer organizations is critical for the alleviation of poverty in Calcutta.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Encyclopedia Brittanica, News Action, USAID
Photo: Steve McCurry

poverty in india
India is redefining poverty. In the latest update from the Former Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council, Chakravarthi Rangarajan, an urban family living on under 47 rupees (78 cents) a day, or a rural family living under 32 rupees (53 cents) a day, would be deemed poor. These values are up from 27 and 33 rupees, respectively, on the definition of poverty in India, and would deem 94 million more Indians as poor. However, the new poverty level is still low compared to the World Bank’s cutoff for extreme poverty: $1.25 a day. The line in India has been criticized many times before, and people have even challenged previous prime ministers to live on less than a dollar a day.

According to the new definition of poverty, 29.5 percent of the Indian population was poor in 2011-2012. The cutoff for poverty in India has never been so high before, but, when applied to past years, it reveals a decrease in the number of Indians living in poverty. In 2010, under the current standard, 38.2 percent of Indians were poor.

In coming up with the new poverty line, Rangarajan’s committee studied government statistics on the ability of households to pay for food that provides the minimum nutrition an individual needs, as well as the ability of individuals to obtain education, health care, housing, electricity, transportation and clothing.

The poverty line is significant because social sector programs are directed toward those who fall below it. But, that might change too. The Rangarajan panel suggested that entitlement to social security programs should be disconnected from poverty ratios. Instead, entitlement to the programs may be better linked to social and caste census. Either way, the new definition will factor into Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget-making.

India’s government released a new budget focused on curbing, borrowing and reviving growth this week. This seems like good news, but critics are not sure how the new spending will reduce the fiscal deficit plaguing the country.

Different parts of the country have dealt with finances differently and to varying results. Recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi bragged frequently about the way he ran the state of Gujarat as Chief Minister since 2001 – its per capita income was among India’s highest. But he neglects to include the fact that the state’s poverty rate in 2011-12 was only a little below the national average, and its rural poverty rate was actually higher than the national average. While Gujarat focused on industrialization and ignored welfare programs, the state’s income inequality continued to grow.

Meanwhile, in southern state Kerala, industrialization has fallen by the wayside. But, social indicators are highest in the nation because of the state’s practice of investing heavily in social welfare. Under the new definition of poverty in India, Kerala’s poverty rate in 2011-12 was only 11.3 percent, and only 7.3 percent of the rural population would be considered poor. Because Kerala chose to invest mainly in education and health care, everyone, including the poor, has increased an access to opportunities.

– Rachel Reed

Sources: New York Times, Slate
Photo: Owni

poverty in india
According to the World Bank, India is one of the poorest countries in the world. Some of the main issues responsible for widespread poverty in India are poor health services, child malnutrition and inadequate education and training. Almost half of India’s population drops out of school by the age of 13 and only one in 10 people receive some form of  job training.

 

Top 10 facts about Poverty in India

1. India is estimated to have one-third of the world’s poor.
2. In 2012, 37 percent of India’s 1.21 billion people fell below the international poverty line, which is $1.25 a day, according to the Indian Planning Commission.
3. According to 2010 World Bank data, India’s labor participation rate (for those individuals over the age of 15) totaled 55.6 percent; however, the percent of wage and salaried workers of those employed only equaled about 18.1 percent.
4. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 98,000 people in India die from diarrhea each year. The lack of adequate sanitation, nutrition and safe water has significant negative health impacts.
5. Families can’t grow enough crops to feed themselves each year due to the lack of new farming techniques, difficult weather conditions, poor storage conditions, misuse of insecticides and lack of water.
6. A third of the world’s malnourished children live in India according to UNICEF, where “46 percent of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, 47 percent are underweight and at least 16 percent are wasted.”
7. India has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, where one in three girls become child brides. Many girls are married off at an early age, become servants or even prostitutes just to survive.
8. The poorest parts of India are Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.
9. According to the World Bank, in 2009 an estimated 2.4 million were living with HIV/AIDS, with children (less than 15-years-old) accounting for 3.5 percent and 83 percent making up the age group 15-49 years. Around 39 percent of those infected were women.
10. Men are more than twice as likely as women to hold salaried jobs in the large and medium-sized towns that are increasingly important centers of economic life in the Indian countryside. As such, in 2013 women only earned 62 percent of a men’s salary for equal work.

However, it is possible to end poverty in India. The first step would be to help the poor create their own businesses so that they may develop their own incomes. The second step is to create jobs that would allow those in poverty to increase their incomes through wages or salaries. Lastly, selling products to those living in poverty would help them earn or save money.

 – Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: Huffington Post, The Telegraph, BBC, The Wall Street Journal, UNICEF 1, Inter Press Service News Agency, The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2, UNICEF 2, Catalyst, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo:
U.N.

india_opt
Discussions of poverty in India are not new to the global conscious. With Slumdog Millionaire’s popularity in 2008 came an important public conversation about slums and poverty, but did the conversation go far enough?

India is home to over 1.2 billion people. Between 2004 and 2005, almost 38 percent of people in India were living below the poverty line. Recently, India’s Planning Commission released the newest set of numbers regarding the country’s poverty statistics. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of Indians living in poverty dropped to 22 percent. Strictly addressing these numbers, a celebration would appear to be in order. These numbers conveniently do not mention that even with these improvements, one in five Indians is still living in poverty.

These new statistics were met with a number of concerns from numerous places. Why? Most have argued that the standard by which the commission measures poverty is highly unrealistic. The commission disagrees. Data analysts would have people believe that the numbers never lie, so what is the problem? The problem here is the method.

According to the Suresh Tendulkar method, in cities, people living on the equivalent of 55 cents or less per day are considered at or below the poverty line.

Those living in rural areas, where a majority of the nation’s poverty is found, are considered poor if they are living on 45 cents or less per day.

In 2011, Tushar Vashisht and Mathew Cherian conducted an experiment in Bangalore, India. Though their rent was covered, they spent three weeks living on 100 rupees per day, or around $2 per day. 68 percent of India’s population lives on or below this amount. During their experiment, both lost weight and experienced lethargy due to lack of proper nutrition. The duo found that while living on the equivalent of 54 cents a day, they were unable to attain sufficient nutrition. They did not have access to a reliable means of communication and their range of mobility was severely limited to a distance of three miles. While they were able to fill their caloric needs during a majority of the experiment, they noted that they were unable to afford enough healthy food to fill themselves. They noted that access to internet was impossible on their budget and transportation ate dangerously into their budget.

While this experiment could not be an exact replica of life at $2 per day, it is eye opening. Imagine having to support an entire family on this budget. When broken down this way, it is easy to understand why 44 percent of Indian children are underweight.

This news is not all bad, however. Though it is speculated that the poverty rate has declined as much as the India Planning Commission would like to portray, there has been progress made in poverty reduction. This is seen in the overall economic growth of the country, specifically an increase in farm growth and more jobs available.

The revelation of this new data creates a new conversation regarding an old, but prevalent problem the people of India face. While the method for measuring poverty in India has been updated to reflect new developments in the fight against extreme poverty, it appears that there is a need for a new method.

-Jordan Bradley

Sources: BBC News, Rural Poverty Portal, NPR, Rs100/Day Report
Photo: The Guardian