Poverty

By , September 2, 2008 13:29

IndiaThe numbers are incredible.  While I was visiting in Mumbai last week, The Times of India ran a front page story on poverty within India.  Did you know that one third of the people defined as poor by the World Bank, live in India.  The means that 456 million (42%) of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day.  If you take the look at the percentage of people living on less than $2.00 per day, 76% of the population meets this criteria – more than sub-Saharan Africa where only 72% of the population live on this little.  Mumbai has become such an incredibly divided city between rich and poor with an explosion of the latter, that many people now refer to it as Slumbai.  The slums of the city are exploding …

But numbers don’t do it justice.  You have to experience it.  I’m not sure where the wealthy are in Mumbai, but I felt that I never really left the slums as I shuttled from location to location in my chauffered and air conditioned car.  It was one sprawling mass of poverty.  I can’t even describe the scene of miles and miles of tin shacks and cardboard boxes that people called home – lice infected huts without running water, open sewage, and where people sleep in shifts because a bed is far too valuable to be used by only one person.  It is a maze of open sewers, electrical wires dangling dangerously at eye level, and garbage piles.  Diseases such as AIDS, leprosy, dengue fever and malaria are rampant … with little or few medical facilities.  The cows that wander the streets and highways are afforded more attention and respect than these souls.

I was speaking with someone from work in Delhi one evening and expressing my astonishment at the little value that was placed on human life.  Consider the transportation system if nothing else.  Buses don’t even stop to pick up people who jumped aboarding running death machines and hung out doors and windows by the smallest of threads.  He told me that 3500 people die each year on the metro system alone.  They are dragged along after falling from cars, they are beheaded by power poles as they lean out the windows seeking fresh air, or entangled in power lines and crash into overpasses as they sit on the roof.  It is beyond our comprehension..

I expressed how awful it must be to my colleague – to be met with disagreement.  "Most of these people had a guru, or shwami, who offered them hope and optimism among such surroundings.  The guru would tell them what to do and helped them."  I don’t know who these gurus are, but I certainly saw lots of nicely decorated and colorful billboards advocating one person or another …

It is a people in desperate need of a Saviour.

Do you imagine for a moment that those we meet each day are in any less need?  Are any less poor?  The only difference is that in our materially wealthy countries, we are blind to the poverty.

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