ABP India Summit 2023: Javed Akhtar Saw "No Visible Poverty" in Lahore, Pakistan

Famous Indian writer and poet Javed Akhtar told his audience at a conference in Mumbai that he saw "no visible poverty" in Lahore during his multiple visits to Pakistan over the last three decades. Responding to Indian novelist Chetan Bhagat's query about Pakistan's economic crisis at ABP's "Ideas of India Summit 2023" in Mumbai, Akhtar said: "Unlike what you see in Delhi and Mumbai, I did not see any visible poverty in Lahore".  This was Akhtar's first interview upon his return to India after attending "Faiz Festival" in Lahore, Pakistan. 

Javed Akhtar at ABP Ideas Summit in Mumbai

Chetan Bhagat began by talking about high inflation, low forex reserves and major economic crisis in Pakistan and followed it up by asking Javed Akhtar about its effects he saw on the people in Pakistan. In response, Akhtar said, "Bilkul Nahin (Not at all). In India you see poverty right in front of you, next door to a billionaire. Maybe it is kept back of the beyond. Only some people are allowed to enter certain areas. But you don't see it (poverty) on the streets. In India, it is right in front of you...amiri bhi or gharibi bhi (wealth and poverty). Sare kam apke samne hain (It's all in front of you). Wahan yeh dekhai nahin deta (you don't see it in Pakistan)". 

Alhamra Arts Center, Lahore, Pakistan

Disappointed by the response, Bhagat suggested that the Indian visitor could have been guided by his hosts through certain routes where he couldn't see any poverty. Javed Akhtar then said "it's not possible to hide poverty. I would have seen at least a "jhalak" (glimpse) of it as I always do in Delhi and Mumbai....I have been to Pakistan many times but I have not seen it". 

What Javed Akhtar saw and reported recently is obviously anecdotal evidence. But it is also supported by hard data. Over 75% of the world's poor deprived of basic living standards (nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing) live in India compared to 4.6% in Bangladesh and 4.1% in Pakistan, according to a recently released OPHI/UNDP report on multidimensional poverty.  Here's what the report says: "More than 45.5 million poor people are deprived in only these four indicators (nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing). Of those people, 34.4 million live in India, 2.1 million in Bangladesh and 1.9 million in Pakistan—making this a predominantly South Asian profile". 

Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022. Source: OPHI/UNDP

Income Poverty in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Source: Our World in Data


The UNDP poverty report shows that the income poverty (people living on $1.90 or less per day) in Pakistan is 3.6% while it is 22.5% in India and 14.3% in Bangladesh. In terms of the population vulnerable to multidimensional poverty, Pakistan (12.9%) does better than Bangladesh (18.2%) and India (18.7%)  However, Pakistan fares worse than India and Bangladesh in multiple dimensions of poverty. The headline multidimensional poverty (MPI) figure for Pakistan (0.198) is worse than for Bangladesh (0.104) and India (0.069). This is primarily due to the education and health deficits in Pakistan. Adults with fewer than 6 years of schooling are considered multidimensionally poor by OPHI/UNDP.  Income poverty is not included in the MPI calculations. The data used by OHP/UNDP for MPI calculation is from years 2017/18 for Pakistan and from years 2019/2021 for India. 

Multidimensional Poverty in South Asia. Source: UNDP

The Indian government's reported multidimensional poverty rate of 25.01% is much higher than the OPHI/UNDP estimate of 16.4%. NITI Ayog report released in November 2021 says: "India’s national MPI identifies 25.01 percent of the population as multidimensionally poor".

Multidimensional Poverty in India. Source: NITI Ayog via IIP

Earlier last year,  Global Hunger Index 2022 reported that  India ranks 107th for hunger among 121 nations. The nation fares worse than all of its South Asian neighbors except for war-torn Afghanistan ranked 109, according to the the report. Sri Lanka ranks 64, Nepal 81, Bangladesh 84 and Pakistan 99. India and Pakistan have levels of hunger that are considered serious. Both have slipped on the hunger charts from 2021 when India was ranked 101 and Pakistan 92. Seventeen countries, including Bosnia, China, Kuwait, Turkey and UAE, are collectively ranked between 1 and 17 for having a score of less than five.

Here's a video of Javed Akhtar's interview with Chetan Bhagat at ABP's "Ideas of India Summit 2023".  Please watch from 4:19 to 6:00 minutes. 

https://www.youtube.com/live/pZ5e81ysKGQ?feature=share


 


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Comments

Ben said…
That is also my observation when I first time went to Pak about 5 years ago. There is no where close to poverty / slums compared to what you hear in the media. But my visit was limited to half a dozen big cities, not sure about the country, I also went to few villages in Punjab they were quite good.

