Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poverty eliminated - for one person at a time

Poverty eliminated one at a time meaningfully

I hear constantly people complain about how Indian system is corrupt, politicians are corrupt and nothing changes in India etc all the time. Over and over again I hear " This is India nothing will change" " this is India nothing can be or will be done" etc etc. I looked at what exactly Indian people were doing to help their poor fellows. There are many charities and organizations doing things to help much of it is charity. It does not seem to have improved much for the poor as food prices are increasing and country is creaking under the weight of its population and lack of infrastructure.

This got me thinking seriously about how people in the middle class can play a significant role in solving some of the issues that keep India and Indian poor down and in a helpless stage not just for the benefit of the poor, not just for the benefit of the country but for their own benefit and future survival.

A simple concept once mentioned by a relative of mine came to  my thoughts. Although the concept is simple, the idea is simple it is very powerful and so meaningful that I was compelled to use this concept to work out the maths of this concept. I am used to working out the cost benefit analysis of projects so I started out in my usual manner by putting together several ideas as below:

The concept and idea

If every Indian who is working donates Rs 1 per day what can be done.

Indian population is estimated to be 1,184,890,000 according to population clock in August 2009 and 1,139,964,932 according to world bank in 2008.

About 27% of this population is living below poverty with less than $US 1 per day. That is 319,920,000 people. They are living in approximately Rs 45 per day. Imagine if there is a family of 4 then if they buy 1/2 kg of rice at PDS price, kerosene at PDS price, sugar at PDS price 1/2 kg of vegetables  at 20 rupees then virtually this Rs 45 is finished. This leaves such a family to have no access to education, health issues, proper clothes etc. This will perpetuate poverty for these people through generations. However this poverty cycle can be broken if every one uses the concept I have explained below in a systematic manner and not using it for providing  food or charity in the streets.

How can middle class participate in removing poverty one at a time?

In India, about 300 million people i.e. 300,000,000 are considered as middle class population. Let us say only about 200 million are truly middle class as definitions of middle class vary and let us take a conservative estimate. Let us apply the above concept and see what happens.

If every one of these 200,000,000 middle class people  donates Rs 1 per day (you can't buy even a drink of water for this) .then it will be 200,000,000 rupees per day. Let us say a Micro credit Non Government Agency is asked to use this money for micro credit provision to the poor. Usually about 30% needs to be kept for wages and administration of the staff and this will amount to 60,000,000 per day. This will create approximately 500 people to be employed per year for a salary of Rs10,000 per month.

Rest of the money Rs. 140,000,000 will be used for micro credit per day at the rate of Rs 10,000 per deserving person with a plan to develop a micro business or improve a micro business. This means 14,000 people will get the credit. So with one day's Rs 1 will allow 14,000 people to become micro credit business owners. Success of micro credit around the world has been found to be 99% in repayments. Remember Micro credit is not a donation or charity.  It is given as a loan to start up either a business or improve and expand a business so that poor people without access to proper credit (not the money lenders) can be given a start and this will help the whole family.

Now if we create business of 14,000 per day then for 365 days it will be 5,110,000 poor people will be starting businesses or improving businesses per year. Let us they will pay back the credit in 5 years time at the rate of Rs. 2000 per year and Rs. 166 per month or Rs 5 per day. So your 1 years worth of Rs365 will start turning a credible profit in 5 years time which can be reinvested in either the same business or for other purposes.

Additionally 182,500 (14,000 x 365) jobs can be created per year in various aspects of the micro credit management.

How to reduce the concept scale to what is achievable?

Now let us say you are in a apartment block of 20 apartments (or a book club or a sports club or a work group). Let us apply the same concept that there are 2 people per apartment who are in the middle class bracket. Therefore 40 people. Now these people donating Rs 40 per day will lead to 14,600 rupees per building/year. If you sponsor 1 micro credit business per year (Rs 10,000) and 1 child's school fees, books and shoes per year (Rs 4,600), every apartment block can help 1 family and 1 child through education. Imagine how many of these apartment blocks, friends groups, classmates facebook groups etc are there)

Now isn't  this concept workable? Isn't it simple?

How can you make it happen in other ways?

1. You have money from selling your news paper and magazines monthly - collect it in your apartment block and sponsor a micro credit. There are many in India and on the web. Check out their credibility and ensure they are not a charity but a micro credit/micro finance organization where you will receive money back and can invest again and again over a number of years and adding your daily contribution each day to sponsor more deserving people. As an example look at sites such as Goonje, RangDe, Global giving, Kiva etc.( I am not recommending any one as that is not the reason for this blog)

2. Sponsor a child through WorldVision, Save the Children, CRY, OXFAM SOSChildrens villages etc. by collecting Rs 1 per day from your apartment building.

