Simple solutions for complex problems

Sitaram Naik

Poverty

What is poor? What is rich? Who is a poor person? If a person earns Rs.1000/ day, is he rich? Some other person earns Rs.100/day; can we call him poor? Are poor and rich relative? How can we say that one person is rich? What are the parameters to decide whether a person is rich or poor? First of all, it depends on his/her earnings. How much is his/her earning per day or per month or per year? How much is his/her spending? Whenever earnings are more than spending then that person is a rich person because that person can save some amount every month. Whenever earnings are less than or equal to spending then that person is a poor person. A poor person needs to reduce his/her spending or increase earnings for comfortable living.

When a healthy person can work and earn his food, how can he become poor? What are the things that are making him poor? The important thing that is making him poor is dependents. Even though a person’s earnings are reasonable, if he is having many dependents the person’s expenditure increases and he becomes poor.

Who are a person’s dependents? His parents, if the person is married then the person’s spouse (in case the spouse is not earning) and children (if any) are the main dependents. While taking care of all his dependents, if his spending is more than or equal to his earnings then he is a poor person.

To become rich, he has two options:

  1. Increase earnings
  2. Decrease spending

For increasing earnings, he has to do more work, work for more time, gain more knowledge, improve and utilize talents. For decreasing spending, he has to reduce/avoid unnecessary expenses and fancy spending. He has to review his expenses. Maximum spending is on dependents. Most costly items on any person’s expense list are education (for children or for self) and medical expenses (this could be for the children, parents, spouse or for himself/herself). Other major part of expenses includes purchase of luxury items (here luxury items are the ones without which one can live), transportation, festivals and functions, hobby or habits. By looking at all these, a person has to identify which items of his expense list are avoidable or at least reducible. He slowly needs to reduce these expenses to increase his savings.

Even if a person is earning Rs.100/day and his spending is less than that, the person is rich person. After a period of time, that person will have some money which can be used as capital for starting a small business or to cover his future requirements. If a person is earning 200 or 500 per day and his spending is more than or equal to that, that person is poor. If he does not earn for one day, he won’t get food for that day because there is no saving.

Definition of rich and poor: If a person earns more than he spends then that person is a rich person. If a person earns less than or equal to his expenses then that person is a poor person.

With this definition, now we see why there are poor people in this country.

When government is spending huge amount of money for poor people every year, why is the number of poor people in this country not reducing? Government is making lot of policies and schemes to make poor people’s life better; it is facilitating self employment which will help poor people to earn on their own by giving free land, homes, loans, etc. Every year the government claims that it is bringing many people out of poverty. That means it is making poor people rich. Then why today, after many decades, we have so many poor people?

Every year if the government brings few lakh (100,000) families out of poverty, then after 60 years of independence we should have covered most of the poor families. But the numbers are more or less same compared to last decade or few decades earlier or before independence. Along with government, many NGOs are also spending huge amount of money and working for betterment of poor people and poor children. Even then we could not reduce the number of poor people in this country by 50% or even by 25%. What is the problem? What is happening there?

When government spends some money, it spends the money over whole country. With this it covers 5% or 10% of people one way or the other. It plans to cover another 5% in next year. But by the time next year plan comes, the people who got benefits this year will consume what they got and comes back as poor people because there is no tracking and there is no proper verification. So every year more or less same people are getting benefits or there may be fake poor people as many scams are happening every year.

How to tackle this problem? People are paying taxes, government is showing huge budget and NGOs are spending so much, even then there is no much improvement in the country and no reduction in number of poor people. If it goes the same way, after 100 years or after 1000 years, we will have same number of poor people or more.

The problem is the way government is handling the problem and the way government is spending money for policies. When government can give benefits to 1000 poor people a year, it selects 1000 people from all over the country. So in records 1000 people got benefited. Next year again it gives benefit to 1000 people. Is it tracking whether some of the last year’s people are repeated? If not last year, 5 years ago or 10 years ago that person might have taken government benefits as a poor person. Without tracking it properly, government can never cover all poor people. Some people get benefits repeatedly and others never get anything. If the person who is distributing government’s money is not a sincere person, he/she may be giving fake list or giving the list of his/her relatives always. If government is not verifying, this process continues forever. Poor people never get anything. If this continues, government will be spending lot of money but there will not be any improvement in the country. To reduce poor people or to give benefits to poor people, it should be done in a systematic way.

