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August 14, 2007

Illiterate? Well, Not Really

Talking about he poverty of rural India, a certain Phul Singh is used as an example.

Skip down to the next generation of Mr Singh's family and it becomes clear how little advancement India's rural poor have made, even as their country basks in growing international recognition as a nascent global economic power.

Phul Singh, 40, lives a few steps across a muddy pathway from his father, in a house that would be better described as a hovel - an open-sided lean-to where he subsists with his wife and six children.

Designated as "BPL" - or below the poverty line - the Singh family receives monthly handouts of 5kg of rice, 20kg of corn and, if they had a stove, a few litres of kerosene. Like his father, Phul Singh is illiterate and gets by as a day-labourer earning 40 rupees (50 pence) a day during the harvest season.

When the work dries up, he collects firewood and walks several miles to sell it for 20 rupees a bundle.

Like his father before him, he's illiterate, and given the paucity of the local education system, so (probably) will his son be. So, yes, he's illiterate. Then, there's what he wants to happen to break out of this deadlock, this poverty trap:

First among their requests is to be given patta - or title - to the common land which villagers like the Singh family have been using for generations to grow maize and other crops essential to their survival.

"We want ownership for the land we have tilled for all these years," said Phul Singh. "With patta it is possible to apply for loans so that we can irrigate the land and grow more crops for our families. Otherwise we are stuck in this life. What can we do?"

Private property as the first steps out of such a life: who would have thought it, eh? Sounds surprisingly economically literate to me.

(By chance, there's more on this subject here.)

August 14, 2007 in Economics | Permalink


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What, enclose the Commons? All lefties are dead against that, aren't they?

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 14, 2007 10:06:23 AM