The Big Picture: Eradication of poverty: What steps need to be taken to achieve this goal?
In a recent speech, Prime Minister of India set a target to alleviate poverty from the nation in coming 5 years. India, even after seven decades of independence, and being one of the major world economies, has about a quarter of population living under poverty. Every successive government, since 1947, has tried to reduce poverty by making various policies. But, it is still far from satisfactory, for about half of the labor force working in agricultural sector and a majority of the population still living in rural areas.
Poverty is the general scarcity of a certain amount of material possessions or money (< $1.25/day) and includes social, economic, and political concepts. Absolute poverty (as defined by UN) is “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.”
- India saw increasing poverty and even famines in 19th and 20th centuries during the colonial era, whose sole purpose was to reduce the country to being a raw material supplier for Britain’s own rapidly expanding industrial base. It encouraged conversion of more lands into farms, collecting lot of revenues, introducing zamindari system, etc.
- To make a self-reliant growth and make progress in agriculture, efforts like five-year plans, land reforms, green revolution were made just after 1947. But though some progress was made, too much ‘inward-oriented’ policy, led to recession in 1980s.
- The economy was opened up in 1990s, and progress as GDP growth rate occurred. But, this growth was mainly concentrated in some select areas like services sector rather than agriculture sector and inequality increased.
- GDP contribution of agriculture today is less than 20%, though it provides livelihood to millions of population and quantitatively, India is major producer of various crops in the world (rice, wheat, etc). It needs to be given more attention of the state with improvement in irrigation (India is mainly monsoon-dependent), better technology (like drip irrigation, computer monitoring systems, modern farm equipments), increase in productivity and more investments for infrastructures in rural areas.
- Poverty has also increased in urban areas, as lot of rural population migrates there in search of better livelihood but ends up being poor casual workers, beggars, street vendors, etc as the industrial and services sector is unable to absorb them properly.
- The policies made for poverty alleviation, need to be implemented effectively. This may be done today with the help of digitalization and e-governance.
- India today is the second most populous country in the world and also projected to be the most populated by 2022 surpassing China. Overpopulation needs to be kept in check. More jobs also need to be created in various sectors to reduce their unemployment and save them from poverty.
- Health care facilities need to be improved and made cheaper, as costly health services may also lead a person to slip to BPL category if he gets a health issue.
- Human resource need to be provided with better skills to raise them as capitals, to help increase employment for them and also increase entrepreneurship.
Thus several government efforts were made since independence like development of industrial sector, Green revolution, LPG reforms, etc and many programs like MGNREGA, SGSY, NRLM, Mid Day Meal Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Yojna, etc which included financial schemes, employment generation schemes, nutrition providing schemes, etc. But, still issues like health, malnourishment, and lack of basic amenities continue to be a feature in many parts of India due to poverty. More efforts need to be made by making them more inclusive and efficient and provide more opportunities of employment, better infrastructure, etc and make them trickle down to the poor and vulnerable sections of the society, to get rid of poverty in coming years.