'Middle class should care for the downtrodden'

HYDERABAD, JULY 6. The need for the middle class to join hands and take up leadership to bridge the gap between perception and reality and help the poor rise above the poverty line was underscored by the Indian High Commissioner-Designate to Cyprus, Mr. Pavan K. Varma, on Friday.

He was addressing a packed gathering at Bella Vista on the serene campus of the Administrative Staff College of India here. He said for long the middle class had been impervious to the suffering of the people, particularly the estimated 350 million people in the country, who went to bed hungry every day.

Mr. Varma, who had earlier served as Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, is the author of "The Great Indian Middle Class, Havelies of Old Delhi" and also the biographer of the eminent poet, Mirza Ghalib. Given his experience in Delhi, a considerable time of his lecture was devoted to describing the situation there.

He said in the capital of the country one third of the population was illiterate and did not have basic amenities like latrines. A phenomenal 1,500 tonnes of garbage generated every day was uncleared, he said. Educated Indians should care for the others, the underprivileged. "We have lost the ability to see things beyond the mental fortress we have built and we refuse to grasp the reality of the magnitude of the problems," he said.

"With 350 million people below the poverty line and about 300 million just above the line, we should be concerned about making the co-relation among the perception of the problems and the reality. It is not globalisation which has affected us but the marginalisation of the problems that is the real culprit," he said.

During a question-answer session later, Mr. Varma said one could build a better civilisation on another planet but wondered how practical it was. He went on to recite the opening lines of a Hindi film song of yesteryear - "Jeenaa yahaan, marnaa yahaan, iske siva janaa kahaan".