Poverty porn in Bharat in the times of the Covid outbreak

Poverty porn is rampant these days in our country, during the Covid outbreak. Suddenly everybody is worried about the migrants, the labourers, the maids and in general, the poor. As if these poor people have suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

Whether you like it or not, poor people are hit the most whenever there is an extraordinary situation. In severe summer, poor people die of heat while we notch up our supplies of ice cream, iced beverages, air conditioners and swimming pools. Many even head to hill stations or Europe.

In severe winter, poor people die of cold while we comfortably snuggle under our quilts, heavy woolen clothes and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. We have heaters or even artificial fireplaces to keep us warm and in fact, for us, severe winters are reminiscent of many cozy moments we have spent with our families and loved ones. People who have multiple houses in multiple parts of the country or even multiple parts of the world, move to warmer regions during winter.

In a heavy downpour the roofs of the poor people fall, or their houses get submerged while we enjoy rain from our balconies or verandahs. They are electrocuted. They lose their belongings. They get bitten by snakes and other deadly insects that come out during rains. They are attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. In that otherwise highly stupid movie Parasite, they have correctly shown how a heavy spell of rain affects the rich and the poor differently. For the poor, a heavy downpour becomes a matter of life and death and for the rich, it is a time to enjoy the sound of rain drops over their manicured lawn.

During a natural calamity, the poor people are affected the most (statistically). It is mostly the poor who die of hunger during a famine. Even in the times of war people who have money or resources are better off compared to poor people. For that matter, poor even make each other suffer due to their subhuman existence. They loot each other, they steal from each other, they kill each other for a morsel of food. At that level, it’s all about survival.

Since time immemorial, the poor have suffered. They have suffered more during adversities because they don’t have the means to protect themselves. Hence, their suffering during the Covid outbreak is nothing new. Sure, the suffering can be reduced and wherever possible, it must be reduced.

But the poverty porn peddled by the so-called bleeding hearts helps no one. If it helps someone, it is the very same systems that perpetuates poverty.

In Bharat, poverty has been nurtured by a vicious nexus of a political class and the so-called “concerned citizens” that constitute of leftist-intellectuals, compromised journalists, foreign funded activists and NGOs and clueless citizens who think that shedding crocodile tears over the plight of the poor is quite fashionable and portrays them as liberal.

Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. ~ Nelson Mandela

Previously, we could blame the colonizers and to an extent foreign invaders. What excuse did we have after the independence?

Most of the time we have had socialist governments. We have had welfare states for most part of our post-independence history. People who set up industries and businesses have been portrayed as villains by our leftist intellectuals as well as politicians (while living lifestyles of superrich).

People who are poor and wretched are venerated. There is even a song that says “jo maza rone me hai, muskurane me nahi” — the overall message being the fun that you have being wretched is not there in being rich.

Recently we were watching a movie called Kalia and in the movie the hero says no one, he stresses the point that no one can ever get rich without cheating and hence, by default, whoever is rich, is a criminal or an evil person. Sincere, hard-working people are always poor. So much has been sympathy for the poor and the poverty in our country, especially among the intellectual and the creative class.

Overall, despite being some occasional ups and downs, we have had a socialist structure that has always seemed to have worked for the poor. The entire world has been concerned about the poor Bharat. Dig out any political speech and it won’t be complete without the mentioning of the poor.

Billions of dollars have been sent as donations so far. We have the maximum number of NGOs in the world working for the poor. All liberal intellectuals shed tears for the poor on a routine basis. “Garibi hatao” has been an everlasting slogan for the Congress party and the Communists.

Even if right now we have a “capitalist-friendly” government (the BJP) what about all those previous decades? They had plenty of time. Even in two generations they could have rid the country of poverty. Even if not a first world country, we could have at least become a second world country. Why haven’t we been able to do so?

Because poverty is a big enterprise in our country. People who are constantly caterwauling about the plight of the poor want poor to remain poor. Poverty is their livelihood. Political careers are made over the dead bodies of the poor. Writers, journalists, career activists and intellectuals boost their livelihoods strumming on the swollen bellies of poor children.