They need to focus on keeping the cities clean, I found Lahore and Islamabad much cleaner compared to the rest. Pakistanis throw garbage on the streets without any hesitation.
Wind said…
It was once reported that Ambani had a helipad built atop his residence so he doesn't have to drive through slums when commuting to and from the airport. I'm sure Lahore has it's share of run down areas but like Mumbai or Delhi, they are not dotted all over the city.
Riaz Haq said…
#India’s #Economy Looks Shaky Under the Hood.
The key driver of India’s economy—#domestic consumer #demand—is weakening after a brief post-#pandemic spurt . #Modi #G20Summit https://www.wsj.com/articles/indias-economy-looks-shaky-under-the-hood-11c28fd0

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1631731122202886145?s=20

India’s economy is losing steam in the one place that has been the South Asian nation’s strongest bulwark against a possible global recession: robust domestic demand.

India’s economy slowed further in the December quarter, figures released this week showed, as postpandemic pent up demand ebbed and the country’s manufacturing sector continued to weaken. Asia’s third largest economy recorded year-over-year growth of 4.4% last quarter, down from 6.3% in the September quarter.

Weakness in private consumption stood out the most. India’s private consumer spending, which comprises about 60% of India’s gross domestic product, rose just 2.1% year over year, compared with an 8.8% increase in the September quarter. It was mainly hurt by higher interest rates and elevated inflation. Slower growth in rural spending after some pandemic-era subsidies were cut could have also played a role.

Higher borrowing costs will probably continue to pinch pocketbooks, especially in urban areas, as the Reserve Bank of India remains laser-focused on reining in stubborn inflation. It has raised benchmark interest rates by 2.5 percentage points since May last year and will probably hike by another 0.25 point to 6.75% in April, squeezing household budgets further. Despite an aggressive rate-raising cycle, retail inflation jumped to a three-month high of 6.52% in January.

A closer look at other numbers in the GDP data also paints a worrisome picture. Import growth fell more sharply than export growth, again signaling weak domestic demand. And while fixed investment growth was a relative bright spot, it still slowed for the second quarter in a row.

Fizzling momentum at a time of high global economic uncertainty and tightening global financial conditions also spells trouble for the country’s monetary policy stance. A weak external environment wasn’t entirely unexpected, but the emerging evidence of rapidly slowing domestic demand makes the central bank’s job much harder. A heat wave or subpar monsoon could make things even more difficult by hitting agricultural output, and boosting food price inflation.

Nomura economists Sonal Varma and Aurodeep Nandi think markets are still significantly underappreciating the risks to India’s growth. They say the country’s growth cycle has peaked, and a combination of weaker global growth and tight domestic and global financial conditions could spell further trouble for exports, investment and discretionary consumption.

The International Monetary Fund still projects India will be the fastest-growing major economy in 2023—largely on the back of resilient domestic demand. The Indian government forecasts that India will grow 7% in the year ending in March 2023, and another 6.5% the following year.

Those numbers may turn out to be optimistic if private consumption doesn’t pick up the pace again soon.
Riaz Haq said…
India Derailed: A Falling Investment Rate and Deindustrialisation


https://www.theindiaforum.in/economy/india-derailed-falling-investment-rate-and-deindustrialisation


Falling investment rates and declining manufacturing growth rates have marked the Indian GDP growth reversal since the mid-2010s. These structural defects have not yet been addressed. The current optimism can be realised only with a public investment push that would crowd in private investment.


The current financial year of 2022–23 has witnessed a sharp recovery of the Indian economy in spite of being buffeted by supply disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine war and a consequent rise in commodity prices. In 2022–23, according to the first advance estimates, the economy is expected to expand by 7% over the last year.

Policymakers claim success in having met the challenges of global health and economic shocks because India has reportedly emerged as one of the fastest growing countries in recent quarters. There is therefore considerable optimism that India is now on the cusp of an economic upswing.

Contrary to many apprehensions, output recovery from the pandemic has been sharp and V-shaped. India’s real gross domestic output (GDP, net of inflation) grew at 1.5% in 2021-22 over the pre-pandemic year (2019–20) (Figure 1). According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, Covid-19-related deaths were said to be high in India – much higher than the officially reported figures – but they were modest relative to the country’s population.

