India has one of the most substantial numbers of poor people in the world. According to a UN report, 1/3 of the world’s impoverished population resides in India. There are 400 million poor people in this country, and about a 180-200 million of them sleep with an empty stomach. According to a rapid survey on children, in 2013-14, 30% of children under five were underweight and malnourished. We see elections with poverty removal agenda but have we seen a considerable improvement?
The current government in India is implementing a platform for universal social scrutiny system where everyone will have a bank account. Many benefits will directly reach into the bank accounts of the poor like those of NREGA, pensions, gas and cylinder subsidies. Many states have health insurance, so any benefit of it will reach the poor directly if they have a bank account. The initiatives of Jan Dhan Yojna and Aadhaar will also create jobs along with other programs and will help eradicate poverty. Through MUDRA (Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency), Small and Microenterprise business, people will get loans to start a business. These programs aim to create an ecosystem to create jobs and allocate primary level funds. Once this system covers lengths and breadths of our nation, then India may fight poverty effectively. Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal are using MUDRA to help their thousands of ‘bottom of the pyramid’ partners to start operations. It shows that today big businesses are also enabling small businesses to flourish.
According to the Academy of Pediatrics (India), one child dies every minute. The WHO tells that about 6% of children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. India has issues of primary health care, children without education and basic amenities, and not just job creation. Since we have to tackle these issues; therefore, spending on the social sector must increase as current spending isn’t enough or it doesn’t reach the end beneficiary.
Yes, poverty reduction is happening in absolute numbers. The government is operating various policies to relax agricultural norms. However, many of the things that we talk about simply don’t exist at the ground level. Poverty reduction has to address agriculture. Farmer suicides are high in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and some other states even though the states now have more autonomy for social fund allocation. Suicide is the endpoint of a long unfolding tragedy; for every one farmer suicide, 99 others reach the brink but do not muster enough mental state to do that. We have grown on infrastructures and other fields, but no significant growth has come in agriculture over the years. The price of a farmer’s product is not rising; the costs of agriculture and other expenses are rapidly increasing. They find themselves in a debt trap, and that is why they consider suicide an easy path. National insurance policy takes premium from farmers, and many farmers don’t know how to get insurance money when their crop fails. So, they are not in a position to avail benefit as they don’t have a required guide near them. We talk about food security, medical coverage, mid-day meals, education but not everybody is getting it. Our agrarian system is in crisis. Monsoon has become very erratic due to global climate change, and the small farmer’s state is becoming miserable.
Unfortunately, there is considerable fear in the minds of these people in India. However, what our government is doing is commendable. We need it to instil confidence and trust in the public. The people, in return, should not waste time worrying. Instead, they should work towards national progress. Once we have dealt with these entrenched issues, then we must think about economic development. Industry sector contributes more to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of our country. There should be initiatives to transfer people from agriculture to manufacturing, services and other sectors of the economy. Agriculture has a significant number of people; it has improved, but the contribution to GDP from it is not much.
Yes, India can eradicate poverty. Initiatives that are implemented and are in the pipeline are necessary. However, given the condition of people at ground level, this will not happen anytime soon.