The moment there is some poverty-related misery, you will find these vultures gathering around their prey with their cameras and writing tools. These days poverty porn related to the Covid crisis is being sold on stock photo websites — as high as 23,000 rupees per image — which the foreign press, mostly Western media, laps up greedily because these are the only images they find attractive about Bharat.

If there are no poor, what differentiates Bharat from other countries? Who will buy these articles and photographs and documentaries? If they want pictures of well-fed people, why shouldn’t they get such pictures from their own countries rather than from Bharat? Who will then donate millions of dollars to NGOs and activities if there are no poor in Bharat? What will the conversion industry do if there are no miserable souls to be harvested? What will the politicians do if they cannot use the “garibi hatao” slogan?

Such are the images the West prefers from Bharat:

Why don’t these journalists, intellectuals and activists speak against poverty but constantly talk about the current difficulties these poor people are going through?

Because it is very convenient to talk about the current situation without talking about the bigger picture. They talk about the victims without pointing a finger at the perpetrators.

Since most of the journalists and activists are against the current political dispensation (BJP) they can kill multiple birds with a single stone: they get to show to the world what a lousy government it is, and since a big part of the voter base is the poor, they get to sow the seeds of disenchantment and anger.

They tell the poor how shabbily they are being treated by the current government and hence, the next time when they vote, they should vote for the Congress or any other party opposed to the BJP. Interminably talk about the poor people dying of hunger or the poor people committing suicides, or the poor people being victimized by the rich, but never talk about why the poor people are poor.

In the process they become the champions. The poor are too poor and harassed to see through their games. People who are responsible for this poverty are happy because nobody questions them. Does any of the journalists “reporting from the ground” say that yes, the poor are having all sorts of problems, but they wouldn’t have been poor if our political and intellectual class hadn’t betrayed them over the past 60–70 years.

Why don’t they ever question why there is so much poverty in the country despite various socialist and caste-empowered governments in various states?

For example, the Communists ruled the state of West Bengal for 30 years and after that, it has been the TMC led by Mamata Banerjee; why there is so much poverty in the state?

In UP and Bihar there have been mostly Congress or Congress-friendly governments. Still, why these states are among the most backward states in the country? Why don’t these Leftist journalists never pursue and investigate leaders like Mayawati and Mulayam Yadav? Why, despite being caste champions of their communities, they haven’t been able to do much?

Social reforms like building toilets, adopting cleanliness habits, skills-based learning and eradication of the caste system should have taken place in the 50s and 60s. Why didn’t they?

If they ask such questions, they will have to question the political parties and the organizations they support.

Continuously crying about the plight of the poor is very cute and mawkish.

You’re not riling up your political masters who are single-handedly responsible for this poverty, and the icing on the cake is you get to make the political party you dislike uncomfortable.

Even when your favorite regimes are in power, when you talk about poor people instead of talking about poverty, there is no enemy. You simply focus on people. You focus on the visuals instead of the story.

If you focus on the story, people will wonder your political masters were either highly stupid or inefficient and still they clung to power, or they were highly corrupt. Both are uncomfortable situations to be in, and can even jeopardize your life itself. Hence it is safe and glorious to constantly showcase the poor of the country, without making people think why they are poor in the first place.

An advice to the concerned and the clueless citizens: even if it disturbs you that the poor are not being taken care of, start questioning why the fuck do we have so many poor in the country, in the first place.

Why haven’t so many poor-friendly governments been able to eliminate poverty?

When you feel like questioning why the poor are being ill-treated, also question, why are they poor?

If you want to cry or if you want to shed tears, stop shedding tears about the poor, start shedding tears about the perpetuation of poverty, about the poverty industry.

Unless you go to the root cause of poverty, it’s no use sympathizing with the poor.

In the current context, another valid question that very few journalists are asking: why are the poor migrating in the first place? The poor don’t panic easily, especially when they are getting good shelter and food. Couldn’t the state governments keep them comfortable even for a few months?

-by Amrit Hallan

(This article was first published on the medium.com on May 23, 2020 and is being reproduced here, after minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide)


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