How did India manage to restrict the negative economic fallout of the pandemic? Reportedly, public expenditure on both consumption and investment as a proportion of GDP were higher during the pandemic years compared with 2019–20 (Economic Survey, 2022-23). An increase in public consumption expenditure partly made up for the decline in private expenditure. The rise in public investment was mostly on road construction – a labour-intensive activity that created much-needed unskilled employment.

Public consumption was raised largely by expanding the distribution of free foodgrains to the poor under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). Data show that the offtake (under all schemes) from the Public Distribution System (PDS) peaked at 109.3 million tonnes in April 2020, was 90.8 million tonnes in August 2021, and 67.8 million tonnes in November 2022. Boosting expenditure on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a national, legally mandated, food-for-work programme, to meet its growing demand during the pandemic helped mitigate the fall in private employment (Figure 2). It would perhaps be fair to say that these public expenditures during the pandemic helped the economy cushion the crisis of hunger.

India’s recovery looks better compared to China’s self-inflicted wound of the Zero-Covid policy and repeated lockdowns that have caused enormous human suffering and output disruptions.

Be that as it may, India’s claim of a return to 'normalcy needs to be seen against the decade-long derailment of the economy in the 2010s compared to the growth acceleration witnessed after the 1980s. This essay addresses the setback to growth, investment, and consequent deindustrialisation.

Growth During the 2010s
In 2022 India will be the world’s fifth largest economy with a GDP of $3.2 trillion in current dollars, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. In July 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set an ambitious growth target of a $5 trillion economy by 2024, up from a $1.9-trillion economy in 2019. That target looks unachievable by 2024. With a per capita income of $2,191 in 2021, India ranked 144th amongst 194 IMF member countries.
Riaz Haq said…
India Derailed: A Falling Investment Rate and Deindustrialisation


https://www.theindiaforum.in/economy/india-derailed-falling-investment-rate-and-deindustrialisation



Over the long term, India was amongst the countries that witnessed a steady growth in output between 1960 and 1992. India’s annual average GDP growth rate increased from about 3.5% between the 1950s and 1970s to 5.5% per cent during the 1980s and 1990s. According to a well-known classification of global growth patterns, India was one of the very few “growth accelerators” in the 20th century (Hausmann et al. 2005). Growth further increased to more than 7% per year in the 2000s coinciding with a global boom in trade, output, and capital flows. I had termed this “India’s Dream Run” (Nagaraj 2013) and it lasted till the global financial crisis in 2008.

Never in the past seven decades has India witnessed such an economic reversal, and the gravity of the problem is perhaps yet to sink into the minds of policymakers and the public.
However, India went off the rails in the 2010s as the growth momentum petered out and it staggered into the “mountain” category, according to Prichett’s description of patterns of development (Pritchett 2000). Annual GDP growth rate slowed to 3.5–4% by 2019–20 from 7–8% until 2010–11 If the critics of the current series of GDP estimates are right, the annual growth rate during much of the 2010s decade would be still lower at 4–5% (Figure 3) (Subramanian 2019; Morris 2019).

Expectedly, the deterioration in growth took a toll on related economic aggregates. Well-documented evidence shows a fall in employment levels (with adverse changes in its composition), a rise in the rate of absolute poverty in rural India, and deterioration in the rate of malnutrition (Nagaraj 2020; Kapoor 2020; Subramanian 2019). Never in the past seven decades has India witnessed such an economic reversal.


The gravity of the problem is perhaps yet to be fully appreciated by policymakers.

Deindustrialisation
A notable manifestation of the decade of declining growth rates is premature deindustrialisation which is defined as a sustained decline in the share of output and employment in the manufacturing sector before attaining industrial maturity as the developed nations did. On premature deindustrialisation, Dani Rodrik writes:

In most of these countries, manufacturing began to shrink (or is on course for shrinking) at levels of income that are a fraction of those at which the advanced economies started to deindustrialise. These developing countries are turning into service economies without having gone through a proper experience of industrialisation (Rodrik, 2015).
India’s manufacturing sector output growth rate had fallen to a negative 0.4% in 2019–20 from 13.1% per year in 2015–16 (Figure 4 (i)). (All growth rates are at constant prices, unless otherwise specified. ) The deceleration in the growth rate needs to be seen against the stagnant share of manufacturing in GDP for three decades since 1991 (Figure 4 (ii)).

The manufacturing sector’s share in employment fell to 11.3% in 2019–20 from 12.5% in 2011–12, with a corresponding rise in agriculture’s share in the second half of the 2010s (Figure 5). This indicated a reversal of the structural transformation of the labour force (that is, workers moving to lower-productive sectors from higher-productive sectors, including to construction in the informal sector). There was a further decline in 2020–21. However, we ignore this because the pandemic contributed to the decline in 2020-21. It is perhaps worth remembering that structural transformation of the labour force is a defining characteristic of Kuznetsian modern economic growth.


