Salt of the Earth was founded in 1988 after Murray Frankland visited India and witnessed the levels of poverty that rural communities endured. He returned to the UK determined to create change in India. Since then, we have raised over £4 million to fund projects in India whilst increasing the awareness of the challenges rural communities face.
Despite India’s continued economic growth, poverty in India is still pervasive with 216 million people living in rural poverty. In India, the richest 1% own 53% of India’s wealth (World Bank, 2017). This inequality means that most of the population have poor access to health services, education and often do not even have their basic needs met.
26% of India’s population are illiterate with little or no education (World Bank, 2017). Without an education, people are unaware of their rights, opportunities and are excluded from formal sectors of employment. This is often intertwined with poor health and for children, poor health has huge knock on effects which are carried into adulthood.
In rural areas of India the lack of infrastructure, qualified medical staff and a lack of basic medicines and medical facilities prevents people accessing healthcare. Millions of people live in rural villages in India and do not have access to critical medicines or facilities. The majority of deaths in rural villages are due to preventable and curable diseases such as diarrhoea, measles and typhoid. The key challenges in the healthcare sector are the low quality of care, poor accountability, lack of awareness and limited access.
Access to employment is also a major challenge for rural communities. Due to a lack of connectivity to towns and cities, people residing in rural areas are forced to work in the informal economy in low paid manual jobs. In 2005, the Indian government launched the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) scheme, which is designed to guarantee the right to work, by providing at least 120 days of employment. However, this has not resolved the issue as often people are not given 120 days and suffer from irregular and late payments of wages.
A key issue that exacerbates rural poverty in India is that huge segments of the population are not officially recognised by the Indian government. In rural areas, minority groups such as women, tribals and low castes struggle to register for an Aadhaar card. These cards are a unique identification card which is issued by the Government of India which mean that people can access subsided food, kerosene delivery and the MGNREG Scheme. To apply for these cards, it is a long and rigorous process and requires documents such as proof of address, passport and bank account details which many of India’s rural poor don't have. This continued exclusion from Indian society means that people living in rural areas are being left behind and the cycle of poverty continues.