Published on 19 Jul 2010

Poor driving in India?

News this morning that Mercedes Benz is to launch an aggressive sales drive in India to ‘capture the luxury sports car’ end of the automobile market. The announcement comes as India continues to post growth figures heading north from 8 per cent.

Last week the UN stated that 405 million people in India live in poverty more acute than anywhere else on the planet.

Britain currently spends up to £1 billion in aid in India on some of the most imaginative aid projects in the Indian Sub-Continent.

Any dispassionate review of global poverty would conclude that what is the largest commitment in the entire DFID budget is well targeted. But for how long will the UK’s own domestic population settle for funding India at a time when their own ‘aid budget’ – the benefits system – is being cut?

I currently sit on a joint FCO Indian government ‘round table’.

We diplomats, civil servants, journalists, aid specialists, and business and investment people, discuss areas of mutual interest to our several populations.

The last time we met, a few months back, we were talking about India’s incredible growth, and about the amazing pace of technological change in the country.

In the same month my post-university daughter was travelling in India and had reached the city of Varanasi. This is where many Hindus come to cremate their dead on the banks of the River Ganges.

My daughter’s emails jarred awkwardly with my comfortable discussions about growth. She described filthy streets, awful sleeping quarters and a great sense of never being able to wash the dust and filth out of her pores.

Now we hear that British aid is to be increased to Afghanistan by 40 per cent to try to help facilitate the desired speed of British military withdrawal.

I have little doubt that the money will eventually come from cuts in the UK’s Indian aid budget.

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25 reader comments

  1. sue wilson says:

    good – India can channel their space program money into sorting their problems out themselves.
    Why should we keep sending money for “poverty” when they spend their money on luxuries.

  2. Margaret Brandreth- Jones says:

    Mercedes Benz is a big concern in India. The websites display MB Cars, MB schools ,MB trucks, MB engineering and much more.Why should they not have the choice of luxury cars in the same fashion as any other Country? I wish more people would consider the environment and not buy large cars, but I am one grain of sand in the weathered world.

    The disparity in wealth derives from a past which like our own historical roots, grew out of land ownership , monarchy and a divisive class system .

    How would one expect to share that money more evenly, except through a more fair political system and the creation of wealth?

    I am not exactly familiar with the type of AID Projects referred to , but ‘a project’ suggests investment and growth leading to beneficial resource and remuneration for the UK and India alike.Getting the balance right betwixt our own concerns and the rest of the globe, is an international concern, however our Empire initiated the present political structure in India and we owe it to them not to desert our considerably shrunken past empire.

    Afghanistan.. well, we are probably doing an India again dare I say, but with far more resistance from the barbaric Taliban.

    I looked at some of Samiras tweets over the weekend and noticed she made references to ‘Ummah’ a word which loosely defined, encompasses the whole of the Islam faith coming together as an ethnic superiority. The term is also used by Jews.

    An ariel view of the schism in those faiths ,gives me a gut-feeling that whatever we do in Aghan ,eventually will lead those people to revolt against us and just take the AID whilst it is there , playing all sides for survival…who can blame them ?

  3. Joe Gosden says:

    I live in Delhi.

    India has plenty of money. Bags and bags of it. There’s a reason that firms like Tesco and Wal-Mart are desperate to get into the Indian market.

    But India isn’t using any of it at all to help its poor. This is partly due to corruption and partly due to a complete lack of interest on the part of the middle classes. Funds were recently diverted from helping the poor to finishing the Commonwealth Games stadium. And no poor people are likely to be going to that.

    We should stop sending any aid to India, except a small amount channeled into NGOs who have complete control over how it is spent. India has more than enough money to sort out its own problems; its just not interested in doing so.

    1. Sadie says:

      Well said Joe – succinct but comprehensive and accurate.
      This page has no ‘thumbs’ so I have no idea what people think besides those of us forward enough to assume our opinion is worth putting before others! The ‘thumbs’ was what made this Comment site different to all others and worth reading and noting reactions.

    2. Lodger says:

      I agree totally, and I’m not in the least bit surprised that the poor in India are ignored by their government.
      Having lived in India for some time I found it to be an incredibly harsh place for those who are, by virtue of being to the wrong caste, considered to be inferior in every sense.
      The fact is the Indian government will never look after its own poor as long as silly foreigners are daft enough not only to send money to India, but also to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the millions of those non -persons .

  4. Robin H says:

    The provision of aid to India does grate given the parlous state of our own finances and the tremendous growth of India. However, we must bear in mind two important factors.
    Firstly, people still live in extreme poverty in India and as a wealthy civilised society it is honourable that we help those in most need, wherever they are in the world.
    Secondly, think of the aid as a goodwill payment to secure Indian favour for when, probably in my lifetime, they are a mighty, rich nation, supporting those living in penury in our bankrupt corner of the world.

  5. adrian clarke says:

    I have just had a friend return from six months in India.She described it as a wonderful experience ,but a country of sharp contrasts .Beautiful wealthy areas up near the himalayas and dreadful poverty areas around the major cities.India is a relatively rich country that can afford a warring standoff with its neighbour Pakistan , Can build rockets and a nuclear bomb .It should be capable of ridding itself of its poor.
    I can see no justification for the UK to send aid to such a country and though your forum may be well meaning Jon , it has its priorities wrong if it supports sending aid to a country capable of looking after its own

    1. adz says:

      Adrian give it a few decades of strong economic growth & we shall all see how it changes. But till then we still owe it to them for what we did to them for centuries.
      I completely agree about having Nuclear weapons and the government not taking care of their owm.
      But this is the begining of their first real “western” economic growth pattern and it’s not going to stop unless it gets itself into heavy war.
      adz TVP,ZM & CND

  6. Saltaire Sam says:

    Sometimes I despair of the human race.