3. Collect Rs 1 per day from your family and extended family members and sponser the education of a child in a rural government school or sponsor computer education of 1 child per year. There are many charity organizations who are providing computer education to rural poor kids in India. They need more money.

4. Collect money and purchase a solar light for a family in slums. Nest Ltd in Hyderabad sells them for approximately Rs 1300 per lantern which runs for 4 hours per charge. kerosene lamps cause fumes which cause health problems and safety problems as children get burnt.

5. Collect money and purchase a smokeless chula for a poor person from the slums to reduce respiratory diseases and blindness induced by smoke in unventilated area. It costs about Rs. 700.

6. Collect money to buy some bamboo chapai and razai for a poor family. It will cost about Rs 2000.

7. Collect money to buy some chappals or sandals for children of the orphanages or slums. These kids are walking on spit etc on the roads carrying diseases such as tuberculosis, flu, HIV/AIDS etc. Providing them with protection will minimise the spread of these diseases. A Hawaii chappal costs about Rs 200 maximum or even cheaper when bought in bulk.

8. Collect money for a year or 2 and purchase a computer for a computer education charity or school.

9. Collect money from your group and donate it to Jaipur foot organization so that they can fit a person with an artificial limb which costs only U$ 40 per foot. this will help to increase the income of many families. In India rural poor now have to have amputations due to accidents in the field and diseases such as diabetes which bring out gangrene etc.

10. Donate money to an orphanage or poor school to allow them to provide milk to kids. Kids who do not get enough protein from the ages of 0-10 suffer from reduced mental development. Milk has 4% protein.

11. Donate money for a girl to go to school from rural areas. Indian family system generally educates boys but not girls. However it is demonstrated time and again that if a girl is educated entire family benefits not just the girl. In addition education of girls also improves the education level of her future family. This is the situation world over.

12. Donate money so that your buildings maids' kids can purchase books for school and get educated.

13. Collect money and provide insurance to a bus load of government school kids to go to the river bed on an environmental education to make them aware of how to look after the river systems.

14. Collect money and support a tribal group so that they can be productive in the mainstream environment.

15. Collect money so that a injured Jawans family can access rehabilitation and education.

16. Collect money in your building and build a playground with proper facilities in a slum for kids.

17. Collect money and develop a garden around the slums and teach people how to grow vegetables and flowers for themselves in community gardens.

18. Collect money and build toilet blocks around slums and train the children in value of hygiene. Make sure men and women's toilets are built with adequate safety and much apart from each other. Build separate childrens' toilets near womens' toilets. This will prevent criminal activities which affect children and young women.
19. Collect money and organize health awareness camps to urban slums. Help slum youth to develop educational programs to address the needs of the slums.

20. Collect money so that abused kids and street kids can be admitted to orphanages and schools. In India kids without an address can't be admitted to any schools. This leads to transient workers kids (like people who apply tar on roads who move with work, construction workers) not being able to access education as they do not have a permanent address. How Right to education act will change this is yet to be seen.

21. Collect money to purchase an old van to develop mobile libraries and educational materials for kids of transient workers.

22. Collect money to develop toy, book, music libraries to orphanages and disadvantaged government schools. Toys and plays develop mental skills, co-ordination, team playing and social behaviour in children.

23. Collect money to appoint a music teacher to develop music skills of kids in slums and orphanages. Give hope.

24. Provide money to educate your house maids child.

Concept of Time

Now you are not in the middle class and earning money but are literate with a minimum education of year 10 school and can read and write English and Kannada or Hindi well. How can you contribute? Time is money and poor children need your time, your attention, good influence and guidance.

So what can you do?

1. If you are a retired teacher or college lecturer or a college student join Teach India and sign up for it to teach in Indian schools. Times of India has organized this voluntary teaching group.

2. If you can not go out, invite a child from a poor government school and teach maths, biology, science, English, Kannada for 1 hour per day or week.

3. If you are computer savvy but due to circumstances can't do the above, develop a blog to teach poor kids computer literacy and basic life skills.

4. If you can visit a local government hospital and read a story book for a patient. Work with the hospital authorities so that human company can reduce depression and help in recovery of people.

5. If you can visit an old age home and provide 1 hour per week company to a person whose family may be elsewhere or who longs for company during the week.

6. If you can help an elderly person buy helping to do shopping of groceries and food. In western countries go an deliver meals on wheels to elderly people.

7. Visit a lonely older relative and give them company and take them out for a walk. Depression among the older generation in cities like Bangalore will increase as many older people who are not with their children find it difficult to go for a walk due to crime, frailty, fear etc. Staying at home without getting sunlight will also reduce Vitamin D levels in elderly which has not been linked to many health problems.

