Friday, December 14, 2007

In the company of super-rich, Kamal Nath speaks of poverty

from EarthTimes

Flanked by the two richest men in Britain and India, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath chose to speak of poverty at a gala book launch in London Thursday night.

A virtual who's who of the Indian business world had gathered at Marlborough House in central London to hear Nath speak at the launch of his book 'India's Century' - and at a reception where wine and champagne flowed, they were told of the challenges posed by India's poverty.

'There are many Indias - the virtual India on your television screens, on the laptop and the mobile phone screen.

'And then there is the real India to which I belong, with 300 million people earning less a dollar a day, and 600 million people in agriculture which is not commerce. This is the big paradox which is India, with all its great complexities.'

In order meet the challenges arising from the paradox, Nath told his wealthy audience on one of the hottest events of the week, India needed to devise a model of growth-management that was 'India-specific' and centred on its two biggest challenges - food and fuel.

'With the global food price rise, the price of wheat has doubled, edible oil has doubled, and milk is rising,' Nath said.

In contrast, subsidised agriculture in the wealthiest countries of the world had created 'fat, force-fed cows whose legs are giving way.'

Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries and the richest Indian man valued at $55.8 billion, echoed Nath's concern for the poor in India, and said the greatest challenge for India was to plan an 'exit strategy for poor farmers' currently locked into subsistence farming.

His Reliance Industries Ltd, he promised, would create greater employment opportunities for the poor in India.

'All our challenges flow from one central problem: how to eliminate poverty and reduce disparity,' Ambani said.

'Indian economic growth must make basic human needs available to all - not just 2,000 calories per day, but also healthcare, education and opportunities for vocation so people can earn enough income to lead a reasonable quality of life.'

Ambani's call for 'inclusive growth' was later lauded by European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Lord Dholakia, the Liberal Party leader in the House of Lords.

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