Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Standard of Living

The single common indicator used for Standard of Living in India is purchasing power parity-adjusted gross domestic product. Thats a big term with a lot of words. I tried reading up on it so that I could sound smart when I write this post, but I still couldn't understand. Economic terms have always scared me and they still do. So I looked up the measures that help define that standard of living at an individual level. Essentially, defining the standard of living at an individual level is the same as measuring the quality of life for an individual in the following areas:
employment opportunities
medical care
Of course that is not an all-inclusive list, but certainly covers the basic necessities that affect the quality of life. Other measures that I would add would be psychological and social support. Perhaps, also civic sense. But, irrespective, of what the measures we use to define STANDARD OF LIVING for our purposes, the basic ones would still need to included. Hence, the question that I asked at this point was what do we do with these measures of SOL? The first answer that came to mind was to target each of these measure and help bring about a change for the better. That led to couple follow up questions: how do we go about bringing a change for each of these measure? who is our target population(the population with which we work)? I dont know the answer to either of these questions. My suggestions for the target populations are as follows:
children in orphanage
children in a slum
children in a particular school
children living on the streets
children of sex workers
children of prisoners
I hope the group members discuss the above points as we have agreed on the objective and there is a need to decide:
the definition of SOL
how to change the measures that affect the SOL
the target population
The above are my personal thoughts. It is my hope that it will generate a fruitful discussion on the definition of SOL and how to fulfill our objective.


ranjit nair said...

Nice Job Dhaval,Thanks.
Definition of SOL : Out of the points you covered , food,clothing & shelter would obviously be the most important ones (roti,kapda, makan).The rest of the points are also significant.
Along with them, I feel that a clean environment (which includes Air,water & clean neighbourhoods) is also very important. This factor helps in reducing diseases to a huge extent and also increases the 'feel-good' factor for a child.

As the 'Art of living' Guru put it , Quote "I would say a violence free society, disease free body, quiver free breath, inhibition free intellect, trauma free memory is a birth right of every individual. And as responsible citizens we need to bring that responsibility to our society, to our community wherever we are, to our people, to make people take responsibility for themselves and for the environment around "

Target Audience: In my opinion, a school or a orphanage would be a nice place to start. I would recommend that we speak to the authorities of some such instituions and ask them if we can volunteer to do some teaching clasess for them. I think they would be welcoming such ideas.

The rest of the categories of children have to be more carefully handled as we might be going directly to them and not through an institution, which might make things tougher for us. I would think that we start with schools/orphanges and use the learnings from there to extend it to the rest of the sections mentioned.

How to bring a change : Yep, the only way to this to start ! in whatever small way. We can't obviously move mountains overnight.
Education :I believe we could start with some teaching exercises.

Clothing: Try get a corporate sponsor and link with a garment unit to supply some kind of subsidised clothing. I am not too much in agreement with the collection of old clothes for kids.

Housing : For the first 2 categories, (Schools/orphanges) this wont be an issue I believe.

Food: Some kind of a efficient mechanism wherein excess food is routed and reaches the needy.(Some organisations are already doing this I guess, we can learn frm there to start and optimize) Or in log term, establishing some kind of a kitchen with a self sutaining model. Something to ponder upon.

Employment : Aish , Shabnam are already doing a great job on this I guess (with Dr Reddys, AB etc. ) They can develop on this and we can decide on placement oppurtunities.

Medical Care : Brilliant point, I should say. I have always wondered if we have some kind of a low cost group med insurance policy at least frm LIC for underpriviledged children. And how can we bring it up to the levels in which corporate employees are served in our hospitals. Can a central helpdesk be establised to negotiate (cashless?) between the insurance firms & hospitals or some other help in time of emergency(as some corporates have now). Insurance firms/hospitals in India have a tendency to look upon poorer ppl differently. Again a question to ponder upon.

Targeters > Lets Think & finalise some projects...and start.

Anonymous said...


Good discussion. But, again, we are seeing problems at the atomic level rather than at an broader level.

We should consider the social pattern also?

For example, in terms of housing, good air, pure water, employment, we need out of bound solution..

Can we provide pure air & water in Urbanised cities? Very difficult..

For all of those mentioned above, we are dependant on Nature. And if Nature is not part of the solution, we could not form an effective solution.

So what are my suggestions.

Include Agriculture as part of the programme.

Decongest existing cities by distributing infrastructure across villages.

There should be balanced mix of urban centers and rural areas. Food materials produced should be distributed to nearest cities. The people at cities should have natural atmosphere nearby for fresh air and water.

What are the infrastructures to be distributed to rural areas?
1. Good roads and connectivity.
2. Essential services like Hospitals, shopping, entertainment.
3. Micro trading centers and effective supply chain network.
4. In this digital age, Network connectivity. In US and UK, the data centers are located in outskirts. We should emulate that here. We should have the siutation, where people opt to locate datacenters in villages.

People are always interdependant, either individually or as a community. The job of one section is the necessity of the other.
We should consider this angle when finding solutions.