8. Visit a bed ridden elderly person and talk to them and be a good company for 1 hour per week.

9. Make sweets and take fruits on festival days to orphanages. For many children this is the only time they get any thing. Here is the list from Indian orphanages network

10. Ask your kids to make presents for children of orphanages and give it to them during festival times.

11. If you can knit or do crochet use your skill. Make some sweaters or shawls and donate it to orphanages children or old age homes. Many kids in India and rest of the world contract and suffer from diseases due to cold weather. Elderly are prone to cold weather as well.

12. Donate your children's old books to orphanages in India so that kids can read and write.

13. If you cant collect money collect old clothes ( if you haven't given it to your maid) from your building and donate it to Goonj ( to save women from infections and diseases.

14. Help organizations such as Banyan to address mental health issues which drain the family and economy of its productivity (

15. If you are computer savvy teach rural farmers to use sites like echoupal or become a volunteers to help farmers.

16. Talk to your elderly relative on the phone every week. Do not under estimate the power of loneliness in families especially when people are working all sorts of shifts etc.

17. Look after your relatives child after school till parents come back. It takes a village to raise a child. don't assume every child will have a grandparent to look after it as many people migrate to other states and countries for job and personal circumstances.

18. If you are in a large business lobby your company to donate computers, money and volunteer time to slums through Red Cross etc or through your local charity.

19. Collect used novels and books from people through your workplace or home and organize to sell it through your local rotary club or lions club etc. This will allow schools and individuals to purchase books in lots for a cheap price and at the same time raise lots of money. Here in my small town volunteers of local rotary (mostly retired people and others) organize this each year. This year we raised $35,000 for charities.

20. If you own a company sponser a child's education. Create an employee of the month program and offer bonuses or cash prizes to encourage staff to stay and contribute.

21. If you are an engineer join a group of students and participate in an invention which will help the poor.

22. If you are a doctor participate in training rural doctors or participate in medical camps. Many ophthalmologists (eye doctors) from US and Australia raise money and go every year to train doctors and conduct operations in medical camps each year.

23. If you are an accountant then teach a poor person how to do banking and save money. Volunteer your time in a micro credit agency.

25. If you know how to play sports, crafts, music, drawing, painting,photography etc. volunteer to train some kids in a slum or a government school.

It is time to think and time to act!

I have provided a list of ideas in this blog. Many families are sponsoring children from India including me. This is not great nor noble. I believe it is the duty of every Indian to give back to the society in a meaningful manner. If you can't do any of the ideas or more then you have lost every right to complain about poverty or what is the government is doing as you are not doing anything either.

There are 437 million poor people in India barely struggling to survive and live everyday. Even the best government in the world can not lift this kind of poverty without the help of everyone who can in the country.  India's population is expected to grow by another 300-400 million in the next 40 years even at the current fertility rate of approximately 2.3. India already has 54% of its current population below the age of 30. Only 11% of this group has any education even today. Growth of Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai etc will only increase by at least 2-4 million as there has been little infrastructure development in rural areas. Imagine Bangalore or Mumbai then! this is the current projected figure as world is expected to increase from its current population of 6.5 billion to 9.5 billion. India has admitted recently to have failed to reduce its fertility target to 2 which is just the replacement target.

Consequences of doing nothing today!

Look around you! if you see slums around the home, workplace you can do something about it. if you see a woman sitting with a crying child next to a chula (stove) trying to cook food in the cold nights air then you can do something about it.
If you see a poor woman with bent back walking to beg money in front of the temple where you have gone to pray for the good of your family then you can do something about it!
If you see a child walking carrying building scraps barefoot then you can do something about it!
If you see a rural child not getting proper education then you can do something about it!
If you see a child come next to your car when on the road to beg or sell a rose then you can do something about it!
if you see a child sitting near a hut with a runny nose and scabies on the legs, you can do something about it!

Don't pretend that your maid is rich as she and her family earn few thousand rupees per month. In many cities it mostly goes to rent and food. Education takes a back seat due to financial reasons and lack of interest shown by the illiterate parents. This leads of another generation of poor un or undereducated population. If rural poor are educated and trained in rural enterprises then they do not have to migrate to the cities and create slums such as Dharavi, Mumbai and infrastructure demands and crime and diseases.

Every time you drive past a poor child, poor woman you need to think about the future of your child and your grandchild. Every poor child today who does not get educated or trained in any manner will get married one day. He or she will give birth to 3 children who are alive at the current fertility rate (higher among rural uneducated) . This will lead to 3 more children out of which one may get educated and rest of the two un or undereducated (I do not mean only university degree as education). Today 35% of the middle class and upper class are carrying 65% of the population in some way. Every time this ratio changes by the addition of 2 more uneducated children in 10 years time (per today's 1 uneducated child) then the 30% or less will have to carry more people per person. This will affect the quality of life for your child and grand child as traffic becomes higher, crimes increase, food prices increase, rents increase and pollution and carbon footprint increase.

