New Delhi (AsiaNews) - In eight states in India the number of poor is higher than that of the 26 most underdeveloped countries in Africa. This data has been revealed by the multidimensional poverty index (MPI), a new index for measuring poverty, created by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) in collaboration with the UN. According to the MPI there are over 421 million poor in the Indian states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, versus 410 million recorded in the 26 African countries like Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Niger and Somalia.
The new index uses 10 variables such as access to fuels and electricity and also takes into account the quality of food, school and health care, in contrast to the previous indices based mainly on family income. The aim is to find development solutions for each country to address the needs of the population.
In India, a major factor of poverty is high level corruption in the public and private sectors. To attract foreign investment, local governments allow indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources to the detriment of the population, which is often forced to abandon their land to make way for industries.
Fr. Udanayath Bishoy, a social worker in Orissa, affirms: "In most cases, the government does not care about the development of Dalits and tribals, who constitute the largest portion of the poor of India". According to the priest, the authorities are making significant concessions to the industries that prey on the land under the pretext of the development of depressed areas.
"They do not allow local industries to participate in the planning – he continues- and this only adds to the corruption and poverty." "Those who pursue this policy get rich - he adds- while the population grows poorer because no one is seriously interested in the people's real needs. Local politicians back development projects that only favour the companies and which lack transparency". In May, the Prime Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, guaranteed the federal government and the South Korean steel giant 'Posco' the use of over 4 thousand acres of land, forcing thousands to abandon their homes and fields. The local church was the only one to take up the farmers cause and urged politicians to rethink the logic of exploitation and expropriation of land, saving that land which is productive.