Tag Archives: poverty

‘The Impoverishment of Many to Satisfy the Greed of a Few’

Amnesty International Report 2009


In September 2008 I was in New York to attend the UN high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the internationally agreed targets to reduce poverty by 2015. Delegate after delegate talked about the need for more funds to eradicate hunger, to cut preventable deaths of infants and pregnant women, to provide clean water and sanitation, to educate girls. The life and dignity of billions of people were at stake, but there was only limited will to back up the talk with money. As I left the UN building I could see the ticker tapes running a very different story coming from another part of Manhattan: the crash of one of the largest investment banks on Wall Street. It was a telling sign of where world attention and resources were really focused. Rich and powerful governments were suddenly able to find many more times the sums that could not be found to stem poverty. They poured them with abundance into failing banks and stimulus packages for economies that had been allowed to run amok for years and were now running aground.

By the end of 2008, it was clear that our two-tier world of deprivation and gluttony – the impoverishment of many to satisfy the greed of a few – was collapsing into a deep hole.

As with the case of climate change, so too with global economic recession: the rich are responsible for most of the damaging action, but it is the poor who suffer the worst consequences. While no one is being spared the sharp bite of the recession, the woes of the rich countries are nothing compared with the disasters unfolding in poorer ones. From migrant workers in China to miners in Katanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), people desperately trying to drag themselves out of poverty are feeling the brunt sharply. The World Bank has predicted 53 million more people will be thrown into poverty this year, on top of the 150 million hit by the food crisis last year, wiping out the gains of the last decade. International Labour Organization figures suggest that between 18 and 51 million people could lose their jobs. Skyrocketing food prices are leading to more hunger and disease, forced evictions and foreclosures to more homelessness and destitution.

“The world needs a different kind of leadership, a different kind of politics as well as economics – something that works for all and not just for a favoured few.”

While it is too early to predict the full impact on human rights of the profligacy of recent years, it is clear that the human rights costs and consequences of the economic crisis will cast long shadows. It is also clear that not only have governments abdicated economic and financial regulation to market forces, they have failed abysmally to protect human rights, lives and livelihoods.

Billions of people are suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity. This is a human rights crisis. Full Story

Slumdog Millionaire: Poverty is Nobody’s Fairy-tale

After seeing the film Slumdog Millionaire a few weeks ago, I felt not jubilant, but disturbed. Having been to India five times and (collectively) spending 1.5 years in various locales, I’ve experienced the fascinating, difficult country firsthand.

Poverty is ever-present. The slums are not always hushed into dark pockets of the cities; they may exist alongside opulence on busy boulevards. Though, some slum areas, as shown in the film, are being leveled with high-rise complexes put in their place, further displacing the marginalized. And this is cause for concern.

A good friend of mine, a native of Calcutta, recently told me this in a correspondence:

In India the situation is getting from bad to worse. There is NO accountability at all. The new change now is that many of the downtroddens are rising up to protest / to demand . The Adivasis are rising. The Maoists movement is spreading like wild fire in India. They have support bases in Nepal and Bangladesh. They are as bad as the criminals in other parties. We have lots of political parties with all kinds of names, but basically the goal is the same – ” to come to power and to remain in power ” at any cost.

In Delhi the slums are being destroyed and people are being displaced in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games:

India razes slums, leaves poor homeless

Maiming children, as they did in the film by blinding a boy, is not simply a movie phenomenon nor is it a rare occurrence. If a begging person is missing part of a limb or if they are blind, more money may be extracting from the unwitting. It plays on our emotions.

During my last trip to India I had a personal encounter with a young boy who was a victim of intentional maiming. I was walking down Main Bazaar in Delhi when he spotted me. Westerners with money enough to travel to India are prime targets.


He came running towards me and then trotted alongside me, parroting “fifty rupees!, fifty rupees!”. It was the desolate look in his eyes that first caught my attention. Seeing his missing hand explained the expression.

The end of his arm was covered with a clean, stark white bandage. It stood in sharp contrast to the layers of dirt on his face, feet and clothes.

