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Published:August 12th, 2011 09:13 EST

Necessities, Habits and Luxuries

By Abhishek Kumar

Ever wondered, what happens when Mr. Zuckerberg withdraws his Facebook? What happens when the telecom service providers withdraw the Internet and mobile services? When the artificial satellites choke up functioning? Aircrafts stand still? Cross border uranium transfers freeze? Or even the food joint of McDonald`s lock up their shutters?

What an absurd question!

Gone are those days when the basic necessities of people used to be food, cloth and shelter; the scenario has changed now, and so have the necessities. They constitute a part of basic necessity in our daily living and hence a life without them is miserably difficult to imagine.

Very true!

But the question still holds its absurdity in another sense, to the remaining 3.25 billion people (almost 50% of the world population) who earn less than 2$ per day. They might not even understand what the question is about!

Often said, India is 30 years behind USA, Korea is 5 years behind Japan, Russia is 10 years behind USA, Somalia is 70 years behind Britain, Burkina Faso is 80 years behind South Africa, this country is 100 years ahead than this, rural people are 10 years behind than urban in the same country, we are 8 years ahead of you, I am 60 days behind of you....blah blah blah. It`s completely an otiose line in the play! Everyone today follows the same calendar; a person dying of hunger in Chad follows the same GMT as a person playing jackpots in a bar of Las Vegas. It`s same like victim blaming. "You are poor and hungry because you are behind me", Makes no sense at all. It`s only a way of clouding off one`s own `comparative` over-consumption. My grandfather took a four hour walk to go to school, doesn`t mean I too have to go for a four hour walk. I may take a bicycle or a car!

I am selfish. I am greedy. And so are we all.

You give a loaf of cake daily for a month to one of your puppies. He is most likely to stop functioning when the cake is degraded to a piece of dry bread a month later, whereas his other buddies won`t find any complications at all.

What has happened? The puppy aged faster than his home mates and is now one year ahead of them?

Obviously not!

The cake was a luxury for him for a few days, became habit thereafter, and then became his necessity.

Now we can`t say that people are dying of hunger, so stop eating burgers. People are living in dark so stop running air-conditioners. People are devoid of drinkable water so stop consuming soft-drinks.

We simply can`t say!

Just because we simply can`t follow!

Just because, we are greedy and selfish.

`Drugs and Up-gradation are addictive` and that can`t be ignored.

Let`s go deeper in this human psyche;

A poor farmer earning hardly for his full stomach is told not to cut the tree in the middle of his field, because it leads to global warming.

Now cutting the tree will give him an extra inch of land for farming, and keeping it alive will give him "No Global warming"! Will he not slaughter it?

Surely he will. He is hungry, needs money and food; he will do anything which earns him quick returns as per him. But if the same argument is given to a well conditioned farmer, he may not cut the tree!

The social and physical condition of a person marks the range of his/her thinking, thus their actions do show a compatibility with their conditions. And this is where the transitional choke up lies, the poor farmer does not understand the problems at the `global level`; the `global level` doesn`t understand the poor farmer`s problems at his `personal level` either.

Now if the same farmer is offered fifty dollars or some food incentives in lieu of not cutting the tree, probably then, he will consider that "global warming" really exists! Take an example from India.

Since independence, there have been loads and loads of cash and service inflows for the sake of educating the children from poor families. The schools, however, failed to show their full attendances. The simple reason, a child could work as a helping hand in a family for earning the families` lively hoods. So the parents found it useless for their children to go to school and waste their earning potentials.

In 2001, Indian government came up with pan India application of a scheme called `mid-day meal scheme`. The government offered to serve the school children with free lunch during the school time. The scheme resulted in a big hit! There has been an exponential growth in the attendance register of the schools. Regardless to mention the prospects of education!

So, where does the solution lie?

Offering instant cash and food to every deprived person! Is that feasible? Is that sustainable?

Of course not!

United nations World food program have been pumping heavy supplies of food for last four decades in the North Cameroon region. In spite of it, the shortage of food had been escalating. They recently adopted a new strategy; they offered warehouses to them, and filled it initially with food supplies. Then after they kept a condition that if someone takes food sacks from it in the drought season, he/she has to return it back with 25% interest during the harvest season. This scheme worked so well that the warehouses of the 500 food deficient villages are self sufficient and over flowing!

There are certain levels of human inhabitations like most of the countries of Africa, which can be considered incapacitated in getting their lively hoods kicked. They certainly need an initial unconditional supply of food and cash, but for the remaining, who do lie on safer side of being incapacitated, should be dealt with a completely different strategy.

The historical announcement of `the white man`s burden` has continued with its legacy, ending up with the monopolization of the planning part of the world in the hands of the so called well offs. Now when we do offer ourselves such prestigious positions, we should understand the importance of it.

The strategies may be starry but the lack of its compatibility to the targeted people, surely will lead to the strategic malfunction. And the failure of the scheme can`t be blamed upon the poor people. They should be designed to fit in their shoes. A person can`t be forced to perform a certain task until and unless he is shown an immediate benefit of it catering his basic needs.

A poor farmer`s luxury may be a matter of basic necessity for us, our luxury indeed may further be a necessity for others; and the chain goes on....

We do have a full right to select, adopt and earn our needs and luxuries but, along with it comes a social obligation of understanding the needs of the people below, whom we consider to be lagging in time.

No one is a few or many years ahead of us, neither are we ahead of anyone else. It`s just a methodology of deliberately acquiring a sense of senselessness towards the deprived ones.
We all are a single society in the same era; it`s only that some are loathly full, some crawling for survival and some even unable to crawl.

We have to recognize those connecting links between needs, habits and luxuries of the contrasting social groups in totality. We may even have to shed some of our acquired luxurious needs to accommodate the basic physical survival needs of a few. The rough papers in our dustbins could have compiled a notebook for some, the wasted burger in our plates could have been dinner for few, a sleeping mind within us could become a birthplace of innovative ideas to help them.

If at all, we have come far ahead of them, lets halt for sometime or at least slow down; try pulling and fuelling them too. They were not born unlucky; we have made them feel so. Let`s come to the basics. Let`s take responsibilities. Let`s help a poor!