Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Poor people exist in every country on this planet but the extent of their size varies widely with African continent having the largest population categorized as poor. Similarly the definition of poverty varies from country to country. In India there is a "Lakshman Rekha" drawn by the government to differentiate between Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) essentially to provide subsidized food grains, either rice or wheat on some criteria. A BPL family is supposed to get 35 kg per month of food grains at the subsidized rate though due to large pilferage of the Public Distribution System (PDS) a substantial number of families are deprived of what is due to them. It is a sad reflection on the "governance" in the country that poor women are forced to survive on grains scoured from the road side and rat burrows to eke out an existence in a country which was promised "Rama Rajya" where milk and honey would flow! Here is the disturbing scene from a place in Karnataka which should make every Indian hang his head in shame!

Of late, for lack of threshing spaces in villages, farmers all over the State spread the ears of grain on the road, hoping that the wheels of the speeding vehicles separate the grain from the ears. A part of the grain gets scattered and falls on the mudpaths along the roads. For the farmers, such grain mixed with soil is not worth their while to collect. For the poor women of Srinivaspur that can make a difference between food and starvation. The Bovi women pile up the soil, sand grit containing ragi and then separate the grains using a 'mora' (chaff separator). This is indeed a job involving skills that these women have learnt from elders in the family. The men of the community too collect the ragi that rodents would have hoarded in their burrow holes, by digging them. The women dry such grains in the sun and separate the grains from the chaff, by beating grain in the husk with sticks. The grains they gain at the end of the day is never commensurate with the back-breaking labour they put in from dawn to dusk. Also, they can depend on the grains mixed in mud only during the harvest season. Poverty has pushed many in several villages in and around Srinivaspur to this extreme. During the non-harvest season, the women and men work as construction labourers. The heavy earth movers that are being used in construction work lately have robbed the community of even such low-paying jobs.

Lot of blah blah one hears about various schemes for poverty alleviation by the politicians seem to be unable to even touch the problem let alone solve it. The much touted NREGS is supposed to cover such families at least for 100 days an year and the amount received would have been adequate at least to cover the food expenses. How these families were left out of the safety net of the government raises questions regarding the intentions and practices of the political class as a whole who swear day and night by the much maligned "Aam Aadmi"! It is ultimate humiliation for any Indian citizen to compete for food with Rats who seem to better off by comparison!


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