Rajya Sabha TV- Policy Watch: Episode – 292| Do Govt’s poverty alleviation programs need a revamp?
India has a serious hunger problem and ranks 100 out of 119 countries on Global Hunger Index behind North Korea, Bangladesh and Iraq but ahead of Pakistan. The country’ s serious hunger level is driven by high child malnutrition and underlines need for stronger commitment to the social sector. The International Food Policy Research Institute said in its report that India stood at 97th position in last year’s rankings. The GHI now in its 12th year ranks countries on four key indicators:
- Child mortality
- Child wasting
- Child stunting
The report ranked 119 countries of the world nearly half of which have extremely alarming hunger levels. In 2017, India scored 31.4 and was placed at high end of “serious” category. The report said that India’s top 1% own more than 50% of its wealth. India is the world’s second largest food producer, yet it is also home to the second highest population of under-nourished in the world.
Key Issues to Address in India:
- Focus on poverty issue.
- Clean water is the key to nutrition absorption particularly among children.
- Hygiene defines good health (issues of open defecation, sanitation, women education).
- Overall expenditure on health is abysmally low, therefore, allocation of expenditure on health as well as hygiene needs to be raised.
- Increase awareness about vaccination from diseases.
Poverty Alleviation Programmes:
Poverty alleviation schemes and programmes have been in pace for a long time now. The programmes and schemes have been modified, consolidated, expanded and improved over time. They fall into four broad categories:
- Self-employment programmes
- Wage-employment programmes
- Public distribution system (PDS)
- Other social welfare oriented programmes
Example- Jan Dhan Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana, National Social Assistance programme (NSAP), Aam Admi Bima Yojana (AABY), Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) etc. There are numerous centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) belonging to all the four categories.
Successful implementation of these programmes require an appropriate policy framework, adequate funds and an effective delivery mechanism. A distinction has to be made between two categories of poor, namely, those who have some skills and thus can take up self-employment and others who are to be provided with wage-employment. Each category should be treated separately by appropriate policy measures.
What more can India Do:
- Building upon the Mid-day meal scheme along with improving nutritional levels for women during pre and post pregnancy, and ensure child nutrition support up to the age when he/she enters school. Thereafter, the mid-day meal program must be used effectively.
- India has massive integrated child development scheme (ICDS), providing supplementary nutrition, immunization, referral services, health check-up, pre-school non-formal education, and health and nutrition education all aimed at a holistic development of children under six.
- Making and maintaining toilets to make sure that they are used under Swachch Bharat Mission.
- Garbage treatment in cities with adequate capacity before they get into river systems or water bodies to reduce contamination of water.
- Social mobilization through self- help groups.
- Focus more on Primary Health Care units so that basic medical facilities are easily accessible to the public.
Ending poverty and malnutrition is a complex issue and it needs a multi-dimensional action to bring about changes in these areas.