Headline September 20, 2016/ ''' POVERTY -*STUDENTS*- POMPEII '''



EVERYDAY -EVERY SINGLE DAY  -I watch and observe students battle poverty, and at many, many times, battle extreme poverty.

I make it a  *Policy Point*  to keep myself abreast of poverty, pain and suffering the world over: Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Siri Lanka, Egypt, Yemen, the African cluster, Pakistan. Afghanistan and on and on I can go.   
With a heavy heart, I study  *Money for Victims*,  *Shortage of Maternal Drugs*. I study  *Water Preservation*, and then *Bulletproof Vehicles* and the *Targets Achieved*. And even then, I don't quiet comprehend, which way to turn.

Indian Corporate Media and politicians portray India  as the   World's ''largest democracy'' ,  the  ''incredible India'',  -they call it.  And maybe, rightly so!        

With beautiful serene landscapes, glamour of  Bollywood, historic and architectural wonders, ancient religions, civilisations and traditions. But then there is another India plus:

India is among the  10-richest countries in the world with a total individual wealth of   $ 5,000 billion.   But the average Indian is suffering in stark, dark poverty.

*India is the second most  ''unequal nation''  in the world where a handful of billionaires control  54 percent of the total wealth*.

Poverty, on the other hand, rose from 770 million living in extreme poverty to  836 million  in the period between  1999-2010. 
India spends less than 1% of its  GDP  on health. 

With the introduction of neo-liberal economics conditions of the masses have for sure worsened. 
Decline in poverty went from 60 percent to 35 percent between the  1950s-early 1980s, trickle down economic policies reversed this trend since the 1990s with almost  80 percent  of the population living in poverty now.   

In the philosophic sweep, then,  there are certain universally acceptable economic indicators and human development indicators that establish the base for these claims like-
GDP. or the more innovative like the  *Gross Domestic Happiness*. To see progress in a country and  multiple indices  are established to gauge development.

When a country is developed it starts to figure higher in many international spheres. One look at the  Olympic medal table recently concluded in Brazil will support this argument:

The top three countries on the gold hunt were the USA, the UK and China. 

Thus, sports, culture and innovation are all indicators of the state of a country's all round health. Pakistan has not only lagged behind economically but also in sports, arts and innovation.

The fact that only seven sportsmen represented Pakistan in the Olympics, and that too as wild card entries, is a reflection of how overall climate of progress in all walks of life has dwindled. 

While figures can be fudged, twisted and locally packaged,  international statistics are harder to shape according to  *any economic model*.

According to the recently released   UN Global Education Monitoring report 2016-

*Pakistan is half a century behind in its primary education targets*. and  *60 years behind in secondary education targets*.

The latest Human capital Report also shows that  in 2016, Pakistan is ranked 118 of  130 countries below  Bangladesh and other South Asian countries and neighbours. 

*In two years Pakistan has slipped six places*.

This continuous neglect in these categories in the long run becomes the single biggest barrier in making a country strong and vibrant and hopeful. However, an educated and informed populace would then not be taken in by accounting gimmicks, and would demand accountability from its leaders.

The minute the news was out that the Brazilian president had hidden the real deficit figures the opposition and the students and  people of Brazil, started a protest to force an impeachment.

But having said that, it is encouraging to see UNDP's publication acknowledge that tackling inequality requires a much more holistic approach addressing the underlying structures and process which cause inequality.

However, its prescriptions mostly focused on domestic issues such as the need to reform key institutions , making fiscal or monetary policies more equitable, overcoming the evident regional inequality, and mainstreaming women's priorities in budgeting process.

While these are all important suggestions, being a UN agency, the UNDP needs to broader its analysis. Going beyond the domestic causes. It must also begin looking at why and how donor agencies and its policies have been exacerbating inequalities in countries like the developing world.

For instance, the report cites the problem of landless farmers as a major cause for rural poverty. However, besides the vested-national interest, the rural development strategies of the World Bank and other major donors have favoured capital-intensive farming, and other market-based mechanisms.

Such strategies have certainly not improved the circumstances of the rural poor, such as sharecroppers, agricultural labourers, daily waged and seasonal labourers and the women involved in agriculture.

While the  UNDP must begin drawing attention to how international development agencies exacerbate inequalities in countries like Pakistan and the developing world, this, of course, does not mean that our own policy and opinion-makers can continue neglecting the oft-identified reasons for the glaring inequality within our midst.   

I wonder if the students recall, that a few months ago, the UAE announced a new cabinet post, a  *Minister for Happiness*  And happiness as I have understood comes from within.

At the time, the world thought it was hilarious? Now I'm not so sure. Not that Pakistan or India will ever have such a Minister. But if they did, he/she would end up as much a source of dismay, as the countless cabinet members they already have.

So here, right here, just as the students  have to manage their own electrical power and security and everything else, instead of being provided for by the state, they should also set up their own tiny ministers for happiness.

But the world and its leaders must reckon and implement effective reforms against the rise of poverty. But for that to happen the  *great students* of the world will have to behave and work and sacrifice differently.

Or the future generation of students will confront more grave and growing threats to a meaningful, happy and an accomplished life.

*Please, will some student go ring the bell of Honours*. And while you are at it, do step in and see  *Sam Museum of History*

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all !WOW!  -the World Students Society and Twitter and !E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Taking Students Seriously '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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