Criminalising Poverty

Majority of nations around the globe, are currently witnessing contraction of their GDP growth rate. According to the “World Economic Outlook” published by International Monetary Fund, we are witnessing the worst economic crisis since The Global Depression. The crisis at hand has not only increased the number of people living below poverty line but has also left many semi-skilled workers unemployed.

While most of them are taking initiatives to recover from the economic crisis through revised fiscal policies and other steps towards expansion, they fail to address the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. The pre-assumption of our income divide is that inequality is inherently unjust, and therefore, the gap between rich and poor is as well. That perceived injustice in turn spurs support for redistributionist policies that are intended to make levels of prosperity more equal across society.

Although poverty seems to be associated with a way of living, current policies and framework mechanism in various nations have led to criminalize it. Considering an example, the constitution of The United States of America provides poor defendants, a public lawyer. However, on an average, there were 194 cases piled over each public lawyer (Survey by the American Bar Association). Therefore, many poor defendants either ended up in jail without a justified trial and others had to pay large amounts. The story of criminalising poverty doesn’t end here; there have been instances when judicial systems of most countries have failed to deliver the rights to the poor section of the society. While we put blind faith in our constitutions promising “equal rights for all” and “justice seeks no discrimination”, the system fails to recognise the unprecedented crisis belonging to the economically weaker section.

The aim of this article is to highlight the impact of rising economic differences in a manner that they tend to gradually criminalize poverty stricken people. The fact that current economic crisis will increase unemployment rates and poverty, specifically targeting the most vulnerable section of the society. Every period in history is defined by certain major social problems. Today, every problem facing society is shaped by the growing polarity between wealth and poverty. Whenever the poor are not moving and organising and visible, there is no real debate in this country about the elimination of poverty. For instance, the migrant worker crisis that India witnessed during the last two months. It was necessary for these workers to move in mass numbers for the government to notice them and arrange necessary transportation. Although, for many of them to be recognized and aided, it costed their life. This is when we normalize the crimes against poor.

The economic recovery in the current times, not only demands an increase in the GDP or the per capita income but also requires bridging the gap between poor and the rich. It not only demands great fiscal policies but also the achievement of globally recognized, SDG 1 (No poverty).

Written by: Garima Rajpal

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