A Circle of Poverty

". . . the realities of day-to-day life for the majority of rural people are nothing short of cruel. It is a story of economic deprivation, social injustice, and hopelessness that outsiders cannot comprehend."
Dr. Abraham George, 12 SEP 2002

In rural India, there are three main sources of income--

Agriculture is the primary source of income. However, between monsoons and drought, crops often fail. When crops fail, both people and animals go hungry.

Raising cattle is a traditional part of village life. However, when there is no feed for the animals, they become a burden. As a result, people sell their cattle, doing a little better today, but at the cost of their future source of income. People are eventually forced to mortgage or sell their land.

Forest products were also a traditional source of village income. However, like many forests worldwide, India's forests are shrinking. Population pressure, poor resource management practices, and exploitative business relationships have resulted in preventing the profits that come from selling these limited natural resources from ever reaching the villagers.

As food and money become more limited, village families turn to local money-lenders. A vicious cycle of poverty--crop failure, selling cattle, selling land, getting high-interest loans and struggling to repay those loans--soon entraps hungry, desperate farmers and their families. When a region's farmers can no longer repay their loans, large-scale migration starts to nearby towns and cities.

Unfortunately, these farmers rarely find any help in the cities. Jobs are few. Unskilled laborers are many. They and their families are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Despair leads many men to suicide. Families are abandoned. Children are abandoned or sold. Bonded labor (economic slavery) grows. The cycle offers no escape.