Solution for this is: if the government plans any scheme for betterment of poor people, it should be done for a section or a village or an area. If it has bigger budget, it can cover more villages. Whenever it selects a village, it should cover complete village. It should not do it for parts of many villages. If government shows reasonable income source for all citizens of a village, there won’t be any poor people in the village in future. So government need not to apply those schemes for that village in future. If government can cover many villages same way in one year, all those villages can be labelled as developed villages and they will be removed from this type of schemes in the future. Only in this way, one day in future, we can say that all villages in the country are developed and there are no poor people in the country. That day can come after 20 years, after 50 years or even after 100 years. Once we achieve that, government need not spend money for poor people any more. The full budget can be utilized for advancement of whole country. Lot of developments are possible if full budget is available. The budget itself will grow as number of tax-payers increase. I have taken village as an example. It can be slums in city. When we tackle problem of slums, we should cover all slums in a city at once and label that city as No-slum-city. If we handle one part of the city at a time then the process never ends.

How to make poor people rich? There are many ways to make poor people rich.

  1. Increase income: After a person takes benefits from the government, that person should not depend on government again. That is how government should plan policies or schemes. The government’s scheme should make a person or a family capable of earning income on their own such that they will not depend on government or others in future. It should show some way to earn more income than expenditure. It can be done by training them, teaching new skills, identifying their skills and showing matching employment or business, creating local employment, providing capital fund, etc. Once they start earning on their own, they are rich. They can take care of themselves.
  2. Reduce expenditure: The other way of making them rich is by removing/reducing their expenditure. There are many ways to reduce their expenditure. Their expenditure includes food grains, other food items, cooking gas, electricity, transportation, etc. Let government take care of these necessities for poor people, may be up to some extent, like giving subsidy, setting limits (Ex: Up to so many units of electricity free), giving low cost bus passes, etc, so that their expenditure becomes less than their earnings. And they become rich. But this way, government needs to pay every year. So this is not a best solution.
  3. Increase income and reduce expenditure: Follow both (1) and (2). But the subsidy will be given only for few years till they stabilize on their income. Reduce or stop subsidy after few years depending on their income source.
  4. Reduce dependencies or dependants: This is very important way of reducing poverty and developing country. Lot of thinking has to be done here. Because government has to do lot of things to make it happen. Now we see who the dependants of a person are and what to do with them.
    1. First of all, his/her parents, who cannot earn on their own. Health problems of old people will be major expenditure of care takers. For very poor people, providing food and shelter to old parents is also a problem. Slum dwellers cannot provide proper shelter to all their dependents. If governments can take care of old people, some part of expenditure of poor people will reduce.
    2. Next major dependents are children, their education, their health and many things. This is one place where government can do many things. If the family is very poor, government can take care of the children completely. Otherwise, depending on their income level, government can support part of their expenditure like children food, books, health insurance, etc.
    3. Another type of dependent is disabled person(s) in the family. In this there are two types: (a) Those who can take care of themselves. If children are there in this category, they can be treated as other normal children. If they are adults, then we can provide some way of employment and subsidies so that they can earn on their own and live on their own. As they can take care of themselves, they can take care of their expenditure if suitable employment or business is given. (b) Second category is those who cannot take care of themselves. The family will have extra burden if this type of disabled persons are there in the family because one person gets locked to take care of disabled person. Earning ability of care taker comes down. Here government can take care of these disabled people completely. We can have special schools for them, special homes for them. Depending on their disability and age, we can have different homes. If a poor family cannot afford to take care of disabled children or relatives, they can send them to these special homes. There disabled people get food, medicines, shelter and required care.
    4. Another type of dependent is a sick person or a person with some disease. There are many hospitals that give free treatment. There are government hospitals and many other hospitals run by NGOs. Government can provide proper information to poor people about all hospitals and the options of treatments available, depending on the disease. It can setup a helpdesk with toll free number for all types of enquiries. So that people can find best affordable option for their treatment, depending on their location, disease and severity.
    5. There are special cases like death of the only earning person in a family. These situations need to be handled case by case basis.
    6. The common dependent of all rich and poor people is beggar. There are many social problems because of beggars. Even if you decide not to give money, sometimes to avoid their nuisance or for some other reason you pay beggars. Many sensitive poor people lose their hard earned money to beggars. There are many other problems also because of beggars. We will discuss them later.

In one of the many ways, by increasing income or by reducing expenditure, government can make a poor person rich. After that the person can take care of his/her family without depending on government.
I like to discuss about old people and children in more detail, not as dependants of an earning person. Government can do a lot to these people and gain much more from them in long run.

Old people or senior citizens

There are people who send their old parents out of their house because they cannot take care or they don’t want to take care. This is extreme case, happens very rarely. But most of the poor people are struggling to take care of old parents, children and themselves with their very low income. They are not able to see any other option to decrease their expenditure or to increase income. This is where government or NGOs can come forward and take some burden from poor people.

