If you want to assess a country's progress you should pick up the poorest from among the people and see how far he has gone up the ladder said Mahatma Gandhi.
If Gandhi's criterion is applied, India is rich but unequal. Billionaires compete well with their counterparts in America. Millionaires in India are cheaper by the dozen. Yet the common man has made little progress.
Two reports emanating from official circles say that nearly 70 per cent of people live in dire, dismal conditions. The latest national Sample Survey says that the people in the countryside live on a daily earning of 8 Rupees to 12 Rupees . The amount has lessened by half from the time the report was published early last year. It is quite a steep fall in some 12 months.
This is apart from the suicide that farmers are committing all over India, including rich Maharashtra and Punjab. The figure is one every half hour. (In 2006, the number of suicides was 7,006). The villagers cannot clear the compound-interest debt because they have got enmeshed in the cash crop economy that cannot take the market's vagaries.
The Central Vigilance Commission is looking into the import of 2.3 million tonnes of wheat at a far higher cost than was warranted. After testing the quality of the wheat, it was found to everybody's horror that the imported wheat failed all quality tests. As for the government, it would prefer importing rotten foodgrain to buying from the Indian farmers the same wheat at a remunerative price which in any case is less than one fourth of the world price.
Gandhi had promised that there would be no tear on anybody's cheek in independent India.
Sixty years later, tears of helplessness and hunger do not stop trickling from the eyes of a large majority of Indians.