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...

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. 


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Comment by Riaz Haq on March 3, 2023 at 7:30am

Is India’s boom helping the poor?
What vehicle sales reveal about the country’s growth


In a land where labour is cheap, the man who drives the most luxury cars is not a billionaire. He is a parking attendant. On a meagre salary, he must park, double-park and triple-park cars in tight spaces, and then extricate them. In India, where car sales have increased by 16% since the start of the covid-19 pandemic—a trend partly driven by the growing popularity of hefty sports-utility vehicles—this tricky job is becoming even more difficult.

To many, India’s automobile boom symbolises the country’s superfast economic rise. On February 28th new figures revealed that India’s gdp grew by 4.4% year on year in the last quarter of 2022, down from 6.3% in the previous quarter. Despite the slowdown, the imf expects India to be the fastest-growing major economy in 2023, and to account for 15% of global growth. The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) believes the country is in the midst of Amrit Kaal, an auspicious period that will bring prosperity to all Indians.

Not everyone is convinced by the bjp’s boosterism. To sceptics, rising vehicle sales in fact demonstrate the unsavoury lopsidedness of India’s economic growth. Indeed, purchases of two-wheelers, such as scooters and motorcycles, have sputtered since covid hit, and are down by 15% since 2019. These are the vehicles of the masses: half of households own a two-wheeler; fewer than one in ten own a car.

Not many questions are more central to Indian politics than the wellbeing of the country’s everyman. The problem is that answering the question is fraught with difficulty. Official statistics are patchy. Ministers have not published a poverty estimate in more than a decade. Thus assessments and inferences must be made using other surveys and data sets, such as vehicle sales.

These suggest poverty reduction has stalled, and maybe even reversed. According to a survey of 44,000 households by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (cmie), a research outfit, only 6% of India’s poorest households—those bringing in less than 100,000 rupees ($1,200) a year—believe their families are better off than a year ago. The recovery from the pandemic, when harsh lockdowns whacked the economy, has been horribly slow.

The World Bank estimates shutdowns pushed 56m Indians into extreme poverty. Since then inflation has further eroded purchasing power: real wages in rural areas, where most of the poor live, have stagnated, and annual inflation jumped to 6.5% in January. Poor families, for whom food makes up 60% of household expenditure, have felt the strongest pinch. Rural food costs have risen by 28% since 2019; onion prices by an eye-watering 51%.

Labour-market data also bely India’s impressive headline growth figures. Take-up for a rural-employment programme, which guarantees low-wage work to participants, remains above pre-covid levels. cmie surveys suggest the unemployment rate is also higher, averaging more than 7% over the past two years. Many people have given up looking: labour-force participation rates have fallen since the pandemic.

There are plenty of problems with India’s economy, from poor primary education to an inability to grow its limited manufacturing sector. But these were present even as previous growth spurts lifted millions out of poverty. Recent pains are thus more likely to reflect the pandemic’s after-effects. Construction firms in cities, for example, complain of labour shortages, as many workers who headed to villages during lockdowns have not yet returned.

These may at last be starting to ease. The latest data releases suggest that rural wages may be picking up. Deposits in bank accounts set up for the poor are also rising. Even sales of two-wheelers are slowly creeping up. A lot more improvement will be needed, however, for claims of Amrit Kaal to ring true.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 3, 2023 at 11:04am

#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-h...


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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 3, 2023 at 11:18am

India Derailed: A 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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 3, 2023 at 11:19am

India Derailed: A 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.

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 9, 2023 at 10:36am

#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...

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 9, 2023 at 10:37am

#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...

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 9, 2023 at 10:38am

#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...

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?”

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 10, 2023 at 8:27pm

India visit felt like visiting ‘state from the future,’ says Pakistani analyst Uzair Younus - BusinessToday


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.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 20, 2023 at 10:52am

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.


Comment by Riaz Haq on March 21, 2023 at 1:37pm

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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