For example, in the case of orphans, destitute womens, and oldage homes, there was an excellent project called Vatsalya gram. In that, the orphanages and destitute women help centers are located in the same place. Each women has to accomodate three or more orphan children, as their child. By this, the children would get a mother, and these women would get a childrens to take care.

More or less a family model. This is a wonderful project, as no one would feel isolated or lonely.

This one project made me review my thinking pattern.

We are following the exclusive tendency of the west.. where everything is done exclusively.. like separate hostel for orphans, separate hostel for women, separate home for elders etc.
We have to fit all these together appropriately ..

Just for an example, an elder home and a college hostel can co-exist, although should be carefully planned.


In Gujarat, there was some path breaking initiatives. Their government had laid optical fibre network all over the state covering most of the villages.
ATM banks opened in villages. 24 hour Power without fluctuation, which significantly brought down damages to pumpsets for farmers. Agricultural output increased, and so as the economy.

Imagine.. an optical fibre connectivity at the remote village, with proper road network.. means, that village is connected to the rest of world. that means, a BPO or an IT company can be started in the remote villages, and need not be concentrated in one big city.

We need to look at the society at larger level.


Anonymous said...

Education and Healthcare:

Again, this needs relook.. what is most haunting today in these fields?

They were made expensive for the common people.

Can money alone provide the required education? or else, what is exactly the most needed in terms of education?

Can a dedicated teacher impart education without any infrastructure. (for example under a tree shade)


We would have heard of people begging for funds for heart surgery, or ear surgery. The cost would be around 1-2 lakhs or even more for cancer, kidney transplant.

Have we ever analysed why it costed that much?
A typical thyroid operation at a tier-2 city has the following cost structure.

Cost of surgeon: 50,000
Cost of anaesthician: 8000
cost of remaining, : 18,000
(including room rents, medicines)

Now please analyse, what factor is making healthcare so expensive.

So, what is exactly needed to make healthcare affordable to common people?

Is it money, or the dedication of a single heart surgeon, who is socially aware.

Today, medicines or other infrastructures are not a big deal.. rather, the fees of the highly skilled surgeons that's raising healthcare costs multi-tude..

So the next question.. Can Medical Insurance come to the rescue?

What if a person affected by cancer, but is eligible only for 1 lakh medical insurance?

Again, the purpose is not solved.. through medical insurance, we are again promoting dirty business based on people's health, for some corporates to amaze wealth.. (i am not a communist)

These are some few questions that need to be addressed.

Aish said...

Hey Dhaval,

Once again a sensible post :-). I have always felt that you have a bent towards children and their well being. Just a passing thought.

Back to the post. Your post and Ranjit's comments say a lot of things. Let me try to understand them.

Considering India's population, it really becomes very important for Government and other organizations to use some kind of tangible and measurable unit as opposed to subjective ones or measurements are cater to only one kind of group. But, yes! There is no reason why these units should not be accurate or reflective of ground situation.

I agree with all the areas you have listed as ones that measure the standard of living. There are many more subtle factors e.g. education - what kind of education? Are we talking about the academic degrees or are we talking about the education which helps an individual think independently and decide things for himself or herself. Believe me; there is a world of difference between the two. Many times I fear that we may be actually making/forcing decisions on people. For example what course to take. I started thinking about this seriously after I talked with Sreekumar and Sreeaxmi from Ananda Bharathi. I think I can get information of children of prison inmates.

Ranjit, Yes! Teaching is a good option. Again be careful that we teach them in the right manner. Let us agree that being good students does not mean we are good teachers. This is where your research on pedagogic methods will come into the picture.

Aish said...

Hi Senthil,

Through both your comments you have brought out the importance of brainstorming.
Agreed that the nature of problems faced by urban and rural areas is not the same. Understandably so.

Especially in a country like ours where the differnce in living conditions in cities and villages present a sharp contrast.
The point of need for holistic solutions and not isolated ones is also well taken - At the same time it should be realized that a start needs to be made. Even I start an initiative which is isolated - if I am able to recognize the flaws in the approach, the experience was worth it.

The points brought in the discussion related to healthcare are insightful - bringing out points that are otherwise lost in translation.
Group Medical Insurance is something that plagues even USA. The problem may be tough but not impossible.
It requires a good plan, diligence, honesty and proper implementation, lest it gets forgotten as yet an idea that was started with great fanfare.

Do continue the comments to come in.

Badhri said...

employment opportunities
medical care

We can categorize this into two
1. Education
2. livelihood
(as Dr. Reddy's Foundation did)
Good to know the subdivisions of livelihood from Dhaval's findings.

Before solving the problem, I guess we need to ask more questions. We know that the standard of living in India is "bad". But we need to know, how each of the factors mentioned contribute to it? For example, those who don't have enough "food", why don't the have enough food? Who are these people? I think to create an effective change we need to identify two or three examples of such people (for a wild guess example, a daily wage construction workers). Then may be we will know what afflicts them, and then we can formulate a sustainable plan.

In short, we have now identified the components to be improved. First we have to get a feel of how bad they are now, what is bad about them and who is affected. Then we will be ready to find a solution