The Planning Commission of India, recently, announced the official poverty line to be Rs 32 (62 cents) per day in the cities and Rs 26 (53 cents) per day in the rural areas. It basically states that an individual can consume 2100 calories of food with Rs 32 and 26 respectively (not sure how that is possible?). The poverty line calculation does not take into account education, health and other basic needs expenditures. It just accounts for money required for basic food consumption. The methodology has no relation to reality and hence very weak.
India, majority of it, is rural with agriculture as its base economy. Barring the cities, majority of Indians live in small towns or villages where economy thrives on agriculture. If the Planning Commission calculated poverty status for rural residents (based on food consumption), then the assumption they have made is that there is food shortage in rural villages and people do not have access to nutritious food. This shortage is created by the artificial consumer based economy in which the consumer is empowered (as God) to exploit the resources to one’s whims and fancies. Now, who is the consumer? – the individual with money. The individual without money is left behind in poverty and lamentation. Therefore, for the past 4 or 5 decades, the goal in life is to earn money to be empowered to consume at will in pursuit of happiness. The result of such a life strategy is there is exploitation on one end and poverty on the other.
Ever since the Indian economy followed its western counterparts, the 2nd and 3rd generation farmers have either resorted to growing “cash” crops for money or decided to abandon agriculture as a livelihood and move to the city for bigger and greater life. Growing cash crops on a mass scale for money depletes the quality of soil and increases the disproportionate use of water thus creating an imbalance in the local ecosystem and also increases the dependence on synthetic chemicals and man-made water management systems. As a result there is an imbalance in nature. An imbalance results in shortage of rainfall and shortage of ground water. Agriculture cannot survive in such a condition. This trend has motivated farmers to either fully abandon farming and move to cities or abandon traditional farming techniques suiting local soil conditions and adopt corporate large scale level farming techniques. As a result, there is either mass exodus to cities burdening the cities or depleting local soil and water conditions.
Srila Prabhupada, being the visionary that he is, repeatedly stressed on the importance of cultivating spiritual vision to one’s life. When the goal of life shifts from spiritual to material, people seek after material illusion of happiness. They want to make money quick and in large amounts. They think that living a simple life is not fashionable anymore and thus boring. Srila Prabhupada said that if farmers simply work for 4 or 5 months a year tilling their lands to meet their household needs in terms of food and other necessities and the remaining months of the year engage in cultivating spiritual life, then life will be peaceful and happy. The traditional Vedic system of Varnashrama dharma did exactly that. It motivated people to live a simple life with high spiritual thoughts. Life was centered around God. Families lived together in one unit and took care of each other. There were no artificial poverty lines, no gaping divide between the haves and have nots, no stress, no depression, and other corollary modern day problems.
Estimating poverty is a clear indication that the system is malfunctioning with disproportionate use of resources. Srila Prabhupada constantly preached a life dependent on agriculture, land, cows, rains and ultimately Krishna. He strongly voiced the importance of spiritual consciousness and how that is possible only by surrender unto God. Unfortunately, modern day philosophers, scientists and administrators have completely removed God from our daily life. As a result, a powerful few exploit and abuse resources for their selfish interests leaving behind many in lamentation. It is not only the flawed system and administrators to blame but also the common man who has abandoned his spiritual values to adopt a selfish material way of life. Unless we live our life centered around God, there is no solution to modern day woes. It will only get worse!