Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Age of Inequality - Big Ideas

In our series of podcasts about India, I want to direct you to TVO's Big Ideas which had a lecture delivered by Palagummi Sainath on the problem of poverty. Sainath makes a passionate demand for attention to the problem of poverty in India. His point concerns one of the most devastating faces of poverty: starvation. Sainath argues more people than ever are starving in India.

Should this surprise us? Just as we were being informed of the rising economic power if India, you would not immediately think of starvation happening the same time. Yet, if you have listened to Professor Pranab Bardhan at LSE, poverty already stood out as a serious challenge to India. Also the interview Christopher Lydon did with Amartya Sen (review coming soon) touched on t his subject. Yet, Sainath is most outspoken. He addresses India's successes, but claims that this reflects only the upper realm of society. In fact, he argues, the increased wealth is ending up with an increasingly smaller portion of the population. For the masses, the opposite is the case: a descent into poverty. And if statistics indicate that Indians eat better than ever, this also goes only for the upper portion. Per head, there is less food and therefore, for the absolute bottom of society Sainath asks: 'What the heck do they eat?'

He adds, that the poorest people, also do the hardest work and as a consequence are in need of more calories than the middle class office dwellers (who have the food). The implication of his argument is not only the stunning injustice and a revelation of desperate human suffering, but also a warning of great social upheaval to come. Unless the problems are addressed. A bail-out is needed for the poor and this would be a global truth, not just one for India. Bail-outs, unfortunately, in this world, are devised for the rich, not the poor.

More Big Ideas:
Disappearing cultures,
Waiting for Godot,
Religion as culture - Camille Paglia,
Christopher Hitchens on the Ten Commandments,
The empire.