Riaz Haq said…
"India is Broken" writes Princeton Economist Ashoka Modi. Says #Indians, mostly illiterate and poor, hunger for freedom and prosperity but their politicians from #Nehru to #Modi have “betrayed the economic aspirations” of millions. #BJP https://www.wsj.com/articles/india-is-broken-review-the-difficult-future-for-a-giant-3f65612d?st=l40ilxogdhokc9y via @WSJBooks

Ashoka Mody, who was for many years a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund, is the sort of quietly efficient global technocrat who retires to a professorship at a prestigious school—in his case, Princeton. Yet he’s different from his faceless ilk of briefcase-bearers in one astonishing way: 13 years ago, an attempt was made on his life. The alleged assailant, thought to have been passed over for a job at the IMF by Mr. Mody, shot him in the jaw outside his house in Maryland.

He recovered with remarkable verve, his intellectual drive intact. Yet a mood of gloom and pessimism is unmistakable in “India Is Broken.” Today, 75 years after independence from Britain, Mr. Mody believes that India’s democracy and economy are in a state of profound malfunction. The book’s tale, he writes, “is one of continuous erosion of social norms and decay of political accountability.” You might add that it is also a tale of an audacious political experiment on the brink of failure.

India started its post-independence journey, says Mr. Mody, as “an improbable democracy” whose citizens, mostly illiterate and poor, hungered for freedom and prosperity. Generations of Indian politicians—from Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister, to Narendra Modi, the present one—have “betrayed the economic aspirations” of millions. India’s democracy no longer protects fundamental rights and freedoms in a nation over which “a blanket of violence” has fallen. A belief in “equality, tolerance and shared progress” has disappeared. And the country’s collapse isn’t just political and economic; it’s also moral and spiritual.

------------

A notable weakness in Mr. Mody’s analysis is his denial that the economic policies of Nehru and his successors were socialist. He writes of Nehru’s “alleged socialist legacy” and adds that it is a “mistake to identify central planning or big government as socialism.” Socialism, he insists, “means the creation of equal opportunity for all,” which India’s policy makers weren’t doing. Ergo, India wasn’t socialist.

If these protestations are almost laughable, Mr. Mody’s solution also invites some derision. Hope for India, he says, lies in making it a “true democracy.” And how can that be done? “We must move to an equilibrium in which everyone expects others to be honest.” This “honest equilibrium,” he says, will promote enough trust for Indians to work together “in the long-haul tasks of creating public goods and advancing sustainable development” and awakening “civic consciousness.” Mr. Mody, it is clear, has a dream. It is na├»ve, and it is corny. India, alas, will continue to be “broken” for many years to come.
Riaz Haq said…
Ex Central Bank Chief Raghu Rajan: 'India dangerously close to Hindu rate of growth'. #Hindu rate of growth is a term describing low #Indian economic growth rates from the 1950s to the 1980s, which averaged around 4%. #Modi #BJP #economy #Hindutva
https://www.deccanherald.com/business/economy-business/india-dangerously-close-to-hindu-rate-of-growth-says-raghuram-rajan-1197442.html

Sounding a note of caution, former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan has said that India is "dangerously close" to the Hindu rate of growth in view of subdued private sector investment, high interest rates and slowing global growth.

Rajan said that sequential slowdown in the quarterly growth, as revealed by the latest estimate of national income released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) last month, was worrying. Hindu rate of growth is a term describing low Indian economic growth rates from the 1950s to the 1980s, which averaged around 4 per cent. The term was coined by Raj Krishna, an Indian economist, in 1978 to describe the slow growth.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the third quarter (October-December) of the current fiscal slowed to 4.4 per cent from 6.3 per cent in the second quarter (July-September) and 13.2 per cent in the first quarter (April-June).


The growth in the third quarter of the previous financial year was 5.2 per cent. "Of course, the optimists will point to the upward revisions in past GDP numbers, but I am worried about the sequential slowdown. With the private sector unwilling to invest, the RBI still hiking rates, and global growth likely to slow later in the year, I am not sure where we find additional growth momentum," Rajan said in an email interview to PTI.

