Sitting at my desk with my coffee on this Friday afternoon, I remembered a recent conversation regarding the rising prices. A colleague was telling me how every time she went to the stores in the last six months, prices of grains and cereals were higher than they were. Doing a little math, I figured that just grains had and cereals had gotten 25% costlier in the last six months, which is more than four times of the inflation index. Similar rises can be seen with vegetables and fresh produce, livestock and poultry.
It made me wonder how this would translate for people who earned at subsistence levels. I see a lot of posts about how oil price rise has changed your lifestyle, or recipes with 5 ingredients or less, but very little on how to stay above the poverty line when the line itself is shifting upwards all the time. It made me wonder what poverty was really. Was it just powerlessness to access food, healthcare, shelter, education? This view defines poverty as something close to financially and socio-economically deprived or disadvantaged.
What does one call selfishness or greed among wealthy people? What name does one give to the huge military expenses that enforce rules upon developing nations? What drives the million dollar advertising campaign for high end consumer goods? I would call all of that poverty too, poverty of compassion, poverty of ideas, poverty of humanness.
The recent months have seen the global economy melt to levels not seen in the last 70 years according to some. Most Indian and International indices are near 50% of where they were 10 months back. Yet, in the face of the truth, corporates are ready to swear that all is well, only to admit failures and wrongdoing in the next few weeks, governments are ready to put out money to buy businesses that are not worth Monopoly currency notes. All of this money is to come from the taxpayers pocket, people who are already facing the brunt of wrong decisions by those in power, and the people who are now being asked to pay for the mistakes that leaders, bankers and profiteers have made.
The brazen attempts to shield the truth and the true culprits, and the concerted effort to convince the man on the street that hard times are only so that good times roll, clearly points to a poverty of ethics and courage among those who are at the head of things.
I am at the head of things as far as my life is concerned, and I have to emerge a leader. I have chosen not to give in to herd mentality. I have chosen to find ways to create value in my world, whether it be by teaching an underprivileged child to read and write, or by offering vocational training at subsidized cost, or by eliminating wastage at every level and in every aspect of life.
Here are some simple steps that one can take to beat poverty. While most of these look small and theoretical, if sufficient numbers start practicing even one or two of these suggestions, the impact will be huge in the long run.
1. Shop at farmer's markets and small businesses. The all-consuming march of the malls and the entry of industrial houses into every aspect of retail robs small businesses and farmers of their profit, as they cannot match the money power and marketing power of the big brands. The more we patronize the malls and branded produce stores, the further down we push the actual producers.
2. Reduce energy consumption. Energy is the biggest subsidy hogger of all, not food. By reducing energy consumption, we will free up those subsidies for other items. Go for CFLs and solar heaters. Unplug the charger when you are not using it. You can reduce power consumption by 5% just by switching off appliances which are not being used.
3. Buy loose grains and cereals rather than the packaged variety. Millions of tonnes of foodgrains are wasted due to inefficient supply chain management. We can do our bit by patronizing loose grain, thereby unclogging the food supply chain.
4. Buy only what you need to eat. Most of us end up buying food items that sit in the fridge till the best before date expires. To us it looks like an insignificant portion of our consumption, but when you put together all the wastage in this way, it is huge.
5. Encourage savings. The poor and the uneducated often do not understand the value of saving. As a result, when they need money, they open themselves up to debt. Encourage the people around you to save.
6. Teach an underprivileged person a trade. I dont even have to explain this. If you are not able to do it, sponsor their training, it will not cost a lot, but it will set a family free from poverty.
7. Open your heart. Think beyond your own world, beyond today, and beyond what you think is possible. If we open up our hearts to the infinite potential that lies within each one of us to make a happier and better world, and if we take the step that lies just in front of us, we will be amazed at what we can achieve.