The India Connection
Many Live in Poverty
Some elite of India enjoy great wealth, but most can spend only a few cents a day for the bare necessities of life. Many cannot afford shelter and must sleep in the streets. Cholera and malaria are common as many of India's rivers are used for bathing and toileting as well as for drinking. Travel by automobile is a luxury. Good natural highways connect major cities, but the poor quality of other roads make travel by car precarious. Besides, fewer than one in 500 people own automobiles. Therefore, many ride buses or trains and even more travel by foot. Vehicles pulled by animals or people still provide the major means of transport for short trips. Even in metropolitan areas, two-wheeled ox carts account for the bulk of the traffic. 60 percent of India's workers earn their living by farming. Most are very poor. One out of 13 in India have a radio, and one out of 30 have a television set.
In an attempt to reduce the poverty rate, which plagues over 36 percent of its population, India's government (which is a bold experiment in democracy), has become proactive in education. Public schools for children ages six through 14 have been opened all across the country. In most schools a noontime meal is served, providing many children with the only meal they will receive that day. Although school attendance is over 80 percent in the cities, fewer than 35 percent of children are able to attend school in India's rural areas. Since there is always a market for cheap labor and poor families need their children's wages just to survive, more than 115 million school age children are in the Indian work force. And unfortunately, many of these children never go to school at all. This places them at an obvious disadvantage for the future.