Anand (Locana) has a post announcing that the Rural Employment Guarantee Bill is now in place. He also refers to a discussion about levels of poverty, where several people are arguing over just what various numbers mean.
I think it is possible to wrangle endlessly over the numbers. I think you can use statistics to support whatever view of the world you have or want to believe. Not that figures don't have value -- I have great use for them all the time. But I wonder how many people who wrangle over them actually go out and try to find the people (the anecdotes!) behind the numbers.
Me, I always wish I could do more of that than I manage. Because that exercise works the other way for me. Rather than finding the figures that will support my hypotheses about the world, I see realities that I didn't know about, that tell me things about the world, that I have to believe.
An example of sorts. A few years ago, a doctor I know wrote me a letter from rural Orissa. It spoke of the deaths of ten children from diarrhoea and measles, suddenly epidemic in the area. The doctor also mentioned that they needed Rs 500 a month to buy one egg each week for about one hundred malnourished tribal schoolchildren in the district. That egg, added to their lunch, would make the difference between hunger and health; perhaps even life and death.
One egg per kid per week, that's all.
Absent that much, measles and diarrhoea were killing children there.
I wrote an article about this in a Bombay paper. The evening it appeared, I got a call from an unknown reader who asked me for the doctor's address, sent a cheque for Rs 6000 there for a year's supply of eggs, and returned to anonymity. Neither the doctor nor I have heard from him again; and he has never returned calls. But about a hundred Oriya kids live today because of his generosity.
This little story tells me a few things. You?