Create old-age homes in all parts of the country. Invite old people to come and join the homes. Old-age homes should be better than a poor person’s house. Senior citizens should feel that they are in a better place and they have right to live comfortable life. They should feel relaxed after so many years of their hard work, their contribution to their family, society and nation. At the same time they need to have many activities depending on their physical capabilities. As senior citizens are talented and the most experienced people of the country, they can contribute in a large scale for betterment or development of the country.

Our country is not fully developed even today when the whole world is advancing so fast because we are not utilizing talent, because we are not utilizing experience, because we are not utilizing senior citizens. Huge experience and talent is getting wasted. Senior citizens are having maximum experience. If they are brought together, they can make wonders. Earlier days, in our country, we used to have “Vaana prastha aasramam”. That is a stage in life where senior citizens dedicate their time (and their life) for social service or for teaching. To enter this stage, they come out of all responsibilities of family life (gruhastha aasramam) and they were available completely for society or nation. Those people were respected everywhere. They eat fruits or beg for food from local people. So they were free to move to any location without worrying about their food and accommodation. Their only job was to teach, train or develop local people. That is how the knowledge and experience used to flow to younger generation.

Thousands of years ago when there was no concept of writing and reading, people used to take Vaana prastha aasramam as responsibility of their life. That’s how India had sustained and grown its knowledge over so many generations.

Now, at present, in this so called high-tech world, poor senior citizens are searching for food. Most of rich senior citizens are relaxing. The knowledge stopped flowing to the younger generations. For learning something, a student is paying large amount of money when so many senior citizens with that experience are available in the country unutilized. A brainstorming session of few junior engineers for an hour generates lot of ideas. Just imagine how many innovative ideas can be generated by a group of seniors each with about 40 years of experience and how many world problems can be solved easily. About 20% of population is with more than 60 years of age. So there is no question of shortage of experience. Please don’t consider only highly educated people as experienced. That is a major mistake people make. Experience is the duration you have worked. Number of years of education is not considered as experience. Illiterate people also worked for so many years. Hence they also have same level of experience. Frankly speaking, they gain more experience than highly educated people because when educated person was studying the illiterate was working. A farmer or a mechanic has many years of practical knowledge and practical experience. That person might have handled many practical problems which were not recorded in our books yet.

When there is so much of man/mind power with highest experience, why are we not utilizing? That is because we are not able to bring them together. Old-age home is an opportunity for country to bring talent together. Bring all poor senior citizens to old-age homes and provide better facilities or environment than their own house. With these many talented people coming together, we can utilize their talents without giving them much of physical or mental strain. If this movement starts, rich senior citizens will also join them slowly because they will be searching for opportunity to discuss. Once they find a common place for gathering, number of participants will increase. Later they can have planned activities, planned gatherings for discussing about problems.

With the latest technologies there is a risk of losing knowledge. With huge storage spaces we are dumping all the information in hard-discs and cleaning our brains. We are depending on internet more and more day by day. When we need a file we are searching in internet without searching in our own laptop. When we need a simple addition we are using calculator without using our mind. A day will come, when somebody will ask your name and you will be reading your name from mobile phone. If all electronic storages get destroyed, we will not know even how to make our food. Apart from storing the knowledge in electronic memory, there is a need for knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer. Our ancestors kept knowledge alive across many generations without any storage requirement. The electronic storage is required because the knowledge has grown exponentially in last few decades. All that information can be stored only in electronic memory. But the basic knowledge and the fundamental science has to be stored in human memory to give better future for next generation. That is possible by bringing senior citizens together and utilizing their talents.

Developing old-age homes is best way to take care of poor old people. This reduces expenditure of poor young people. Government or the nation gains a lot by utilizing their talents in better way.

The following are a few things that senior citizens can do without much of physical strain while living in old-age homes.

  1. They can go to government schools and deliver lectures or take classes on general topics. The topics can cover anything that is useful for a child. Examples: Daily activities of a child (brush, bath, etc), hygiene practices, common diseases and prevention, nutrient values of vegetables, fruits and other food items, value of yoga and exercises, value of education, value of trees, problems with pollution, problems caused by wasting natural resources like water and fuel, triggering innovative thinking and so on.
  2. They can work for vegetation, gardening, etc. Or they can help in planning and monitoring vegetation and farming work.
  3. In-house product development. They can involve in planning and making of small products that can be sold in local markets.
  4. They can work as consultant or as advisor in their own field. Outsiders can contact them when they need senior person’s help/advice.
  5. Groups of senior citizens can do brainstorming to find better solutions for local, national or international problems.
  6. They can write books about their experiences. They can even publish papers with their practical knowledge.
  7. They can review all new policies of government and prepare a document with pros and cons of the policy. That document can be submitted to government or to public interest organizations to refine the policy so that people will have more positive effects.
  8. Senior citizens with similar interests or similar talents can be grouped. Lot of inventions are possible if a group of talented senior people discuss about something for a long period of time. If one invention is successful, they can financially support all old-age homes in the country.
  9. They can give free training in latest technologies to poor students
  10. With large number of senior citizens and broad diversity of knowledge, every problem can be seen from all directions. Obtaining a solution becomes very simple task for them.

