Jamadi Awwal 1424 H
Volume 16-07 No : 199
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Muslims live under secondary poverty-that is they earn enough to meet their basic needs
By Prof Abdul Aziz
Poverty is defined as deprivation of need fulfilment due to lack of, or inadequate income. Lack of or inadequate income arises on account of absence of sources of income like income yielding assets, losses sustained in business, underemployment/ unemployment and the like. That these reasons are at the base of poverty is known to all. But there are also cases where people are economically placed reasonably well, but yet they slip into poverty condition. Consider the following real life cases.
An educated Muslim youth secures a job in a rural bank with the help of a local non-Muslim leader. For a while he does well in life with a reasonably good salary. But in course of time gets into bad company, indulges in card playing and begins to lose money. He was subsequently found guilty of embezzlement of bank money and proceeded against. In the process, he lost his job but saved himself from the long arm of law by spending huge sums of money which was found by pledging ancestral property to a non-Muslim attender who had joined the same bank at the same time.
Two brothers who were skilled tailors, started a tailoring shop in a rural, but a strategic business center. They became popular in the area and had customers even from far off villages. In due course, they became fond of cricket and organised a cricket team. Since they went on practising cricket day in and day out, they had no time for their customers. Taking advantage of this, two non-Muslim partners set up a tailoring shop in the same centre and captured their business. Finding that they had lost business, the Muslim tailors closed down their shop and found themselves on the street.
Take the case of a Muslim youth who after selling the family silver bought a lorry. Leaving the lorry to the care of the driver and the cleaner appointed for the purpose, the young man sat in the village community hall chewing paan and discussing political matters with village elders. The lorry went for repairs several times and the proceeds from hiring out the lorry were too inadequate to cover the cost of running and maintaining the vehicle. When he disposed the lorry off on saner advice, the sale proceeds were just sufficient to pay for the repairs. He was on the streets.
What do these cases add upto? All of our heroes who were doing well had slipped into poverty condition. The reasons are not far to seek. In the first case, the person indulged in unlawful acts and lost his character. In the second case, the boys tried to imitate the rich leisurely class when they actually should be working harder to build business. And in the third case, the young man depended too much on his employees and behaved as if he was already an established owner of a big fleet of lorries.
Consider another case. It was early 1970s when I went out to hire a tonga. The tongawalla asked me to wait as he was half-way through his breakfast of Khushkha and tea in a way side restaurant. As we drove along into this conversation: “How much did you spend on your breakfast?”
“Twelve annas. Everything is expensive these days, you know.”
“If you had bought rice for this money and cooked, Khichdi at home, you, your wife and the child would have had full breakfast for that money.” “You are right. But it is lot of botheration to cook breakfast so early in the morning. Moreover, Khushkha is tastier”. “Yes, I understand. But you see now your wife and child go without so much as even that less tasty khichadi.” There was an embarrassing silence thereafter. I am told that our auto drivers, old paper and empty bottle collectors, plastic goods and fruit sellers follow the same example. It seems, they gulp at least half a dozen cups of tea.
In the above circumstances, the net earnings are substantially eroded. If only they ate break fast at home and carried tea in a flask to their “work place,” this erosion in earnings could be avoided. But no, that change does not seem to have come. In the circumstance, the earning member does not manage his money, he allocates it inefficiently and remains in a poor condition, which is known as secondary poverty. Such poverty
condition arises on account of inefficient allocation of income and, not due to lack of income as in the case of primary or income poverty. My guess is, poverty found among Muslims is largely the secondary type. For, I find that they earn enough to meet their basic needs and to be able to live above the poverty line. But due to their spending spree on unnecessary things or spending in wrong ways, they get into poverty condition. If that is so, how can Allah be blamed for poverty and pathetic condition amongst us? What is the remedy for this malady is the question that should be discussed and debated.