he battle against poverty seems never-ending, but that doesn’t mean we should stop waging the war. It is a disease that grinds people down, hinders physical, mental and social growth. Poverty has been around for a long time, but what we know about the poor is often clouded by ignorance. Some of it is pernicious, but much is just a failure to know our neighbor.
Nevertheless, the battle is far from over. Thousands of people still struggle daily to secure adequate food and shelter and fulfil their basic needs. The fact that we are moving in the right direction is no consolation to a family in south Kashmir who lost a child due to minus temp. It is time to tackle extreme poverty once and for all. We need to galvanise our resources, wisdom and experience, our ingenuity and political will to reverse the plight of the poorest of the poor.
We should never forget that extreme poverty is not just about living on less than few bucks a day. It is about much more than being hungry, ill-housed, and unable to
properly care for and educate the next generation. Poverty is also about vulnerability, humiliation, discrimination, exclusion and inequity.
With the 90s came the violent phase in the history of Jammu & Kashmir and apart from the political changes a lot of socio-economic changes also took place. The prosperity of the urban middle class etherized away and those who did not have even one family member in government service were the worst sufferers.
In Srinagar, much like many other cities in the world, everything has to be bought. No free lunches. You earn from hand to mouth to survive. A bulging lower middle class has appeared in almost every possible area of Srinagar where men in their 40s are not able to get married off and just above survive somehow. The availability of a huge number of unemployed youth is leading to exploitation bu employers. In the prime location of Lal Chowk it is not uncommon to find salesmen working for a monthly remuneration of less than Rs.6000. In many schools even Masters degree holders are forced to work for even lesser amount of money.
This exploitation is leading to more alienation and frustration in the youth. We now have a huge number of educated youth with nothing to do and the scarcity of blue-collared jobs is adding to the problem.
The current establishment as well as local community must think of a lot of out of the box solutions to mitigate the problems caused by urban poverty. To start with skilling youth, counseling session, better monitoring of work places to ward off exploitation and strict implementation of minimum wages act are some of the acts that need to be followed in letter and spirit.