Recently, Chief Economic Advisor V Anantha Nageswaran had attributed the subdued quarterly growth to the upward revision of estimates of national income for the past years. The key question is what Indian growth will be in fiscal 2023-24, Rajan said, adding "I am worried that earlier we would be lucky if we hit 5 per cent growth. The latest October-December Indian GDP numbers (4.4 per cent on year ago and 1 per cent relative to the previous quarter) suggest slowing growth from the heady numbers in the first half of the year. "My fears were not misplaced. The RBI projects an even lower 4.2 per cent for the last quarter of this fiscal. At this point, the average annual growth of the October-December quarter relative to the to the similar pre-pandemic quarter 3 years ago is 3.7 per cent. "This is dangerously close to our old Hindu rate of growth! We must do better." The government, he said, was doing its bit on infrastructure investment but its manufacturing thrust is yet to pay dividends. The bright spot is services, he said, adding "it seems less central to government efforts." On a query regarding the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, Rajan said any scheme in which the government pours money will create jobs and any scheme which elevates tariffs on output while offering bonuses for final units produced in India will create production in India, and exports. "A sensible evaluation would ask how many jobs are being created and at what price per job. By the government's own statistics, 15 per cent of the proposed investment has come in but only 3 per cent of the predicted jobs have been created. This does not sound like success, at least not yet," Rajan said.

Furthermore, even if the scheme fully meets the government's expectations over the next few years, it will create only 0.6 crore jobs, a small dent in the jobs India needs over the same period, the former RBI Governor said. "Similarly, government spokespersons point to the rise in cell phone exports as evidence that the scheme is working. But if we are subsidising every cell phone that is exported, this is an obvious outcome.
Riaz Haq said…
Ex Central Bank Chief Raghu Rajan: 'India dangerously close to Hindu rate of growth'. #Hindu rate of growth is a term describing low #Indian economic growth rates from the 1950s to the 1980s, which averaged around 4%. #Modi #BJP #economy #Hindutva
https://www.deccanherald.com/business/economy-business/india-dangerously-close-to-hindu-rate-of-growth-says-raghuram-rajan-1197442.html

Furthermore, even if the scheme fully meets the government's expectations over the next few years, it will create only 0.6 crore jobs, a small dent in the jobs India needs over the same period, the former RBI Governor said. "Similarly, government spokespersons point to the rise in cell phone exports as evidence that the scheme is working. But if we are subsidising every cell phone that is exported, this is an obvious outcome.

The key question is how much value added is done in India. It turns (out to be) very little so far," he said. Rajan said cell phone parts imports have also gone up, so net exports in the cell phone sector, the relevant measure that no one in government talks about, is pretty much where it was when the scheme started. "Except, we have also spent money on subsidies. Foxconn just announced a big factory to produce parts but they have been saying they will invest for a long time. I think we need a lot more evidence before celebrating the success of the PLI scheme," he said.

Currently, Rajan is the Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He further said the most developed economies of the world are largely service economies, so you can be a large economy without a large presence in manufacturing.

"Services do not just account for the majority of our unicorns, services can also provide a lot of semi-skilled jobs in construction, transport, tourism, retail, and hospitality. So let us not deride service jobs – indeed while the fraction of manufacturing jobs has stagnated in India, services have absorbed the exodus from agriculture." "We need to work on both manufacturing and services to create the jobs we need, and fortunately, many of the inputs both (services and manufacturing) need schooling, skilling...," he said.

On what measures the government should take to improve oversight of private family companies to address worries after the Hindenburg allegations on Adani Group, Rajan said: "I don't think the issue is of more oversight over private companies". The issue is of reducing non-transparent links between government and business, and of letting, indeed encouraging, regulators do their job, he said. "Why has SEBI not yet got to the bottom of the ownership of those Mauritius funds which have been holding and trading Adani stock? Does it need help from the investigative agencies?," Rajan wondered.

Adani group has been under severe pressure since the US short-seller Hindenburg Research on January 24, accused it of accounting fraud and stock manipulation, allegations that the conglomerate has denied as "malicious", "baseless" and a "calculated attack on India".
Riaz Haq said…
#India's Pay-to-Breathe market is soaring. Facing #toxic #air, wealthy #Indians are buying air purifiers, creating a booming market. But 60% of India’s 1.3 billion people live on less than $3.10 a day, below the World Bank’s median #poverty line. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/breathing-is-a-luxury-in-indias-air-crisis

The mild winter months are always busy for Mumbai-based pulmonologist Revathy K, but these past few months have been especially hectic. In November, a sudden drop in ocean temperatures slowed the winds that normally shift the city’s construction dust, debris, and traffic fumes. The Bandra-Worli Sea Link, a bridge that connects the center of the city to its northern suburbs, disappeared behind a curtain of smog as the city’s air quality dropped to “very poor,” briefly overtaking Delhi, the world’s most polluted city.

