Poverty Alleviation to Prosperity Generation

5 year plans

From the time of Independence, the government has been pushing through 5 year plans and poverty alleviation programs ‘Nehruvian’ in thought, adopted from the now defunct Soviet model. We are now in the twelfth 5 year plan.

These government policies while they have shown some progress, they seem to have favoured cities more than the villages.  The development schemes have been lopsided to say the least, as is evident to all.

Poverty Continues

At the time of Independence, we had about 50 % of population living in poor conditions.  65 years later, when we look around the land we still see half the population living in appalling conditions. While the government statistics show a picture of progress, the fact is that appalling poverty is still apparent after 65 years of poverty alleviation programs.

 “Isn’t there obviously something fundamentally wrong with this model then?”

Three waves of plunder

At the time of Independence, we got our freedom from the vice grip of the British who had plundered us mercilessly in the name of ruling us.

 Plunder of India

Plunder of India

But it was not just the British who had plundered us.

India had already come under an earlier wave of plunder from the Near West marauders before the British. When we look back at the history of this land, we hear of the prosperity of every kingdom across the land, through the times. It was this prosperity which was eroded by wave after wave of plunder.

The First Wave of Plunder

The near west onslaughts started by Muhamad of Ghauri and Mahmud of Ghazni, around 1000 CE, continued till Nadir Shah around 1700 CE and constituted the first wave of plunder.

First wave of plunderMuhmad of ghazni

 The Second Wave of Plunder

The second wave of plunder started with the invasion by the Portuguese in 1500 CE and intensified with the arrival of British in 1600 CE and continued till 1947. It was plunder by colonization.

EIC Flag

 A Third Wave of Plunder

The British left India in 1947. India should then have started flourishing again without any oppression and become prosperous like before.

But a different destiny awaited India.

After the departure of the British, the plunder did not come to an end. It was now the turn of Indians themselves who took to plundering the land with corrupt practices which have grown into bigger and bigger scams. This can be classified as the third wave of plunder, the Home-Grown Plunder.

Ever wondered, how come this civilization is being plundered repeatedly?

Only if a land is generating wealth continuously, can it be plundered over and over again and still have enough loot left for the succeeding plunderers.  The British have equated the wealth generating capacity of India to that of a natural spring that keeps gushing out water continuously.

Fall from Rajiv Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi

While even after the 1st and 2nd waves of plunder, there was 1:1 parity between Dollar and Rupee at the time of Independence, it is the current wave, the 3rd wave that has been bleeding the land heavily and rapidly, right in our own times.

The extent of this plunder is apparent from the statements of Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, just one generation apart.

100 paisa to 17 paisa to 2 paisa

In 1990, the dynamic, late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had lamented, Only 17 paise of every rupee reaches the villages”.

  Rs1 to 17 p

In 2008, Rahul Gandhi, his son, as a General Secretary of All India Congress Committee, had this to say – “Only 2 paise of every rupee spent reaches the people in the villages.”

 1Rs to 2 p

These two statements are indicators of the state of affairs and the depth of malice in the 3rd wave of plunder.

Today, Rupee has dipped to an all time low of 65 Rupees to a Dollar. In 65 years, we have economically eroded ourselves 65 times. This is not to say that the American dollar is strengthening but that the poverty alleviation programs and the delivery mechanism of the government have failed the people.

If these models are so wrong what should the right model be?

If the Rupee had parity with the Dollar at the time of Independence in 1947, it means that something was still right, even then.

Far Sighted At Same Time Near Sighted

Two things stand out clear when we analyze the way this civilization had organized itself and functioned to create such untold amount of wealth and prosperity.

  1. Far Sighted Goal – the people and governance were geared for prosperity creation and not poverty alleviation. Creating widespread reach of prosperity automatically meant alleviation of poverty.

Plunder and Poverty are two sides of the same coin. Where one goes, the other follows.

Poverty and Prosperity are also like the two sides of a coin. When you see one, the other disappears.

