By Lal Khan
While the corporate media gives figures of millions coming out of poverty in China, India and elsewhere the reality is much starker and painful. The present market economy that controls the planet has a crushing domination on societies particularly in the developing or the underdeveloped world. This coercion of the human race has intensified with the passage of time and the exacerbation of the crisis of capitalism on a world scale. No country either rich or poor is spared from continuous attacks by the capitalist governments that come with various political garbs but are fundamentally pegged into this vicious economic system that is drenching the ordinary people into the march of misery and deprivation. All the different forms of regimes from the religious fundamentalists to the liberal and secular variety subscribe to this economic doctrine that is making human existence an agony more than ever before.
The figures released by the Global Issues are perturbing and excruciating. Their compiled report says that “Almost half the world—over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80% of the remaining humanity lives on less than $10 a day. The poorest 50 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest ten percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. Last year the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth of the population consumption is just 1.5%. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined. For every $1 in aid a developing country receives, over $25 is spent on debt repayment. The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.
According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death. Some 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diarrhoea. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities. Around 28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Some 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. More than 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized. Based on enrolment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school; 57 percent of them were girls. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. Less than one percent of what the imperialist/ capitalist states spend every year on weapons was enough to put every child into school. There is a loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness. Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.
From some of the recent studies on poverty and inequality, we get these disquieting statistics. Some 2.6 billion people in the underdeveloped world lack basic sanitation. Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
Out of almost two billion children in the so-called third world, there are 640 million without adequate shelter that is one out of three. Similarly 400 million or one in five have no access to safe water and more than 270 million with no access to any sort of health services.
Rural areas account for three in every four people living on less than $1 a day and a similar share of the world population suffering from malnutrition. However, urbanization is not synonymous with human progress. Urban slum growth is outpacing urban growth by a wide margin. Almost one- half the world’s population now live in cities and towns. Out of these two out of three urban dwellers live in the slum or semi-slum conditions. In Pakistan, these statistics are even worse than the average figures of the underdeveloped countries.
Pakistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world of 66 per thousand births, at par with countries like Afghanistan and Mauritania. The ones that survive are forced to endure hunger, malnutrition resulting in stunted growth of these unfortunate souls. According to the World Food Program, almost half of women and children under five years of age are malnourished and 6 out of 10 Pakistanis are food insecure. The same report says that Food insecurity persists although food production is sufficient to feed all Pakistanis. Such is the debilitating logic and functioning of Capitalism. In 2015 alone 432,000 children under five years of age died in Pakistan, making the country third in the global ranking. India tops this ignominious chart with 1.2 million deaths last year. Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that almost 40% of these children are underweight. Over half the children are affected by stunting.
According to a 2014 report in NY Times, the number of Pakistani children between 5 and 16 who are not attending school is close to 25 million; most of them are girls. The same report states that “Last year’s survey revealed that 51 percent of all government primary schools didn’t have working electricity; 36 percent didn’t have drinking water on the school premises, and 42 percent didn’t have working toilets “. The situation has only worsened in last two years. Most of the Children out of schools are used as forced labour. According to The Global Slavery Index 2013, Pakistan comes third, after Mauritania and Haiti in the prevalence of child labour. Dunya News TV reported that “According to the report by ILO, in 2012, around 12.5 million children in Pakistan were involved in child labour while 264,000 were reported in domestic child labour”.
These children are exploited for their labour primarily as they are much cheaper than grown up workers. The official minimum wage Rs. 14000 is a blatant insult to the working class but the fact of the matter is that most of the workers are paid far less than that. According to Harvard International Review in 2014, 42.6 percent of household income is spent on food. The basic necessities like healthcare and education thus become fancied luxuries.
A shame freedom and creating a capitalist nation state 70 years ago has not meant much for the mass of Indian people. In the epoch of capitalist crisis, the economic growth has not and can not deliver any good for the majority of Indians. In the year 2016, around sixty percent of the population has no access to the toilet. Anally 140,000 children die from diarrhoea alone. Torturous economic and social conditions are giving rise a contorted society. according to a 2011 study published in The Lancet Between 1980 and 2010, it is estimated that four to 12 million girls were aborted because of their sex. According to a recent report by Aljazeera, “India’s Minister of Women and Child Welfare Maneka Gandhi says “Every day around 2,000 girls are killed in the womb or immediately after birth in India” though a UN report says the daily number is around 7,000. In 2014 it was estimated that there were 37 million fewer women than men in India. The another ugly side of this gender oppression is the high prevalence of rape and assaults against women. According to a 2014 report by India today, 92 women are raped in India every day. Many of the victims belong to the oppressed so-called lower castes , for whom this sort of violence has become a tragic norm of life. Thousands of small farmers have resorted to suicide after defaulting on their debts. Pogroms against the religious minorities and political opponents are increasing, with tacit and at times explicit support from the ruling religious fundamentalists.
It’s not just these preposterous social and economic indicators but the wars and conflicts that are tearing apart societies and states are collapsing with unprecedented turmoil and bloodied chaos. There are more refugees and displaced human beings in the world today than perhaps ever in history. Similarly, the causalities from these conflicts particularly the children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in societies are rising with a virulent rapidity. There has been a rising divide between the rich and the poor countries ever since the advent of colonialism and what Lenin titled his epic work as “Imperialism: The highest stage of capitalism.” But in the post-colonial period the imperialist plunder through the mechanism of the world division of labour, the world market and the vicious circle of loans and debt servicing of the poor countries orchestrated by the imperialist financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank have exasperated this exploitation.
However then there is a rich and poor divide within the underdeveloped countries rendering the working classes and the poor of these land into further deprivation and drudgery. We have some of the rulers and elite richer than the even those in the advanced countries. Today there are more billionaires in China than in the USA and Indian billionaires outnumber those in Japan. The most worrying issue is that this inequality and the gulf between the rich and poor is widening dangerously in both the rich and the not so rich countries. Within the confines of this system, this seems to be unstoppable.
But if we try to understand the cause of this retrogressive decline in the living conditions of the masses the fundamental reason is the fall in the rates of profit and the increased production capacity counterposed by a contraction of the consumption power of the ordinary toiling people due to the deepening crisis of today’s capitalism and its globalisation. If we take a closer look at the advances in science and technology we are again astonished by the fact that the present productive capacity of the necessities of lives of the ordinary souls is much more than is being produced. The only reason that this production is being held back is because the ruling capitalist classes and the imperialist corporate bosses do not allow the production of these goods. The only motive for production in manufacturing, services, agriculture and other sectors of the industry and economy is to steal away a sustained increase in their desired rates of profit. In other words, this lust for profits and the greed for more of the filthily rich classes that rule through the bourgeois states has now become a hindrance to the development and evolution of the society. That is the basic reason why capitalism has become economically redundant and historically obsolete.
This daunting inequality and misery do not only create social and economic hardships for the oppressed masses but it aggravates instability and violence in societies. That is the reason of this turbulence in all continents and large swathes of the planet are suffering from conflagrations that are damaging social being of humanity and ravaging societies with elements of barbarism in some regions. This system, in reality, has become a threat to the human civilisation. It has to be overthrown for survival. With fetters of the private ownership and profits broken the technology and modes of production can be utilised with their full capacity. This can create an abundance that can within a short span of time fulfil the basic needs of the masses. This is not a pipe dream but the statistics of the largest corporations themselves prove this capacity of production fully possible. The only way forward to achieve this historic goal of putting an end to want and deprivation is to transform the economic and social systems based on profits into a system where the motive of all production and services must be the completion of the human needs i.e. socialism.