“A lot of patients were coming in with a wheeze,” K says, something she usually sees in patients who have asthma or smoking-related disorders. Within the span of a few months, from November through January, Mumbai doctors reported seeing a rise in chronic and persistent coughs, alongside the annual flu season. “These are patients who’ve never had any allergic symptoms in the past but are now coming in with [symptoms resembling] acute bronchitis,” says K (who, like many Indians, uses an initial as her last name.)

India’s air pollution is a rolling disaster that shows no sign of slowing down. A 2022 report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air think tank found that “almost the entire population of India” is exposed to air pollution above the guidelines set by the World Health Organization. In 2019, air pollution killed an estimated 1.6 million Indians.

As attempts to fix the problem at the source fail, a new kind of inequality is taking hold in Indian cities. Facing potentially deadly air quality outside, wealthier Indians are paying to breathe free, creating a booming market for air purifiers that is forecast to grow 35 percent to $597 million by 2027. But in a country already economically divided along caste, gender, and religious lines, where 63 percent of people pay for health care out-of-pocket and the top 10 percent of the population hold 77 percent of the wealth, paying for breathable air isn’t an option for most.

“We are normalizing a world that hardly values nature and natural rights—basic necessities like clean drinking water, fresh and unpolluted air, space to walk for pedestrians is neither part of urban planning nor [do they] concern our collective conscience,” says Suryakant Waghmore, professor of sociology at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Waghmore says air purifiers purify air for the privileged “while the public is left to decay and degrade.”

As a cold spell swept through Mumbai in January and people donned sweaters and balaclavas to keep warm, a dusty haze hung in the air, occasionally caking onto leaves and piling into mounds on street corners. Roads remained choked with traffic, and the city’s poorer residents resorted to dumpster fires, burning scraps of wood, rubber, and plastic to stay warm.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's Pay-to-Breathe market is soaring. Facing #toxic #air, wealthy #Indians are buying air purifiers, creating a booming market. But 60% of India’s 1.3 billion people live on less than $3.10 a day, below the World Bank’s median #poverty line. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/breathing-is-a-luxury-in-indias-air-crisis

Timothy Dmello, who spends 12 hours a day outdoors as a paid dog walker, says he started to notice the worsening air pollution as he went up and down the Carter Road promenade, a palm-tree-lined stretch flanked by Bollywood celebrities’ apartments looking out onto the Arabian Sea. He says you can’t see the horizon clearly.

Dmello’s wife is on kidney dialysis; he took a job as a dog walker because the flexible hours meant he could spend more time with her and their 14-year-old daughter. At home, dust from outside builds up, while outside he’s exposed to fumes and particulates. Demello says that sometimes breathing is a problem.

He has seen air purifiers in the hospital, but the cost—cheaper models start at 6,000 rupees ($72)—is out of reach. Like most people he knows, he fell ill with a cough and cold this winter and couldn’t work.

Sixty percent of India’s nearly 1.3 billion people live on less than $3.10 a day, below the World Bank’s median poverty line. Not counting farm workers, 18 percent of the country’s population work outdoors.

Exposure to high levels of ambient PM 2.5 (particulate matter under 2.5 micrometers, which gets stuck in people’s lungs) can cause deadly illnesses such as lung cancer, strokes, and heart disease. Deaths linked to PM 2.5 pollution have more than doubled in the past 20 years, claiming 979,900 lives in 2019. What’s more, according to the World Air Quality Report 2022, air pollution costs India $150 billion a year.

In 2019, when 102 cities in India failed to meet the country’s air pollution standards, the government launched a National Clean Air Programme. Less than five years later, the number of failing cities has grown to 132.

National and state governments have tried unsuccessfully to address the air quality crisis. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party, which runs the city, tried an “odd-even” scheme in 2016, when the air quality dropped considerably. Private vehicles with registration plates ending in odd numbers could drive on odd dates, and those with even numbers on even dates. Environmentalists say it had minimal impact on air pollution levels. Delhi, as well as nearby Gurugram, which is a major tech hub, have also tried technological solutions. In 2021, the Supreme Court ordered the Delhi government to install two massive, 24-meter-high “smog towers” to filter particulates from the air, while Gurugram has put outdoor air purifiers in place. In February, Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, announced plans to install 14 outdoor air purifiers across the city.

However, experts believe these measures are a dead end. “Purifiers don’t work,” says Ronak Sutaria, founder of Respirer Living Sciences, an urban data startup that monitors air pollution. “I think there’s broad consensus amongst the research in the scientific community that purifiers do not solve the problem.”

