Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Growing up in Calcutta in the Indian state of West Bengal, I witnessed firsthand the many layers of truth behind Gandhi’s words. For beyond the obvious physical consequences of living in want, there lurks a constant and pervasive threat to human dignity, social bonds, and basic aspirations.

In the India of my youth, this violence was by design. Here was a nation with unlimited potential in both human capital and...

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