Sunday, April 19, 2009



Has poverty ever been eliminated? Has it ever been alleviated? The answer is for every one to see. When poverty raises its ugly head even in the 21s century what else remains to be said! I cannot provide the answers but I cannot help observing that at least 500 million people are living in absolute poverty, and that 15 million children die of hunger every year the world over. Half of the world live on less than $2 a day. Many millions of people live without adequate shelter and without access to safe water and health services. Who cares? You think that remembering the event once a year, or writing some few lines in the Blog or shedding a few tears or indulging into a flurry of activities for a short while will solve the problem? The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!

Without delving into the telling statistics, the affluent countries have wealth, funds and resources for spending on weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons and hoarding of conventional weapons. The USA has spent trillions of dollars in Afghanistan for finding Osama Bin Laden, and in Iraq on the excuse of finding WMD which were never there. But USA’s military spending had been rising even prior to 9/11. It is said that merely on “obsolete cold war weapons and extra nuclear weapons” a huge sum of 60 Billion Dollars is spent by the USA annually. The amount of public money being spent on this mad race for procurement of arms keeps on increasing year by year quite exponentially. USA’s military expenditure accounts for just under half of what the rest of the world spends on such exercises, followed by the U.K., China, France and Japan, and thereafter by the next ten countries combined. Saudi Arabia, Russia and other oil-producing countries too have increased their military expenditure for one reason or another.

The arms race between India and Pakistan too cannot be brushed aside what with all the perceived threats. The amounts spent by these two countries are especially hurting given their lower economic power when compared even to that of China. However, in the case of India, its economic power has been only just rising.

The recent Kargil Conflict, (not speaking of the three wars) and the terror attacks on Indian soil, especially on the Indian Parliament in Delhi, and in Mumbai City to name just two, and the continual infiltration of the Pakistan-based terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir, and the preponderence of the military forces on the border and the glaciers of Siachen have not only heightened the perceived threats from Pakistan but have also sapped the Indian economy. In turn this has spurred India to revise its military budget by almost 50% to $40 Billion. Pakistan allocates around 3.5% of GDP but at the cost of development, education and health. In short, the military spending of both India and Pakistan could go out of control, affecting the general populace of these nations by pulling it towards deprivation, hunger and poverty.

The smaller countries are being sucked into the vortex of the arms race. While USA remains the source for buying the weapons legally, huge amount is spent by smaller countries in buying illegal weapons and bribing “legal” officials, spurring the proliferation of “small” weapons which alone have led to the death of nearly 3 million people in the last decade in poverty-stricken continent of Africa and elsewhere. The names of some agents have become well-known for procurement of all sorts of arms and ammunitions. The list can go on and on.

There is a very wide gap between what these countries spend on sustaining their military might and what they spend for alleviating poverty. The theorists come up with all their findings on poverty; but their theories are bogged down in the unintelligible pond of verbose and impracticality. If someone wants to improve the lot of the poor through science and technology let them do so. If someone comes up with business related strategies he is welcome to do so. If someone comes up with a religious injunction for alleviating hunger from the surface of the earth, let him do so in all earnest. One thing stands out for sure: All this must be done through the unified and concerted efforts of all the developed and the developing nations towards helping the poor nations in the formation of a welfare state so that the poverty is addressed practically in accordance with the individual needs and demands of the state.

The UNO and its relevant departments must be given the greater share of responsibilities. The UNO must not be weakened for lack of funds, men and material. It must be amply demonstrated that the UNO means business. For that, the United Nations must be given full power to deal with military and economic crises in order to ensure that no conflicts take place. Nor should it be made subservient to any super power. All the developed countries must ensure that the UN Charter and the international laws and norms are observed for maintenance of peace and security in the world. The phenomena of terrorism must be also addressed by the UNO by active participation of its military forces, majority of which must be from the victim and threatened state. International monetary organisations must keep a tab on the world economy and address the country inflicted with the woes of poverty by mobilization of resources under the supervision of the UNO. Greater funds must be allocated to the UNICEF by the governments, private groups and individuals in its fight for child survival and development, education and gender equality. The World Health Organisation must be empowered with doctors, nurses, funds and resources and medicines to address the general health problems of Asia, Africa and the third world, these being the problem places.

When there will be no conflicts and no perceived threats of war, only then the race for arms procurement will go down. Thus the surplus funds could easily be used for improving the conditions of the hungry and deprived. These funds must necessarily be seen to be used in the development of relevant infrastructures and distribution of food among the poor and not just handed over to some head of the agency.

No monetary bank in the world should encourage stashing of surplus or ill-gotten wealth by their customers. This will ensure that the surplus wealth is circulated within the country, such as India for example, since it’s no secret that the largest stashers of wealth in Swiss Banks are Indians - and India has the largest section of the poor in the world. Every slum-dog may not become a millionaire but will at least have a square meal a day, safe water and better health, raising the life expectancy in return, and thus zooming the health graph of the nation.

Let every country unite for eliminating poverty and hunger from this God-given world of plenty by first stepping up the food supply where it is needed the most and thereafter coming up with Meets and Summits. Yes, they say the USA is the most affluent, most progressive and the most powerful country in the world. But the spectre of poverty is more powerful than the USA and the rest of the world put together. What are we going to do about it?


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