Nothing can prepare you for the scale of poverty in
Owing to its recent prosperity,
Another measure is adult literacy. Here the rates in some Indian states for female and male literacy compare with those in some of
An anecdote from the city of
You can tell their degree of poverty “by their sewage-there's about 4 categories- stagnant pools= lowest of the low, flowing openly down a channel= a little bit better, flowing openly but with little walkways over it= shop people, and finally if it's not visible at all= you're quite well off.”
Abdullah brought us to his house. He was moderately well off by Indian standards. He lived with his wife and 4 children in a two room house. Each room was about the size of an Irish box-room and both were built on top of another building. They had no sanitation or running water. Cooking was done outside. His entire worldly possessions fitted in one small trunk at the foot of the bed. He took out a little bunch of photos. He’d been married earlier in life but his first wife had died – he didn’t say how. Abdullah was earning enough from his Rickshaw driving to feed his family and to send his kids to school. But it was a difficult slog – he worked nearly all the time and never got breaks. Income was unreliable and at times he couldn’t meet the rent for the rickshaw. His family were by no means utterly destitute – indeed, his children would have some hope of a better future if they managed to stay at school. But their welfare was extremely precarious – should Abdullah fall ill or have an accident, this family would meet catastrophe. For Abdullah then, the
We saw much evidence of progress – new roads were being built; Delhi’s metro line was under construction; a middle class, wealthy and confident, was clearly on the increase; modern shopping malls had sprung recently up in the bigger cities; But in the city slums and rural villages, an unimaginably vast number of poor and destitute eke out miserable diminished lives.
The India Ministry of Tourism promotes their country with the slogan “Incredible India”. For me it was exactly that – an enormous, culturally rich, diverse, and brutally unequal place. Simply incredible.