Ramesh Sujanan, Guest Columnist
The agile old man walking barefoot with his stick in 1943 looked at the slums of filth and garbage and saw the young men standing idly by. One of them looked at him with defiance. The old man turned to his pastor-companion, and pointing, said: "Poverty is the worst form of violence."
And the Mahatma continued the journey on foot to the eastern shores of his country, realising that after the oppressors left, poverty would soon be his next challenge.
In 1994, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Kevin Carter, was in Sudan, near a United Nations (UN) food camp, and saw an event that made him feel sick and disgusted. A young girl was crawling to the camp. Some 200 metres away, and following her, waiting for her demise, stalked a vulture similar to our 'John Crow', the final arbiter of death. He took a photograph which brought this abject poverty of Africa to the Western press (and won himself the Pulitzer Prize for photography).
In the summer of 2013, Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh proposed to implement action which will cost his Government $28 billion every year. The action was to make available to India's poor produce of grain including wheat, corn, rice, and maize, simply for food security.
Yet this measure to address hunger is not enough and a new collective thrust is needed. This priority should anchor the post-2015 Development Agenda of the UN, which should be shaped by the member states so that it enjoys the broadest possible support and is accepted by all countries that are at the edge of poverty and hunger.
It is unthinkable that at this time and level of development, that people die of hunger.
Resolving poverty is the key to creating order and correcting many other affiliated social ills.
Singh said in a speech to the UN General Assembly on September 30: "The problem of one billion poor persons around the world needs to be attacked more directly. Issues of peace, security, and governance, including climate change, are important, and we need to address them because economic growth alone will not help our 2015 development agenda. We need to address the matter of food security and its related problems - nutrition, education, water, and discrimination against women - the latter because they are becoming more important to the labour force and are learning new skills."
Former United States president, John F. Kennedy, once remarked in the Irish Parliament: "Many persons see the problem and ask, why? We need men who dream of solutions and ask, why not?"
Jamaica today probably is not as poor as some countries in Africa, or rural villages in India, but why should it be left to get to that extent? The pressure from the poor has intensified, and we need solutions, perhaps to empower more women, if that is the problem, as soon as possible. Each day, high prices and taxes corrupt the meagre pay of workers in Jamaica to the point that hunger and malnutrition are slowly eroding our population, and I wonder at what time we will say to the ministers in Government, and the advisers at the IMF, that this is just too much.
The increase in minimum wage is around 10 per cent and our inflation this year is likely to be around 20 per cent. The minimum wage needs to be raised by a further 40 per cent at least.
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