June 20, 2021: The year 2018 witnessed more than 2,700 people in India committing suicide because of unemployment, at the rate of seven every day, which is, on average, one more suicide per day compared to 2017, which saw more than 2,400 such cases. This staggering figure of death rate due to poverty in India can shatter any soul. Similarly, poverty pushed three people to death each day in 2018 with a total of 1,202 deaths, a slight increase from the 1,198 deaths in 2017.
The fact that India is home to one of the largest malnutritioned group of people in the world and it speaks volumes about the problem of starvation at length. It is recorded that approximately a third of our children are stunted: As the word implies, their bodies (and, indeed, their brains) are less developed than they should be for their age. The one overbearing decapitation reason being: their continuous defeat in the battle to secure a decent meal day after day, month after month.
A report published by UNICEF recently stated that malnutrition is a direct contributor to nearly half of all deaths under the age of five years. The final cause of death, of course, is never “starvation” or “hunger” but a more immediate ailment such as diarrhoea or pneumonia.
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However, the child dies because he or she is too weak from hunger, which has depleted the body of the necessary biological potions that would have staved off these diseases. In a simpler selection of words, these children die of hunger.
Figures recently taken before the pandemic, suggested that a two-third of people in India live in poverty: 68.8% of the Indian population lives on less than $2 a day.
Over 30% even have less than $1.25 per day available – they are considered extremely poor. This makes the Indian subcontinent one of the poorest countries in the world; women and children, the weakest members of Indian society, suffer most.
Death rate due to poverty in India: From rural struggle to urban slum
800 million people in India are considered poor. Surviving on the countryside, they keep afloat with odd jobs. In want of employment that secures a liveable wage, they migrate to metropolitan areas such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru or Kolkata.
What lies in response to this hopeful transfer, is a life of poverty and despair in the mega slums, made up of millions of corrugated ironworks, without sufficient drinking water supply, without garbage disposal and in many cases without electricity.
Thereafter, poor hygienic conditions cause diseases such as cholera, typhus and dysentery, in which especially children suffer and die.
In 2018, according to a report, more kids under the age of five die in India than anywhere else in the world. In fact, in 2018 it was reported that over 1.5 million children a year with over 4,500 child deaths a day. These figures suggest that over 3,00,000 children die every year in India because of hunger.
This is an overwhelming reason for death rate due to poverty in India especially because it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The high infant mortality
The harrowing numbers also relay that 1.4 million children die each year in India before their fifth birthday. In addition to Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China, India is one of the countries with the highest child mortality rates. Pneumonia, malaria and diarrheal diseases as well as chronic malnutrition are the most frequent causes of death.
Child labour in India
Even with the laws and policies in India prohibiting child labour for children under the age of 14 in India, according to official figures, 12.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working.
Aid agencies assume that in reality, there are many more estimating that 65 million children between 6 and 14 years do not go to school. Instead, in order to secure survival, it is believed that Indian children contribute to the livelihood of their families; they work in the field, in factories, in quarries, in private households and in prostitution.
Lack of education
UNICEF holds that about 25% of children in India have no access to education. The number of children excluded from school is higher among girls than boys.
Although women and men are treated equally under Indian law, girls and women, especially in the lower social caste, are considered inferior and are oppressed by their fathers, brothers and husbands. Without education, the chance of finding a living wage from employment in India is virtually hopeless.
Child marriage, early end of childhood
Again, in the existence of laws that ought to shield girls by banning minors from marrying since 2006, it is still widespread in many regions of India. The main leaders in this practice are young girls, who are still children themselves and become mothers too early.
Many of them die at birth. According to an investigation by the medical journal The Lancet, 44.5% of girls are still married in India before they are of legal age. Due to poverty, many parents encourage early marriages for their daughters in hopes of better lives for them.
HIV/AIDS — a taboo in Indian society
2.7 million Indians are infected with the HIV virus; about 220,000 of them are children, with the tendency rising. The lack of education and the lack of condoms mean that the virus is spreading faster and faster and more and more people are dying of AIDS – especially in the slums of the growing cities. More and more children are living there as so-called AIDS orphans, often being infected with the virus as well.
Death rate due to poverty in India: Pandemic makes it worse
India has experienced one of the largest Covid-19 outbreaks globally. As India continues to battle with second wave of pandemic, about 75 million more people in India fell into poverty last year because of the pandemic-induced economic recession, compared with what it would have been without the outbreak, an analysis by Pew Research Center showed in the month of March, this year.
India accounts for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty in 2020, in accordance with the analysis. It defined the poor as people who live on $2 or less daily. At least 1,647 deaths due to Covid were reported in India on Saturday. Several lakhs have died due to poverty and coronavirus in India. The death rate due to poverty in India has again become the raging topic post Covid-19 situation in the country.
Rakesh Kochhar, senior researcher at Pew Research Center, wrote in a report talking about the shoot in poverty in India says the country, “claws back several years of progress on this front.”
From 2011 to 2019, the number of poor people in India was estimated to have dropped from 340 million to 78 million, he said in the report. That number would have fallen further to 59 million last year without the pandemic, but it is instead projected to rise to 134 million, the analysis showed.
Spewing a rise even in the country’s middle class, the transfer was distinct. Those in the middle-income tier, defined as $10.01 to $20 a day, in India grew from 29 million to 87 million between 2011 and 2019 — and is expected to fall to 66 million in 2020 because of the Covid recession, said Kochhar.
Effect in China
Like India, China has a large population of around 1.4 billion people. But the pandemic’s effect on poverty was much smaller in China, according to Pew Research Center.
China’s economy expanded by 2.3% last year and is expected to grow by 8.1% this year, according to the latest IMF forecast. It was the only major economy to grow in 2020 — and that has helped poverty levels to remain “virtually unchanged,” said Kochhar.
Analysis on India and China accompanied Pew Research Center’s report on how the Covid-19 outbreak affected income levels around the world.
On the global scale, an additional 131 million people became poor because of the global recession last year, compared with what it would have been if the pandemic didn’t happen, the research firm said.
“Given that India and China also account for more than a third of the global population, with about 1.4 billion people each, the course of the pandemic in these two countries — and how each recovers — will have a substantial effect on changes in the distribution of income at the global level,” it said.
Deaths due to hunger bring flashbacks from the most gruesome colonial past, but the horrors of today are even toppling over in comparison.