Inflation-hit poor feel short-changed in rising India

Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:08am EST
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By David Lalmalsawma

LIBBAR HARI, India (Reuters Life!) - Bhola Nath doesn't care much for India's growth story.

Not when the 65-year-old migrant brick kiln worker has stopped buying onions and garlic, key food staples for Indian families, and manages to save just 1,000 rupees ($22) per month to send his family of five back home due to the ever-increasing prices of food and other basic commodities.

"We have stopped having tea at work, and we add only red chili to our vegetables as even oil has become too costly," said Nath, who hails from northern Uttar Pradesh state but has worked for 15 years in this small dusty village in neighboring Uttarakhand state, about 160 kilometers from India's capital.

Five of his fellow workers whose 12 hour shifts heating bricks at the kiln earn them 150 rupees ($3) per day seconded the remark, with one jokingly adding that even "donkeys would faint" near them as they couldn't afford to buy soap anymore.

This motley group of migrant laborers who hail from different parts of the country represent a microcosm of the country's vast underprivileged, who feel they have been left behind by India's recent economic boom.

Their sentiment also highlights a schism between the rural poor and a prospering urban class which talks of putting India in its rightful place among the world's great nations.

The Indian economy has been growing an average of 8.5 percent over the last five years, propelling millions into what is often described as the great Indian middle class and making the south Asian giant a darling for overseas investors.

But 40 percent of its 1.2 billion population still lives below the U.N.-estimated poverty line.   Continued...