We have perfected the art of using euphemism for camouflaging an ugly truth. The apparent justification for such a denial of the stark reality is perhaps the mistaken notion that somehow the gigantic monstrosity of the humungous problem may also be reduced by perceiving the same ‘through a jaundiced eye’/denying its very existence and thereby just wishing it away.
A blatant inhuman murder of a bride is craftily worded as ‘dowry death’ even during the legal interactions. The fourth state – the media – which has the onus of being an ombudsman also – prefers that terminology to ‘dowry murders’ on the pretext of finding it improper to call the perpetuators of the crime -the husband and the in- laws (read outlaws) -as murderers in a society with patriarchal hegemony where the existence or otherwise (or even elimination) of the ‘fair’ sex is seemingly a non – issue.
The civic authorities in the national capital mention the erstwhile slums as JJ colonies (Jhuggi-Jhopri colonies) and over the years conveniently start expanding the acronym as Janata Jivan colonies.
Another euphemism used to hide the blatant denial of socio-economic justice and outright violation of the basic human right of existence is the usage of the word ‘cold’.
Print and electronic media come out with figures of people dying because of cold in the Indian winters. The fact which surprises all the citizens in western nations is how one can die because of cold when the minimum ambient temperature is just between 40 C to 60 C whereas life thrives so well with sub zero temperatures for fortnights and months together with no deaths because of ‘cold’ or ‘cold wave’ in that part of the world.
The reason is obvious - we use that as a euphemism for extreme poverty. We are shy of calling ourselves a poor nation and are more than eager to use a euphemism like ‘developing country’ with even overzealously claiming to be called a ‘developed nation’ now that we are a nuclear ‘super power’ with a robust and ever-expanding economy in continuum with the globalized endeavours. Perhaps it is a convenient denial of the absolute truth that we are a poor nation and have to do a lot for the major portion of our humankind living in abject poverty. I think it is high time we start calling a spade a spade. Deliberate masquerading of a poor nation by any designation will be of no help in solving the myriad inter-woven socio economic problems affecting the huge populations.
The latest report of World Bank must serve as an eye-opener (and should never be seen as something affecting our national pride) that India happens to have a larger proportion of people living in poverty than even the Sub-Saharan Africa. India has 75% of its population having an income less than two U.S. dollars a day vis-à-vis 72% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa earning less than 2 U.S. $ per day.
We have always drawn solace in the fact that all assessments and studies in the past have indicated that the Sub–Saharan countries had the largest number of proportionate populations living in conditions of either extreme or moderate poverty. The earlier definitions of less than 1 USD and less than 2 USD dollars per day respectively by the World Bank for extreme and moderate poverty also indicated that the major burden of poverty was shared by Sub–Saharan countries and South Asia (India being the major contributor of that load).In absolute terms the numbers have increased from 421 million in 1981 to 456 million in 2005(as per the revised threshold of poverty to less than US$ 1.25 a day).
The latest figures produced by the World Bank are being ‘challenged’ for it being a single –figure formula and also on the ground that the criterion of average calorie intake per day has not been considered which is not suited to the Indian situation.
One does not need to be an economist to conclude the obvious that by any stretch of one’s imagination the redefinition of the poverty line by the World Bank cannot be considered dubitable and is by no means arbitrary being the average poverty line in the poorest 10-20 countries. We are home to about one-third of all poor people on the Globe and we must start acting on a systematic and time –bound amelioration of the same.
Jeffery Sachs and the huge number of his passionate colleagues and friends have developed a road map which needs to be adapted, adopted and fine-tuned in accordance with our singular specific needs. We are bound to succeed through a concerted collective action obviating the need of any semantic jugglery on the issue.