In India, 800 million people live in poverty. Almost 70% of the Indian population lives on less than $2 a day, making the Indian subcontinent one of the poorest countries in the world, with women and children suffering the most. As governments conveniently choose to turn a blind eye to the struggles of the bottom class, child labour, child marriage, and infant mortality rates continue to surge.

The poorer section of our country lives in a constant shortage of money. Most of them live in slums where they are devoid of access to clean water, proper garbage disposal, or regular electricity. These poor living conditions in turn aggravate cases of cholera, typhus, and dysentery among others, which, if contracted by children, could possibly result in death.

How does the government react to seeing such terrible living conditions?

By building a wall to conceal it.

Yes, that’s right, instead of investing in improving the dilapidated kaccha houses and poor sanitation facilities of Saraniyavaas slum, home to around 5000 poor people, the Prime Minister chose to construct a 1064 feet long wall to cover it up for the arrival of Trump. He also chose to adorn the wall with plants and date palms. Quite a contrast to what exists on the other side of it.

Furthermore, according to UNICEF, about 25% of children in India are uneducated. Although child labour for children under the age of 14 in India is prohibited by law, aid agencies estimate that in reality, about a staggering 65 million children between 6 and 14 years do not go to school. Instead, they are forced to help contribute to their families by working in hostile conditions in farms, factories, quarries, and some are even forced into prostitution.

(Drone photos of Mumbai reveal the places where extreme poverty meets extreme wealth)

The presented situation is in stark contrast to the other end of the economic spectrum. The number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade with the richest 8 owning the total wealth of half the world in 2017. According to the Oxfam report, it would take a female domestic worker 22,277 years to earn what a top CEO of a technology company makes in one year.

But how can this predicament be resolved?

In order to build economies that work for all sections of society, governments must prioritize care as being as important as all other sectors. Females are often the ones who have to suffer most as they are forced into a spiral of cooking, cleaning and other chores even at a tender age, and are rarely considered worthy of education. It is estimated that women and girls put in a whopping 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day.

(The substandard living conditions of the poor in India)

Direct public investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare, and healthcare could save women a lot of time and improve their quality of life. For example, providing access to an improved water source would mean women wouldn’t have to walk miles in order to collect a few liters of water.

Another major factor fuelling the economic disparity is the dodging of taxes by the super-rich. The richest are accumulating wealth at such a rapid rate that the first trillionaire could possibly emerge in a mere 25 years. They use their money and connections to ensure government policies work for them. In order to ensure a more human economy, governments should increase taxes on high incomes. They must in turn use these funds to invest in healthcare, education, and job creation.

As we keep updated with the Musk-Bezos race to the richest person alive, it is important we pay equal attention to what’s happening in the lesser heard sections of society. Let us lend our support, whether it be through cash, volunteering, or simply raising awareness and hopefully make a positive impact in their lives.

Shaheen Rafiq