The Vision Of A New Society ► 35 ►Problem of Poverty and Unemployment

Posted: 09.11.2019

Modern economics wants all people to be well-to-do and prosperous. For the past few years, election manifestoes promise the removal of poverty and unemployment. In spite of promises of plenty and prosperity, poverty is growing and the number of the unemployed is swelling and the problem of earning livelihood is becoming more complicated. Is there any solution to this problem? I do not believe that when there is a problem, there is no solution. The problem may be concerning any field, its solution is always available. People should come forward for it. Before finding the solution, the nature of the problem should be understood. What can be solved unless the problem is not clear?

At one end of the problem is poverty and at the other end is unemployment. Let us first consider poverty. What is the definition of poverty? Who should be considered poor? The following Sanskrit sloka gives a starting point for thinking about it.[1]

Taking a surface view, all people show themselves to be poor. A millionaire feels frustrated in front of a multi-millions and a multi-millionaire feels himself poor in the presence of a billionaire. If prosperity is measured in this progression, all those falling behind the foremost point are considered poor. But looking backward, no poor person would be found down the line. Let the owner of a building look at a flat-owner, let a flat-owner look at someone living in ordinary rooms and let the person living in a modest room look at the someone living in a hut and let the one living in a hut look at the pavement-dweller. Thinking that way, every person can consider him wealthy.

 

Cooperation for Selfish Motives

It is not possible to talk about poverty and prosperity in absolute terms, because one becomes poor or wealthy not on account of his riches but of his ideas. In that situation, who can carry on the campaign to remove poverty and in what manner can he do it? According to some people, the poor should be helped. It is very pleasant to read about helping, but who is helping whom? The supreme thing in this world is self-interest. Without self-interest, the son does not bother about the father and father does not help the son. Whether it is between brothers, between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, between husband and wife, their relations remain pleasant as long as their self-interests are looked after. Even if their interests are adversely affected in the slightest degree, their relations flounder. If one brother is rolling in immense wealth and the other brother has not enough food in the house, there is no cooperation between them. Who would be there in that case to help selflessly without being personally acquainted?

When there is famine in the country. The cattle population is depleted, milk, curd, ghee etc. are in short supply, then people suddenly sit up and some steps are being taken to save the cattle. Why? Even that has a stench of selfishness. How would milk, curd and ghee be available without the cattle? What they are protecting is not their cattle but their self-interest. Otherwise, how is it that many people die of hunger every day? No one is concerned about them, because such a concern does not help their self interest in any way. How odd is this web of self-interest? What is the way out of it?

There is no dearth of good people in the world. There may be some exceptionally good people, who have risen above their self-interest and whose hearts surge with feelings of beneficence and universal good and free from the aspiration of earning name and prestige. But how many such people can be found? Not even in proportion to the salt added in atta. This is the path of going against the current. It is extremely difficult to go along that path. It is a matter of following an ideal. Nonetheless, even if one is not in a position to set an ideal, at least the ideal should not be destroyed. Even if one is not able to help someone else, at least that person should not be reduced to the state of poverty. At least, no one should be subjected to mental affliction by inordinately exhibiting one's own wealth.

 

Unemployment and Education

At the other end of the problem we find unemployment. At one time unemployment was not a problem in the country. All people, small and big, were able to pursue their own vocations. The farmer tilled the land. The carpenter did carpentry. The potter made earthenware. The goldsmith made ornaments of gold and silver. The bania carried on his trade. Similarly, barbers, washer men, Harijans and others did their traditional jobs. These vocations were pursued from generation to generation and more efficiency was acquired in their job as days went by. But today, the sons of the farmers, the potters, the blacksmiths, the goldsmiths, etc. pass graduate and postgraduate examinations. They aspire to become doctors, engineers, administrators, lawyers, chartered accountants and company secretaries. If they cannot become any of these, they do not forget to become at least clerks, because they are ashamed to take up their ancestral professions. Such people belong neither here nor there. They lose touch with their traditional vocations and they are not able to get government jobs. In these circumstances, what else can be expected if not growing unemployment?

The responsibility of this growing unemployment lies with our educational system, which has prepared clerks and officers and turned the educated people into gentlemen, dressed in the Western suits. They want to sit on the chairs, but resent working in the fields. There is work at home, but they have no inclination to do that work. This is not the situation peculiar to India. What is happening in India is only the imitation of the developed countries.

 

Growing Percentage of Unemployment

America is a symbol of modern development. It is said about that country that till 1870, half of its population was engaged in agriculture. But by 1900, because of manufacturing industries, the number of farmers was reduced to one-third. That crisis has intensified during the entire 20th century. How relevant is the Western concept of development, which promised to provide employment, prosperity and conditions of well-being? According to the American Labour Department, by the first decade of the 21st century, 46 per cent of the people engaged in shoe-making, 32 per cent of those engaged in leatherwork, 57 per cent of those working in tobacco industry, 31 per cent of those engaged in domestic work and 29 per cent of workers in oil and petroleum industry would be rendered unemployed.

