CAROL’S SUMMARY: Indiaâ€™s lowest classes, long denied access to the basics of education and civil living, are now being given the opportunity to change their lives through learning. In the WSJâ€™s article below, some of the poorest and the weakest areas of India are resurging and fueling an economic force that is shoring up the rest of India which, like the rest of the world, is in financial decline. The potential for these â€œlower castesâ€ to participate in Indiaâ€™s future has tremendous implications for labor and vitality in the most far-flung and often forgotten parts of India as well as people in the poorest slums of the largest cities. Most importantly, people who have a had a culture and history of non-importance and the most degrading life conditions are now being given dignity, access and the ability to change their plight through exposure to education in this â€œflatâ€ new world.
By PETER WONACOTT
DEV KULI VILLAGE, India — This country’s path out of the global economic turmoil may start here, among a community of outcastes who dine on rats.
In Bihar, India’s poorest and least literate major state, the Mushahar are the poorest and least literate. Most are farm laborers. About one in 10 can read. So impoverished is this group that they hunt field rats to supplement a deprived diet. Mushahar is Hindi for “rat eater.”
But the outlook for the state’s two million Mushahar has brightened in the past year. Thanks to government aid programs, more Mushahar children are attending school. Increased state investment in roads and local factories has put their parents to work. Demand for laborers has pushed up wages for field work.
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