    India starts to grow in confidence and wealth and the first instincts of the fortunate people in that growth is not to help those in poverty but to get more and more for themselves.

    A car is not enough, it has to be a massively expensive Merc or BMW; a home is not enough, it has to be a palace. Next they will be buying up Premiership football clubs. While they are proud to show off their success, the workers who helped achieve it stay on thelowest wage the bosses can get away with.

    But, of course, they had good teachers in the west about how you behae when you become successful.

    If only scientists could identify the greed gene and produce an antidote, the world would be a much better place.

    Still at least the situation in India gives the lie to the claims that the benefits of capitalism and globalisation drip down to everyone

  7. Y.S. says:

    There are two India, the haves and the have nots. After 40 years i went back and found apart from the mobile phones and the T.V. in some peoples houses and the new highways, nothing had changed.

  8. Meg Howarth says:

    Sue’s point is valid. Also am sure you’re correct that ‘aid’ money will be moved around. Ring-fencing of aid budget is surely no more than an attempt by Cameron to keep the right-wing of the Tory party in check? Like the so-called protection of the NHS – another political move, in this case a cover for privatisation – it’ll prove to be more myth than reality.

  9. Frank Green says:

    Its an interesting topic. To be fair to the Lib/Cons they have agreed to leave the aid budget undisturbed which overall is a good thing. However there is going to come a time when the British public will no longer tolerate aid going to countries like Uganda which plans to put to death gay people and where millions of pounds in aid simply disappear into the hands of government ministers. That time may come sooner than we think with the cuts eating into every household’s budget.

    1. Sadie says:

      The sooner the better Frank. Then also we would have funds to use properly when the regular natural disasters happen in the 3# World – we would have the funds to react better and also supportive and constructive, literally, after care rather than rush in and wander off leaving the vulnerable even more vulnerable.

  10. adrian clarke says:

    The new site has not endeared me to its content or layout.It appears to be change for changes sake.
    Every time i want to post i have to log in again.I can not pass comment via the thumbs up/down, because they do not work.
    Moving around the site is more difficult.It is a bit like Charle’s carbuncle on the face of the earth.A “bloody “mess that was neither called for nor wanted.
    Who ever designed it wants putting out to grass,

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Can we please have our thumbs back! Seriously frustrating not to be able to express support for or disagreement with fellow bloggers.

    2. Blog Editor says:

      Thanks for the comments. Apologies again for the temporary lack of a like/dislike button. We are aware this is a popular part of the site. We had some technical problems with this last week, but will reinstate it as soon as we’re confident it works properly.

  11. Paul Begley says:

    For three decades, we in the UK have been told that massive (some might say obscene) disparity of wealth is essential for a thriving economy. A great deal of effort has gone into increasing this disparity here. So it would seem unreasonable to withold aid from countries which also have huge wealth disparity. It would, however, be useful if the growth figure was accompanied by a statistic (GDP/Head?) which gave a better indication of India’s wealth, relative to ours.

    I think we can also be confident that domestic aid (welfare) programmes would not be the beneficiaries if overseas aid was cut.

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Don’t follow your logic, Paul, about unreasonableness of refusing aid to countries with great wealth disparity; furthermore, don’t accept your definition of a ‘thriving’ economy. We don’t have to believe the (capitalist) lies we’re told.

      Do agree with your last point, though, that domestic welfare schemes won’t benefit from cutting ‘aid’.

      Am with Jim’s sentiments, below.

  12. Jim Flavin says:

    Its not in the nature of Capitalism or Capitalists to look after the poor- so whats the big surprise ??. There are plenty poor in UK as far as I am aware – and certainly in ROI – do the Rich care ?. Of course not . They may contribute to charities – a ”crumbs from the table” approach but no way will they help the poor to get up – that they must do for themselves either by force or peaceful means .The Poor are a valuable source of cheap labour for the large Capitalists and as in all Capiatist societies the gap between rich and poor grows – and will continue to grow – thats just the nature of the Beast – and what a Beast .

    1. adz says:

      What a beast! I like what you wrote and couldn’t agree more.
      adz TVP,ZM & CND

  13. adz says:

    Does anyone believe in the Indian aid budget?

    I do because the U.K. drained India till not so long ago. It’s fair that we help them whilst they still have over 400 million of the poorest souls. Once India has decades of economic growth on its shoulders we’ll see how they take care of their own. Local Religions will have an immense word in the sensitive matter.
    Let us not forget that India has only just started its growth whilst our country has been growing for over one thousand years.
    The problem is that industrialised governments are not giving a very good clean example to these economically growing nations. China, North Korea, Thailand, Argentina & last but not least Brazil, are contending places with India.
    adzmundo The Venus Project,ZM & CND

    1. ssd says:

      Hi adz,

      I completely agree with you.Uk robbed India for 150 years I think its fair if they give back the wealth they robbed..

  14. Saltaire Sam says:

    Another fine example of the joy of capitalism on your programme tonight, Jon.

    Cocoa farmers struggling to scrape a living while a trader in London takes a punt to make a fortune, adding nothing to the product, just more cash to his bottom line.

    These leeches should be taxed so hard that they go out and get a job where they actually contribute something to society.

  15. alex says:

    What car does snow drive;

    I still ahvemn’t seen more pictures of him modellign his woven boxers/undershorts

Comments are closed.