As they are the most experienced citizens of the country, there is no limit on what they can do. They need food, shelter and medicine (if required). More than these, they expect dignity. Respect them as experienced people, not as physically incapable old people. The country which respects talent and experience develops.

When a person cannot take care of parents financially, the person can send their parents to old-age homes. Here the feeling should be: he/she is sending parents to a better and respectable place than his/her own house. The old parents also think that they can reduce their child’s financial burden by going to an old-age home.

Children

Though people feel that they need to take care of their children, there are poor families that cannot take care of their children. They cannot provide proper food, education or medication. These families send the children for work at very young age and create child labour. Because these people cannot earn enough, they put financial burden on young children. That is how child labour starts.

There are many orphans. In most of the cases, we will not know how they have become orphans. That is again because of poverty. Some poor people are simply leaving children cruelly because they cannot take care of extra child. Whether they keep child and don’t provide food or leave the child, both are same. Beggar created orphans are also there. (We will discuss that in next section.) Some of the orphans are becoming child labourers. Hunger can make a person do anything. If these orphans fall in to hands of criminals, they become criminals.

This is a place where government has to act. It has to take care of orphans and poor children. It can start orphanage homes or child care homes. Give food, shelter and education. Find all orphans and street children and bring them to orphanage homes/child care homes. If a poor family cannot take care of their children, give them right to send their children to orphanage/child care home. Let orphanage/child care homes take care of those children and make them better people. This is a big opportunity for government to develop the nation.

Orphans are the free children who are really required for the nation. For these children, there is no mad pressure from their parents to become something without understanding the child’s interests and abilities. Now-a-days parents are forcing children to study what parents like. They are not worried about the child’s interests and talents. Some parents rub their childhood dreams on children. Some parents rub market trend on children. Some parents force children to take their family business or the business that they think is profitable. Many children are studying only for competitive exams. Starting from elementary school, students are preparing only for the entrance test they need to take after 10 years. All their subjects, books and teachers are customized for the entrance test. Long hours of study and no time to play is killing child’s ability to learn. When the child reaches 20 years of age, he/she knows nothing but the questions of the competitive exam. When a new technology comes up with high salaries, all parents force their children to get in to that technology and make them get degree and job in that area legally or illegally. In this process, the child’s interests, talents, aspirations and goals are all crushed. When all opportunities of achieving life’s goal vanish, the child (an employee now) loses interest in work and then in life. This will not happen with an orphan. Orphan is an independent person. Given an opportunity and suitable environment, an orphan child can make wonders.

In orphanage homes, teach all subjects, teach everything. When a child develops interest and talents in a subject, encourage the child to study more in that subject. If children get interest in a subject, they learn a lot very fast. If the talent improves, the child can take that subject as specialization and as profession later. If the interest and profession matches, the person can make wonders. There is nobody to force an orphan child to move out from interesting field. So each orphan child can become a specialist in his/her field.

At orphanage homes, we can seed patriotism in the younger minds. Let the knowledge grow on top of it. We can keep the environment with all positive thinking about the nation. If patriotism stabilizes in a younger mind, the person can never get in to corruption and can never harm the country. They will be the true soldiers of the country. They can do lot of things for the country. This is possible only with orphan children or free children. Other children are busy with their next competitive exam. They are not having time to think about country and about their life also.

Some of the current orphanages are feeding religion and helplessness in to the young minds. Please don’t do it. Please don’t force religion in to these children’s mind at this age. We don’t have control over other children because they get religion from their parents. Orphans are religion-less pure citizens. Please don’t pollute them. Let them live unbiased. Let them have freedom to live without religion or to select any religion.

Instead of giving benefits to poor parents in the name of children, take care of children completely and help them to grow as powerful citizens. Take all orphans and very poor children, label them as government children and give them better education and better facilities than that of private schools.