Outdoor purifiers are a last resort when other methods of controlling pollution have failed, according to Pallav Purohit, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. “It makes sense to use air purifiers only when traditional methods of pollution control are insufficient,” he says. “The shortfall with most outdoor air purification systems is a limited area of coverage, limited efficacy, and high cost.”

Purohit says the purifiers create narrow columns of purified air that only really benefit people who are close to them for an extended period of time.

Following Mumbai’s air quality crisis this winter, critics accused the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board of moving air quality sensors to “cleaner” parts of the city.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's Pay-to-Breathe market is soaring. Facing #toxic #air, wealthy #Indians are buying air purifiers, creating a booming market. But 60% of India’s 1.3 billion people live on less than $3.10 a day, below the World Bank’s median #poverty line. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/breathing-is-a-luxury-in-indias-air-crisis


Purohit says the purifiers create narrow columns of purified air that only really benefit people who are close to them for an extended period of time.

Following Mumbai’s air quality crisis this winter, critics accused the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board of moving air quality sensors to “cleaner” parts of the city.

Meanwhile, India’s wealthier residents have taken matters into their own hands. Air purifier brands have become a common topic of conversation among middle-class residents. People who can afford to do so move from air-purified homes (where each room often has its own purifier) to air-purified shops and malls, driven in air-purified cars. Brands have enlisted cricket stars and Bollywood celebrities, advertising in English-language newspapers, on social media, and on billboards.

If the combination of advertisements and news coverage is to be believed, breathing air in India’s capital is equivalent to 50 cigarettes a day during Diwali, a Hindu festival where many people burst firecrackers, and 10 cigarettes a day during the winter. For an Indian Independence Day advert, Sharp suggests “Impurities Quit India,” referring to the “Quit India” movement from India’s freedom struggle. News articles meet every spike in poor air quality with air purifier advice: “Delhi air quality turns severe: 5 Air purifiers that will help you breathe clean air,” reads one; “Planning To Buy An Air Purifier Amid Falling AQI? Know the Costs, Other Factors” reads another.

Deekshith Vara Prasad, founder and CEO of Indian-made air purifier AirOK Technologies, says his company’s sales have grown 18 percent since 2018. (AirOK Technologies’ air purifiers are largely used in hospitals and offices.)

Prasad says surging demand has led to substandard products in the market. To work on the air in India’s cities, purifiers need to filter out fine particulate matter, fungus, bacteria, viruses, and toxic gasses like sulfur and nitrous oxides. There are “hundreds” of pollutants, he says. “If I remove two pollutants, I can claim I ‘remove pollutants.’”

The borders of private spaces, like offices and, increasingly, hotels—which sometimes market themselves based on their air purification—are a stark illustration of the unequal access to clean air. Door attendants, valets, bellhops, and security guards working the entrances and exits to these buildings don’t breathe the purified air available to those inside.

Waghmore says this division intersects with India’s social inequalities around status and caste and that air purifiers only consolidate the ideology of “purity” as something that is central to the lives of dominant caste.

Such inequality has severe consequences, as those from disadvantaged castes already face considerable barriers in accessing health care.

Waghmore says the heightened sense of privileged individualism—where the rich have the means to fend for themselves—“has the worst consequences in poor countries, where governments are yet to invest morally and economically in public infrastructure and transport to counter environmental degradation.”

K, who regularly treats those suffering from India’s air pollution inequality, puts it more succinctly. “I don’t think people should live with this,” she say, adding that everyone needs to take demand solutions. “If you don’t get something as basic as fresh air, then what’s the point of living in our country?”
Riaz Haq said…
India visit felt like visiting ‘state from the future,’ says Pakistani analyst Uzair Younus - BusinessToday


https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/world/story/india-visit-felt-like-visiting-state-from-the-future-says-pakistani-analyst-372842-2023-03-10

Younus was speaking about his experience during a recent visit to India, the country’s digital strides and communal harmony as well as extremely high inflation in Pakistan at a podcast on a YouTube channel named The Pakistan Experience


---------

Pakistani foreign policy expert Uzair Younus said his visit to India felt like he was visiting a state from the future. He said that the Pakistani public is being fed the “lies of hate for the sake of politics.” Younus was speaking about his experience during a recent visit to India, the country’s digital strides and communal harmony as well as extremely high inflation in Pakistan at a podcast on a YouTube channel named The Pakistan Experience, news agency ANI reported.