Think about it when your grandchild will not get a seat in the school even if you are prepared to shell out more money, think about it when your son or daughter has respiratory problems due to long hours in traffic, think about it when you can't walk on the street due to lack of maintenance or crime, think about it or face break ins and crimes increasing and living in fear, think about it when cost of mediciens you need go up.

Act Now! and see how you can help others and you!

Today Bangalore is crying for better infrastructure and disease control as uncontrolled population migration is taking place both from urban cities and rural towns and villages.  This need not happen if every one acts now to help.

If every village has people who are trained in various rural business related activities such as 1. How to maximise crop production 2. How to manage livestock to prevent foot and mouth disease and increase milk production, 3. how to test the soil properly to ensure better management of agriculture and climate change, 4. how to conduct pesticide/herbicide spraying safely and properly 5. how to test the water and manage irrigation through drip irrigation systems 6. how to use computers to understand the markets and prices 7. How to store grain in silos and chillers to prevent food grain waste and vegetable waste and mismanagement 8. how to transport grain and vegetables in a proper manner to get best prices, 9. how to develop horticultural enterprises which get export dollars and best urban prices etc 100s of businesses can be developed around each of these areas. Rural poor youth can be trained through rural scholarships and apprenticeships to not only get themselves trained but through micro credits become business owners and trainers themselves.

This will naturally reduce the rural - urban migration and don't leave the rural areas empty of its youth. One does not need big manufacturing or IT industry in rural areas to do this. There are  opportunities to develop businesses from agriculture, animal husbandry, logistics, transport, silo management, fertilizer spreading, spraying chemical contractors, grain carting contractors, commodity brokers, grain traders, small vegetable gardens and cottage industries, tissue culture, horticulture companies to clone and multiply horticultural plants for urban and export consumption, seed production contractors and sellers, animal feed companies to produce tailor made animal feed for maximizing production, value added products such as animal skins for leather manufacture, wool for yarn etc, mechanics, resellers so on. The rural youth can be trained and in some cases there may be case for urban youth to move to rural areas. Much of this training requires at best high school education not university degrees. One does not need a university degree to get training in driving a tractor to spread fertilizers accurately and develop a contracting business using this skill. One does not need university degree to set up drip irrigation systems and develop a business in mainataining it and managing it. a person does not need to be an engineer to set up silos and maintain them.

Increase in rural production can be more than 4% the government is aiming for. If you want food costs to go down and your city to stop bursting under infrastructure pressure then you can do something about it! Around the rural businesses other engineering and allied health opportunities, shops etc will develop and prevent rural youth and people from moving away and create urban stress. rural health will improve leading to population reduction as increase in wealth is directly linked to reduction in population.

Food security and water security is a high priority among countries now due to climate change. Countries are securing these vital assests (India can pretend as much as it wants to that climate change is not being contributed by it). Due to climate change, food export oriented countries such as Russia, Canada, Australia and US may not be able to export much grain to import dependent countries such as India and China. For example, drought in Australia led to a reduction in rice export from Australia to Asia leading to food roits prior to global financial crisis. Russia this year has banned wheat exports due to climate change drought and forest fires. Food inflation in India is 10-18%. You doing nothing will only help to increase this problem. In India 150,000 farmers have committed suicide, 8,000,000 (8 million) farmers have given up on farming and this number is rapidly growing not just in India but all over the world. In 20 more years India will have added as per current rate another 230,000,000 people. If you are 55 today and retired imagine if India needs to feed another 230 million people how much the food prices will go up due to sheer volume needed, doughts, floods and climate change. Your pension or retirement income will not increase much but food costs will. Food inflation could damage Indian economic growth according all expert projections.

Stop pretending and saying you can't do much or do anything. You can if You want to! everyone can! It is time you stopped turning your back and started facing facts and playing a part in your country's issues rather than being a spectator. If Indians don't help themselves now no one else will and no one else can!

"Ask not what your country can do but what you can do for your country" - John F Kennedy

"There is enough for every one's need but not every one's greed" - Mahatma Gandhi

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal - Martin Luther King Jr.

Helping hands are better than talking lips - Someone who has courage to do and change something. A true patriot!
I hope this article got you thinking. Even in countries like the US, UK and Australia population and food and water security debates are hotting up enough to become serious election issues and discussions. Some countries who are busy not doing anything are already facing the consequences today of not investing in infrastructure and needs of the poor. Western aid and loans are drying up.

I am doing my bit but can you say you have? Think now! Act now!

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