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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Friday, December 30, 2005

Temperence - a forgotten factor in poverty alleviation

Daily News: 23/12/2005" by M.C. Mathupala

Many attempts have been made by the state and non political organisations to reduce the levels of poverty in our country. The efficacy and coverage of such efforts get minimized due to the uncontrolled drinking habit of our men folk in the rural areas and the poverty pockets in urban centers. This factor has not been addressed in any desirable manner by our politicians and/or the development workers.

Go to any rural village on the day of the so-called Samurdhi Advance is given. You will find quite a number of men - fathers and brothers of poor families who are recipients of state aid - smelling of liquor. Occasionally you may find one or two fallen on the wayside.

This situation is also prevalent in the plantation estates especially on pay days and ‘advance’ days.

Rural development programmes and small business development programmes have helped rural families to generate additional income. Though the enhanced incomes are not very high, they can help the marginalized families to raise their living standards gradually if the supplemented incomes are not fritted away by the drinking, smoking and gambling habits of the men folk.

Rural poverty surveys, family counsellors, development workers and religious organisations have indicated the disastrous ways in which drinking has devastated some of the poverty stricken families they have tried to help.

Drinking and smoking, sometimes combined with drug addiction have nullified their onerous efforts in attempting to give such families a better lease of life and getting them to the mainstream of development.

Inmates in drug rehabilitation centers and prisons who have brought misery on themselves as well as their family members due to drinking, smoking and drug addiction relate stories depicting how those bad habits were innocently introduced to them and how such practices led them and their families to misery.

It is a matter that should immediately be considered most seriously and urgently by the state and the development institutions if poverty alleviation programmes are to achieve their expected goals.

Addiction to liquor, cigarettes and drugs ruin the health of the addicts. They also affect the health and well-being of the families. The literature that is devoted to the derogatory effects of liquor, cigarettes and the misuse of drugs in vast and easily accessible to development workers.

The ill-effects of passive smoking on children and non smokers have been well documented.

Recent research has shown that drinking etc., affects even the fetuses developing within the wombs of the wives of those addicted to drinking, smoking and drugs. Health hazards relating to these bad baits are numerous.

Effects on health lead to the degradation of the rural labour force. When the viscious circle starts it leads to indebtedness, social disruption, crime, higher levels of morbidity, unemployment and many other factors that destroy a nation’s economy.

The main factors that cause these disturbing features among the rural folk are ignorance and low level skills in money management.

They have little or no access to people or institutions that can guide them to lead better lives conserving their health, energy and income.

A good example is what happens at the illicit ‘bookies’ found in all nooks and corners in urban and rural areas. The poor men who come to bet their place bets of a rupee or fifty cents (i.e. half a rupee).

A wealthy man who places a bet of ten rupees will get Rs. 100 if he wins a double (10x10 = 100). The poor man will get only one rupee for his bet of one rupee (1X1 - 10) or twenty five cents for his bet of fifty cents (1/2x1/2=1/4) even if he wins a double.

Trying to emulating the more prosperous gamblers the poor men fritter away their little income hoping for windfalls that never come their way.

Arrest and rehabilitation is what happens to drug addicts.

But what about the thousands of poor drinking and smoking men folk in the rural villages and estates who are unwittingly causing misery to themselves and their families? NGOs and the CBOs operating in the rural areas and the state institutions have a major role to play in arresting this situation if the poverty alleviation programmes of the Government are to achieve their expected results.

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