He said Indians have a ‘this is our moment’ attitude due to the investment in infrastructure development and efforts to digitise the economy. Younus stated, “The Indians are brimming with energy. They exude positive vibes and an attitude that ‘this is our moment. If not now, then never.” He added that he was impressed when he saw a cobbler and a paan shop owner in Mumbai offering QR code scanners for digital payment.



Younus added that he also saw people eat kachoris at eateries and leave just like that. He said, “I was wondering why the shopkeeper was allowing his customers to leave without paying for their meals. Then I saw that there was a Paytm QR code and the customers were simply scanning the code to make the payments.”

He added that fintech companies in India sell smart speakers connected to the merchant’s wallet so that he can keep track of the payments received. These speakers make an announcement every time a payment is received. After this, the host of the podcast asked Younus if he had visited a state of the future. To this, the foreign policy analyst said yes.



Younus added that cash circulation in India is 13 per cent of the country’s GDP, lower than 20 per cent in Pakistan. The Pakistani analyst also stated he was blown away by how everyone in India has zero balance accounts, UPI and mobile phones. He also explained that the cost of sending money via UPI is zero since the government provides the requisite infrastructure.

He noted, “The cost of sending money on UPI is zero because the Indian government provides for the necessary infrastructure. The Indian government mandates that every citizen with an Aadhaar card should have the right to zero balance, zero cost bank account.”



Like many Pakistanis nowadays, Younus also said that the measures taken by the incumbent Narendra Modi-led NDA government in India have transformed lives. He added that government subsidies made digital wallets more popular and encouraged the delivery of services online, reduced corruption, and enabled more online payments.

He further underscored that Indians cannot only open a bank account on an e-wallet but also avail insurance and credit. Younus said, “This is what the Modi government has done in India. He was criticised at the time and was blamed for wasting government money. People said that opening bank accounts with zero balance, with subsidies from banks, would result in nothing. But it has transformed lives.”
Riaz Haq said…
India is home to a quarter of the world’s hunger burden with nearly 224.3 million people undernourished in the country. The situation is even more dire among children under the age of five — 36.1 million are stunted, accounting for 31% being chronically malnourished.



https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/good-health-begins-in-healthy-soil/



Patel said…
In absolute numbers, extreme poverty in India according to worldbank, is about 1%. According to your figures, it is 34 million for India, which is little more than 2%. Pakistan's stands at 1.9 million, is less than 1%, has done better than India in multi dimensional poverty, but if you look at overall poverty, it has increased to 36%. In case of India overall poverty has decreased to 12%.
Riaz Haq said…
Patel: "In absolute numbers, extreme poverty in India according to worldbank, is about 1%"


Extreme poverty (people living below $2.15 day in 2017 PPP dollars) in India is 10% while it is 4.9% in Pakistan, according to the World Bank.

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.DDAY?locations=IN-PK
Riaz Haq said…
World Happiness Report: India ranked at 126th place below Sri Lanka, Pakistan
However, India’s current rank was ten places higher than its ranking of 136 from 2022.


https://scroll.in/latest/1046001/world-happiness-report-india-ranked-at-126th-place-below-sri-lanka-pakistan


India has been ranked at the 126th place among 146 countries in the latest World Happiness Report published by a non-profit organisation launched by the United Nations.

The report was released on Monday on the occasion of the International Day of Happiness. The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes the report annually.

The index is based on data from Gallup World Polls from 2020 to 2022, in which respondents were asked to evaluate their quality of life. Six factors – gross domestic product, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption – were estimated to contribute to life evaluations.

India’s current rank of 126 was ten places higher than its ranking of 136 from 2022. This year, India had a score of 4.036 on a scale of 0 to 10.

Pakistan was ranked at 108th place, while Bangladesh was at the 118th spot, the index showed. Sri Lanka was ranked 112th place while Nepal was 78th on the list.

According to the report, the happiest country in the world was Finland, with a score of 7.804. Two more Nordic countries – Denmark and Iceland – are second and third on the list.

Eight out of the top ten countries on the list were in Europe. Israel and New Zealand were the only two countries from outside Europe to feature among the top ten.

Both Russia and Ukraine reported higher levels of happiness in the latest report despite the escalation of the conflict between the two countries since February 2022. According to the index, Russia’s ranking improved from 80 in 2022 to 70 this year, while Ukraine’s ranking improved from 98 to 92. The 2022 report was based on data from 2019 to 2021.

John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report, said that benevolence, especially acts of kindness towards strangers, increased dramatically in 2021 and remained high in 2022, CNN reported.

“Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support twice as strong as those of loneliness,” he said.

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