Based on the discussion about the statistics presented at a seminar of the Organization for Economic Development, which is an organization of the countries, organized at Paris in June, 1993, it has been concluded that by the end of 1994, the number of the unemployed in the rich countries of the world alone would be more than 30 million. If such is the case with regard to the countries considered rich or developed, what would be the condition in a developing country like India or the undeveloped countries of the world? According to some people, the new economic policies that have come into force in the name of so-called development have misguided the young generation. It is estimated that at the start of the 21st century, 200 million would be unemployed.

 

Employment does not Descend from Above

It was expected that bearing in mind the conditions and the needs of the country, education would be made multi-dimensional. It is expected that through education, men would be raised to a higher level not only intellectually but also emotionally. But both the objectives were not achieved. On the one hand, there were problems arising out of education and on the other hand, an open invitation to multinational companies under international pressures, led to a situation in which misleading competition in the field of development has created a very high challenge to the young generation for finding employment.

A widespread debate on education has been going on in the country for a very long time. But there is no progress as we are only moving round and round like the bull tied to the oil press. As long as the necessary changes are not brought about in the field of education, the ideas of the young people would not change. Without the change in ideas the solution to the problem of employment does not seem possible. This is because employment opportunities do not descend from above, but have to be found at the ground level.

 

Problem of Vanity

An educated minstrel started writing good poetry. He read out his poems to the king who was very pleased. The minstrel got a handsome reward called lakh pasav in terms of title. In ancient days, this award included lot of money, a special dress, citation, etc. The minstrel became very arrogant after getting that title from the king. He went to his village and waited at the outskirts where his friends came to greet him. He told them, "I have received the title from the king. I would not come home just like that. I must be welcomed with band and music."

The condition of the minstrel's family was poor. The members of his family tried hard to persuade him, but he did not relent. His family was very unhappy. With the permission of the in-laws, his wife went to persuade him. She congratulated the minstrel for getting the title and said, "Your mother and father are waiting for you at home, and you are seated here! Please come home." The minstrel said, "You are really a wonderful woman! I have got the title from the king. How can I come home just like that?" The bard's wife replied with an affectionate sarcasm:

"My respected husband, what had happened to you? You have become so arrogant just because you have got the title from the king? Suppose an elephant is brought for you and also the band. And you may have even a bowl studded with jewels. But ultimately, you would only have to beg! Even if someone gives you pearls as alms after hearing your fame, you would still be called a beggar. Why this arrogance when we have to live only by begging?[2]"

The minstrel's eyes were opened after hearing those enlightening words of his wife. He stood up and went straight home. But today it seems that after obtaining academic degrees, children of the farmers, carpenters and potters have assumed airs. The terms like farmers are only symbolic. The question is actually about mentality of considering the ancestral vocations lowly. How would the problem be solved so long as this mentality does not change?

 

An Experiment in Sadharmik Love

Bhagwan Mahavira laid as much stress on collective sadhana as on individual sadhana. He laid down eight practices to strengthen one's faith in religion co-religionists faith in religion and trying to in still religious feeling in those who have no faith in religion or are not followers or religion by birth is the spiritual aspect of sadharmik love. Showing brotherly feeling towards sadharmik people and sharing their happiness and misery is the social aspect of sadharmik love. It is the expression of a humane sensitivity. When the sources of sensitivity dry up, the individual is not affected by happiness or unhappiness of others.

In ancient time an experiment in sadharmik love at the social level was made by the Jain community in South India. The tradition of four types of charities in the fields of education, medical treatment, livelihood and consolation were developed. They were known as jnanadana, aushadhidana, annadana and adhayadana to give facilities to people for education, medicine, livelihood and protection. This programme of sadharmik love was carried with a view that no one in society should remain illiterate, sick, hungry and afflicted by fear. Thereby, thousands of families very naturally found refuge in Bhagwan Mahavira. The Jain culture spread and the impact of Jainism on public life grew.

In course of time, even in South India, the tradition of sadharmik love slackened, and gradually almost vanished. Now it seems that the four fields of sadharmik love mentioned above have been taken over by the Christian missionaries. Looking at the spread of Christianity in India and the whole world, it can be said that those people are alert about their objectives. Terror and temptation is not the path of religion. But the path of brotherhood, amity or sadharmik love is the best way from all points of view, which regards no one poor or lowly. Those who have been overwhelmed by the problems of poverty and unemployment suffer from a feeling of inferiority. By sharing their happiness and misery or by behaving with them with a brotherly feeling, this problem can be solved to a certain extent.

Footnotes:
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