  1. Near Sighted Vision – the structure of governance was so organized that power of managing the land, the resources, the people’s productivity and the yield, vested at the village level, with the Panchayat. It was not far removed and centralized with the King alone.

The people therefore could prioritize money collection and spend according to their local needs and that made the spend effective and productive. It also cut out all unnecessary layers and thus scope for embezzlement / corruption as well as administrative expenses in money collection and disbursement from a central point.

A Prosperity Generation Model

Instead of talking about poverty alleviation, if we focus on prosperity generation, then the shift from poverty to prosperity can happen in present day India too.

While at the policy level, this needs to be the mantra, at implementation level, the tantra should be to move away from the centralized system of governance that was imposed by the British on India.

Centralization in India was imposed by the British as the intent of British administrators was to collect taxes. Which is why even today, we have the chief administrator of a district being called “a collector” – a colonial hangover.

This land was prosperous historically, because of a decentralized system of administration where every village panchayat was responsible for its prosperity. Kings and Kingdoms came and went but prosperity continued village after village across the land through the ages.

This was because the ethos of the land was driven towards prosperity generation through a decentralized system of self-governance. This made this civilization as a whole, an economic giant. It is time now to revert back to this time tested model that has given prosperity to this land.

Giving Dhana

The word dhana has a root syllable, dha which means to give. It is interesting to note that the word donate also comes from the same root. To give, to donate is an intrinsic part of human nature exhibited in every civilization that has flourished. The Indian civilization on its part had been a prosperous one. This prosperity here forth is manifest in the munificent practice of donation, dhana, an act where one shares the prosperity with an open heart.

Dhana box

This word dhana can be seen not only in India but also in South East Asian languages. In every place of worship, in Indonesia, Bali, Thailand and other places, there is a dhana box to offer donations, much like the hundi that one sees in temples and other religious places of India.

Donation box in Indonesia

Donation box at a temple in Indonesia

Mother’s offering every day

Every day, when a mother makes food, she ensures that the first handful is kept aside for the birds, street dogs and other domestic animals. This has been the practice from Punjab in North India to Tamil Nadu in deep south.

feeding dogs


The land of India has been vast from time immemorial. People have been walking to and fro, all over this land, to various Punya Tirtha, the holy spots. Chatram were built as a tradition of the land in almost every village, where these pilgrim travelers could rest in clean surroundings, partake free food offered by the local community and continue with their pilgrimage.

These Chatram dotted  the land, from Peshawar in northwest to Kanyakumari in the south. They are also known as Sarai in North India. From this word, we get the words, Caravan Sarai and Mugal Sarai.

These Sarai were not only on main road but were also along the rivers. The best example is the Taj Mahal. We know it as the wonder of the world and a mausoleum, but what is little known is that Taj Mahal was also a Sarai on the banks of Yamuna for people going on boats up and down the Yamuna River.

Taj Mahal

These Sarai were not only for the poor pilgrims. It was the custom of e land even for the kings to partake the food in Sarai, Chatram during their travel across the land. That was the high quality of accommodation and food that was provided as dhana to the travelers.  These are precursors to the travellers inn and present day hotels.

Traveller's inn

The key difference is that while the Chatram and Sarai were free for one and all, the travelers in hotels have to pay for its use.


 At the time of this important astronomical event, eclipse, there is a popular saying, “de dhan,  chute grhan”, meaning after the event of eclipse, it would be prudent to give dhana.

Dhana, the very ethos of this land

Like this, for every occasion like marriage, festivals, graha pravesham – house warming, after death ceremonies, the giving of dhana has been an integral part of the rituals. The giving of dhana has been interwoven into the tradition of the land, like Anna Dhana, Go Dhana, Bhu Dhana, Vastra Dhana and so on, including Shrama Dhana, volunteering.

This civilization has had this practice of dhana, charity for every occasion throughout the year. A beautiful concept of sharing the prosperity that the land has to offer and living in harmony with one another and society!