I stopped walking and asked him “who did this to you?” Both enraged and haunted by this child’s circumstance, I continued to try talking with him but he only knew enough english to beg for money, not converse with a foreigner.

I did not give the child 50 rupees but settled on ten in exchange for his portrait. I felt a twinge of guilt about that, but I knew I would not be allowed one without compensation.

I saw the boy a few days later in nearly the same stretch of Main Bazaar. However, this time his bandage was bloody and dirty. He was jumping up and down with his mutilated arm in the air, trying to get the attention of a (western) couple who were in conversation and paying no attention to him.

A month later, in Dharamsala, I met a man who had also seen this boy when he was in Delhi. He told me he saw him squeezing the end of his arm to make the bandage bloodier, and hopefully, more profitable.

Those who’ve not spent time in India wouldn’t necessarily know what parts of the film Slumdog Millionaire are fact versus fiction, though it’s well known that India is home to a wealth of impoverished people.

The fiction is the fairy-tale ending, and the sense it gives moviegoers, that despite deep poverty and dangerous conditions, the people are still smiling happy, even dancing for joy in the railway station, a place where many street children make their home.

I think this illusion gives us permission to go back to life as usual after the credits roll and the curtain falls. Their situation and suffering is not something we need concern ourselves with. Besides, they’re happy. Aren’t they?

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See: Slumdog Millionaire’s child actors still live in ‘grinding poverty’ in Mumbai

Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, two of the child actors in “Slumdog Millionaire,” are still living in the slums of Mumbai, despite the film’s $14 million budget and worldwide success. Ali earned 500 British pounds ($710) for one year’s work and Ismail earned 1700 pounds ($2414), “less than many Indian domestic servants“:

Both children were found places in a local school and receive £20 a month for books and food. However, they continue to live in grinding poverty and their families say they have received no details of the trust funds set up in their names. Their parents said that they had hoped the film would be their ticket out of the slums, and that its success had made them realise how little their children had been paid.

Full Story

One in eight Americans Struggling with Hunger

In 2008, 2.6 million Americans lost their jobs, the worst the U.S. has seen since 1945. As of this moment, there are an estimated 600,000 job loss predictions for 2009. Unemployment will lead to further home foreclosures, increased homelessness, and hunger. In the wealthiest nation in the world, one in eight Americans are struggling with hunger and food insecurity.

The Politics of Hunger

Food Not Bombs!

Food Not Bombs is one of the fastest growing revolutionary movements and is gaining momentum throughout the world. There are hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty. Food Not Bombs is not a charity. This energetic grassroots movement is active throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Food Not Bombs is organizing for peace and an end to the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. For nearly 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth.

The first group was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists. Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs has no formal leaders and strives to include everyone in its decision making process. Each group recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and makes fresh hot vegetarian meals that are served in outside in public spaces to anyone without restriction. Each independent group also serves free vegetarian meals at protests and other events. The San Francisco chapter has been arrested over 1,000 times in government’s effort to silence its protest against the city’s anti- homeless policies. Amnesty International states it will adopt those Food Not Bombs volunteers that are convicted as “Prisoners of Conscience” and will work for their unconditional release. Even though we are dedicated to nonviolence Food Not Bombs activists in the United States have been under investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Pentagon and other intelligence agencies. A number of Food Not Bombs volunteers have been arrested on terrorism charges but there has never been a conviction.

More on Food Not Bombs
Start a Food Not Bombs Chapter in your Community!

Food Not Bombs – Eugene Chapter (my city)

Give Good for Free Here!

All you have to do is click once-a-day at The Hunger Site to give food to the hungry, for free! Each daily click donates 1.1 cups of food. Please consider a daily visit to help feed those who cannot feed themselves.

The Hunger Site was founded to focus the power of the Internet on a specific humanitarian need: the eradication of world hunger. Since its launch in June 1999, the site has established itself as a leader in online activism, helping to feed the world’s hungry. On average, over 220,000 individuals from around the world visit the site each day to click the yellow “Click Here to Give – it’s FREE” button. To date, more than 300 million visitors have given more than 500 million cups of staple food.

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