We make poverty

Only a couple of hours drive east, away from the Arabian Sea, the coastal lowland surrounding Mumbai, India, quickly gives way to the Western Ghats.

Only a couple of hours drive east, away from the Arabian Sea, the coastal lowland surrounding Mumbai, India, quickly gives way to the Western Ghats.

This low wall of mountains, most points being shy of our Grey Mountain’s height, marks more than a geographic transition.

You leave India’s industrial heartland for its agricultural core.

Near the eastern edge of the state of Maharashtra lies the city of Wardha, more than a 15-hour train ride from Mumbai.

It was about eight kilometres outside it that Mahatma Gandhi chose to build his Sevagram Ashram in 1936.

In Hindi, sevagram means “a village for service.”

There, Gandhi used the spinning wheel as an act of defiance against British colonial rule.

Homespun cloth called khadi became a symbol of self-reliance.

It served as a practical, visible sign of the Indian people’s cry for freedom.

At Sevagram Ashram you can still watch hand spinning and buy the khadi they produce there.

In khadi, Gandhi chose a potent political symbol.

British colonial rule had mightily contributed to the systematic looting of the Indian economy over nearly 200 years.

“While India had produced about 25 per cent of the world industrial output in 1750, this figure had fallen to only two per cent in 1900,” wrote Professors D. Clingingsmith and J. Williamson in a study of Indian deindustrialization.

“India was a major player in the world export market for textiles in the early 18th century, but by the middle of the 19th century it had lost all of its export market and much of its domestic market.”

A great economy had been consciously and coldly twisted to serve imperial ambitions and economic priorities.

Decisions made by politicians in London, textile magnates in Manchester and colonial administrators in New Delhi beggared a country — a sub-continent.

A system had been put in place that created poverty.

This situation was not limited to India.

Across Asia the income ration between a person living there and a person living in Europe in 1880 according to a CBC Radio report was one to two.

By 1960 the average European earned 40 times that of his Asian counterpart and by 1990 that disparity had grown to 70 times.

A 2003 article in the Multinational Monitor noted the ratio between “The richest 10 per cent of the world’s population’s income is roughly 117 times higher than the poorest 10 per cent.”

“This is a jump from the ratio in 1980 when the income of the richest 10 per cent was about 79 times higher than the poorest 10 per cent,” according to the calculations of the Economics Policy Institute.

Asians, Africans, Latin Americans and the poor in the world’s wealthy countries share a common fate. In this era of corporate globalization they bear the burden of growing inequality.

A world-wide system has evolved that accentuates poverty. It must change.

Seventy-five people stood up at the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition’s community supper on Wednesday and read a pledge calling on governments to keep their promises to the poor.

They called for “actions, not excuses, for justice and equality.”

We made poverty. We can end it.

Khadi is a strong durable cotton cloth. Now 60 years after winning its independence, India, with a billion people, is poised within the next 15 or 20 years to become the third most powerful economy in the world after China and the USA.

Change is possible.

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