About 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty across the world. Majority of this impoverished population is in the African and Asian countries. People with per day income under $1.25 have drawn attention of the affluent countries to come forward and tackle the issue, which may engulf many regions with enormous level of crime and other ills.
There is no denying that there is horrid poverty in Pakistan. The Senate, the upper house in Pakistan, reverberated with the demands of minimum wage at Rs30,000 which did not materialize. The criteria of the setting the minimum wage is still an enigma for the millions in Pakistan. With the current minimum wage, which is not even Rs 20,000, a family of six or more cannot think of even having two meals a day in these times of sky-high inflation. With either no steady job or income fluctuation, millions of Pakistanis face uncertain future. Around one-third of the total population of 210 million is labor force, which looks towards the government every year prior to the Federal Budget for relief in the prices of essential commodities.
Abdul Ghani, a gardener by profession, cleans cars in an apartment in a middle class locality of Karachi. He hails from Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab and has been working in Karachi, Sindh for over a decade. He came to Karachi with a dream that he would get splendid opportunities of earning and would be able to supplement household income by doing some ancillary jobs as well. His dream has turned into a horrid dream since he is not able to keep body and soul together even after working for 16 hours every day. His adolescent son has also joined him in his endeavors of cleaning ample cars early morning every day to turn around the economic condition of the family. Nothing has ameliorated for them at all. They clean 30 cars in toto for which their entire income is around Rs 21000, which is subject to fluctuation.
Muneer, a rickshaw driver, bought a rickshaw on instalments with the hope that he would be able to pay off his liabilities and support his family. Nothing has worked for him. He is going through financial crunch and is not able to even pay monthly instalments in time, let alone having at least a good meal once a day as dreamt at the time of buying the rickshaw.
There are a deluge of such stories in every nook and corner of the country. All these issues were deemed to be addressed through micro financing which has not yielded results as anticipated. Microfinance banks (MFBs) have not as such been able to cater to the entire chain of poverty which probably is a herculean task.
A World Bank’s report a couple of years ago mentioned that 80 percent of Pakistan’s poor live in rural areas. This calls for the action by the government forthwith. Population shift is taking place with fast tempo in Pakistan, which is crippling the infrastructure of cities. The populace living in the rural areas has no opportunities of livelihood, which compels them to move to the cities. To seek employment, sometimes only the sole breadwinner of a family travels to the cities and later on the entire family deems it right to abandon the ancestral villages and get settled in the cities for better prospects of earning.
Crime in the urban slums is soaring by the day which is certain to wreak havoc to the entire cities in no time. It is a prevalent assumption that urban slums are the breeding grounds for crime of all sorts such as street crime, terrorism, extortion, targeted killing and kidnapping for ransom. Elimination of street crime has become an uphill task in major cities of Pakistan which is leaving adverse impact on the entire population of the cities. Street crime is a highly disturbing and critical issue, which is generally the outcome of poverty as one of its components. Insecurity breeds fear which must be addressed at the earliest.
Bhutan’s poverty rate reduced to 8.2% in 2017 from 12% in 2012 in the wake of concerted efforts. We generally hear people saying “China’s success in poverty reduction has attracted worldwide attention. In 1982, China launched the ‘Sanxi Program’ in the poorest regions in Gansu and Ningxia, marking the beginning of planned, organized and large-scale poverty alleviation efforts nationwide.” China has become a paradigm to follow in this regard. Pakistan could follow the steps taken by China to address the menace of poverty once and for all.
Someone has said ‘If the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist.’