Lahore: The concept and dimensions of poverty have changed dramatically in the last 70 years. Seven decades ago, when there was no hunger in Pakistan, when the resources of the poor were scarce.
At the time of independence, Pakistan was the food basket of United India. Although the country was poor, the state and civil society ensured that the poor did not go hungry. Food prices were very low.
In addition, at that time, government land was freely encroached upon for settlement.
This allowed the country to accommodate the large influx of millions of refugees.
Industry was small and small and cottage industries provided employment to the majority of the working age population. In addition, agriculture attracted most workers because there were more landlords.
At its peak, a daily monster can afford a week’s worth of food for a family at a daily wage. The electricity was extraordinary.
Two decades later, industrialization began, accelerating urban migration. As land became scarce, rent prices began to rise, and edible surpluses were reduced.
The poor could send their children to government schools, where the quality of education was good. Some families fell into poverty when some of their children entered the civil service or other jobs through hard work and dedication.
Two more decades later (1987), the poor began to feel deprived. Food was not readily available because expenses exceeded income. Stunts and nutrition began to grow. Yet these two curses were the lowest in Pakistan in the entire region.
A decade later, the poor faced all aspects of poverty. They tasted hunger like never before. Shelter became a luxury for them. Rents skyrocketed.
With each passing day, corruption began to increase. The poor began to live in fear.
Feudalism weakened in rural areas, and rural poverty increased.
Overall, state services and infrastructure, including health care, education, and transportation deteriorated drastically, exacerbating the situation for the working class.
Stunting and malnutrition have reached alarming proportions – resulting in lower labor productivity in the region than at least three decades ago.
The chances of the poor climbing the social ladder are almost gone, because they could not
Compete with someone from the affluent class in knowledge and health.
In the following decades, food inflation rose unbearably. Industrial growth aside. In a few years, most of the industrial sectors are running at full capacity, followed by rapid decline and over-utilization.
This effectively stopped new investment. The country employs 2.5 million workers every year. There were fewer jobs than the increase in manpower.
This pushed the working class below the poverty line.
The last three years have been a nightmare not only for the poor, but also for those living above the poverty line. Food prices have risen as before. The food chain has all grown.
Thus, stunting and malnutrition have reached new levels. As things stand now, it certainly feels like poverty will remain in Pakistan in the future.
A modest economic recovery will not have a positive effect on the poor, and their condition is likely to worsen.