City-bred cold to problems of poor

UN report voices concern over middle class indifference to deprived section

The report, prepared as part of a campaign for United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG), attributed this lack of middle class participation to dearth of “credible institutions” exploring solutions for poverty and hunger.

The first MDG aims at reducing proportion of hungry people by half by 2015. “Our urban middle class is apathetic to the problem of poverty at the experiencial level but deeply engaged at a solution-seeking level,” Hindol Sengupta, author of the report, told Deccan Herald.

“An average city-bred fellow will not be bothered if he comes across a beggar on the street as he is used to it. But when you ask them whether they want a solution to this problem of poverty, they will answer in the affirmative,” said Sengupta.

He suggested creating  strong and credible civic solution organisations, which could bring the urban middle class together. While people in the higher income group prefer a “Bill Gates option” making huge donations instead of themselves participating in the solution-seeking process, those from the middle income category may come forward if they get a suitable platform.

The report concluded that if mobilised properly, the middle class could come up with effective solutions for the problem with valuable intellectual inputs.

Referring to the two opposite pictures of shining and suffering India, the report said.  India was one among the fastest growing economies, the other India, popularly known as Bharat struggled to keep pace with its affluent part.

“In this exercise, we have tried to grasp the sentiment of respondents of the middle income group of India on poverty. Almost 5,000 Indians across the nation were surveyed upon a variety of questions on poverty,” said co-author Sweta Punj.

Respondents were asked about what came to their mind first when they thought of poverty, and 27 per cent said wandering street dwellers.

Images of hungry children came close with almost 24 per cent discussing about it. Roadside beggars came third in the list with 22 per cent. The other images that came to their minds were poor people in villages.

Around 41 per cent respondents said even though it was a big problem, poverty could be solved easily. But about 39 per cent felt the problem was grave and could not be solved easily.

Quick fix

*  High-income group opt for “Bill Gates option” or making huge donations
*  Middle-income category ready for programmes to alleviate poverty
*  India both a vibrant economy and a nation struggling for survival
*  27 pc Indians of the 5,000 surveyed see poverty as wandering street dwellers
*  41 per cent feel poverty though a big problem, could be solved easily.

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