18-Jul-2010

Shining India, New Labour

Both superficial.  Collen Todhunter in DH : A shining India can’t mask its poverty worse than Africa’s

From a land of elephants, poverty and beggars, a shiny new image of India emerged in the West. Farmers drinking pesticide, 800 million or so on less than two dollars a day, increasing food prices and state-corporate grabs for land and minerals — that was all conveniently brushed aside. It didn’t fit the agenda of India as the new chic.

A similar process was also occurring in the UK. The spit and polish was applied in an attempt to gloss over those parts that were not shining. It started a little earlier there — in 1997 to be precise, when Tony Blair and New Labour came to power.

Tony was hip, Tony was cool. He was tuned in and turned on to the meaningless ‘cool Britannia’ soundbite manufactured by the media at that time. Brits were told that it was cool to be British and to bask in their achievements in music, industry and youthful endeavour.

Suddenly, from a country still reeling from the destruction of manufacturing industry, coupled with rising crime and community erosion, the UK was transformed overnight to a ‘can-do’ place of individual endeavour. Whatever happened to the permanent class of wageless labour and the legacy of 11years of Thatcherite rule?

Children growing up in the UK were on the road to suffering greater deprivation, worse relationships with their parents and exposure to more risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex than those in any other wealthy country in the world. That too was neatly brushed aside by the spin doctors and a compliant mainstream media.

In both the UK and India, it was the creamy layer that was shining. Millionaires and billionaires were on the increase. Even over the last year, in a period of crisis and recession, the richest portion of UK society increased its wealth by around $120 billion — that’s almost half the public debt that ordinary working people are having to pay for via public sector cutbacks.

So when prime minister Cameron and the rich bankers and financiers who hold the key positions in his government tell us in the UK that we are all in it (the hardships) together, some of us are a heck of a lot more ‘in it’ than others.

A new index for poverty now indicates that eight Indian states account for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African countries combined. According to this measure, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have 421 million poor people. This is more than the 410 million poor in the poorest African countries.

There's a bit more at the link.  

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