Monday, November 01, 2010

Where everyone has a cellphone, but no one has a toilet

U.S. President Obama will visit India later this week, and the American press is offering profiles of the country as a preview. The Associated Press says that President Obama will find a country in a poverty paradox. Indian people who are in poverty mostly own cell phones but have no sanitary toilet or latrines.

From this AP article that we found at the San Francisco Chronicle, writer Ravi Nessman describes the paradox.

It is a country buoyed by a vibrant business world of call centers and software developers, but hamstrung by a bloated, corrupt government that has failed to deliver the barest of services.

Its estimated growth rate of 8.5 percent a year is among the highest in the world, but its roads are crumbling.

It offers cheap, world-class medical care to Western tourists at private hospitals yet has some of the worst child mortality and maternal death rates outside sub-Saharan Africa.

And while tens of millions have benefited from India's rise, many more remain mired in some of the worst poverty in the world.

Businessman Mukesh Ambani, the world's fourth-richest person, is just finishing off a new $1 billion skyscraper-house in Mumbai with 27 floors and three helipads, touted as the most expensive home on Earth. Yet farmers still live in shacks of mud and cow dung.

The cell phone frenzy bridges all worlds. Cell phones are sold amid the Calvin Klein and Clinique stores under the soaring atriums of India's new malls, and in the crowded markets of its working-class neighborhoods. Bare shops in the slums sell pre-paid cards for as little as 20 cents next to packets of chewing tobacco while street hawkers peddle car chargers at traffic lights.

No comments: