Monday, June 09, 2008

Two Worlds, Just Across The Street

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer saga continues... What
better place to see this today, than in the booming techno towns of
India. "India has always had its upper classes, as well as legions of
the world's very poor. But today a landscape dotted with Hamilton
Courts, pressed up against the slums that serve them, has underscored
more than ever the stark gulf between those worlds, raising
uncomfortable questions for a democratically elected government about
whether India can enable all its citizens to scale the golden ladders
of the new economy, says an article in the New York Times.

According to this article, "In India, poverty has also dropped
appreciably in the last 17 years of economic change, even as the gulf
between the rich and poor has grown. More than a quarter of all
Indians still live below the official poverty line (subsisting on
roughly $1 a day); one in four city dwellers live on less than 50
cents a day; and nearly half of all Indian children are clinically
At the same time, the ranks of dollar millionaires have swelled to
100,000, and the Indian middle class, though notoriously hard to
define and still small, has by all indications expanded.
For those with the right skills, the good times have been very good.
Mr. Chand, 34, a business school graduate who runs the regional
operations for an American manufacturing firm, has seen his salary
grow eightfold in the last five years, which is not unusual for upper
class Indians like him."

This widening gap became very obvious to me when I visited Bangalore,
a little over a year ago. Rising sky scrapers, huge wallets,
increasing poverty and lack of infrastructure to keep with the
phenomenal growth. Similarly according to the article, "Gurgaon, a
largely privately developed city and a metonym for Indian ambition,
has seen a building frenzy to satisfy people like the Chands. The
city's population has nearly doubled in the last six years, to 1.5
million. The skyline is dotted with scaffolds. Glass towers house
companies like American Express and Accenture. Not far from Hamilton
Court, Burberry and BMW have set up shop. State services, meanwhile,
have barely kept pace. The city has neither enough water nor
electricity for the population. There is no sewage treatment plant
yet; construction is scheduled to begin this year."

"India has long lived with such inequities, and though a Maoist
rebellion is building in the countryside, the nation has for the most
part skirted social upheaval through a critical safety valve: giving
the poor their chance to vent at the ballot box. Indeed, four years
ago, voters threw out the incumbent government, with its "India
Shining" slogan, because it was perceived to have neglected the poor.
It is little wonder then that the current administration has seized on
"inclusive growth" as its mantra, and as elections approach in less
than a year, it is spending heavily on education, widely acknowledged
as a key barrier to upward mobility for the poor," says this article.

Read the full article at --

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