This is not just to help poor people. It is very important and necessary step for government because hunger can make a person do anything. Most of the criminals, anti-social bodies and even terrorists were hungry people once up on a time. The criminal leaders gather hungry children, feed them, train them and turn them against the society. If government can take care of all hungry children, there won’t be criminals in the future. Instead there will be many real patriots and soldiers in the society. “When immune power increases bacterial attacks decrease”. When patriots increase in society criminals and criminal attacks decrease automatically.

Beggars

When a construction worker is working for a building construction, he/she gets wage. Because of that work, the building owner gets more than what he pays. For his earnings, the owner pays tax. That means government gets money as tax because of the work done by the labourer. The tax will be utilized for national development. That means the work done by a labourer indirectly helps the nation to grow. The effort spent by labourer, worker or employee of any company helps the country to grow. If we do any work, that should help an individual or an organization. Otherwise that effort is waste.

The effort spent by a beggar is not helping anybody. The beggars take the hard-earned money of tax payers and poor people. If a beggar does some other work for earning same amount of money then that effort helps country. Just begging without helping anybody or without helping society is waste of effort. That should be avoided. Beggars are not poor, they are lazy.

When government takes care of senior citizens, children and providing free medication for poor people, every person in the country can earn more than his/her basic needs. That means every person is rich. In this environment and in this country beggars are not expected.

Begging as a healthy person does not yield much returns for a beggar. So the beggars find many ways to win over kindness of people. Sometimes the acts of beggars are very cruel. The helpless people, who cannot stop that cruelty, just pay money and go. The cruelest thing that I had seen was a woman standing in the middle of the traffic with an infant, in hot sun and heavy pollution. She was busy collecting money and not caring for the baby’s cry.

Beggars steal babies. This is a major crime where police cannot catch the criminal. Beggars use these babies for begging purpose. If a baby starts walking, the baby starts begging. As long as the child gives the earning to the elders, the child gets shelter with them. If the child starts using the money, that child is thrown out. From that day, the child is street-child or orphan. There are criminal groups waiting for these children and the child grows as a criminal.

Criminals create criminals. Beggars create both beggars and criminals.

Beggars are the people who can go to any place in the country including prohibited areas without having identity cards, passports or anything to identify them. We cannot know whether they are foreigners. We cannot track their history of activities and where they used to live. If they have a bag and a bowl, they are identified as beggars. Security people won’t catch and question them. If at all security finds a beggar in wrong place, beggar is simply sent out from that place. Usually suspicion of bomb installation also won’t come to security’s mind. If a person dresses like a beggar, he/she can go to any place, do whatever is required and come back freely. Usually police will not arrest beggars because of the assumption that beggars commit crimes to get free jail food. Criminals live like beggars and do all the planning as they can live on roads, near banks or any place they like. Police cannot suspect beggars as criminals until they commit crime. Criminals hide in beggar skin and beggars become criminals.

Ban beggars in the country. If begging is banned then they will become poor people. Take care of them as poor people, show them opportunities and make them rich. If they don’t want to work and earn and they just want to beg, throw them out. Country does not need beggars.

Advantages of making people rich

When government is showing employment or some way of earning more, taking care of dependents and showing options for free medication, every person becomes rich. A rich person will not become poor in life time. A rich person’s family and next generation also lives rich, never become poor because the next generation learns more and earns more.

What happens if everybody becomes rich? What are the advantages?

First of all we discuss the disadvantages of being poor or having many poor people. Let’s assume that there is a village with many poor people. Also there are few rich people living in that village. Suppose a rich person wants a service which normally costs 100 rupees. He would go to the place where poor people live and ask for that service. One poor person says it will cost 100 rupees. Before the rich person opens his mouth, another poor person shouts, “Take my service, I charge only 90 rupees”. Others reduce the rate further. Within few minutes the rate of service reduced to 10 rupees. The rich person agrees to that and takes the service.

There is competition among poor people. A hungry person thinks that getting 10 rupees is better than nothing. Hunger does not allow him to think about loss of 90 rupees or about the other people who are also hungry. So if there are many poor people living in an area, their earnings will always go down. They can never become rich.

Assume that all those poor people are having enough food. In that case, they would not have reduced the service charge. Instead they would have waited for another customer who could pay full service charge. They would have thought about group sharing. Some of them would have moved to another location or another job to come out of the heavy competition.

Hungry person thinks about short term or for that day. A rich person thinks about long term business and uses his asserts for long term benefits.

If rich people stop competing with poor people, poor people get many opportunities and they grow faster. As we start converting poor to rich, the competition at poor people level reduces, costs of services increase, gives more opportunities and income for remaining poor people which in turn makes them rich. Quality of life improves; health of individuals improves that in turn improves quality of society.