In a recent event, Prime Minister Modi set an ambitious target to alleviate poverty from the nation in the coming 5 years. Even after seven long decades of independence, and despite being one of the major world economies, we have about a quarter of our population living under the trap of poverty. Each successive government since Independence, has tried to tackle poverty by making multiple policies. But, it is still far from what is required, for about more than 50% of the labour force working in agricultural sector and a majority of our population being still prevailing under the trap of poverty in rural areas.
EPoverty is defined as the scarcity of a certain level of material possessions or money (< $1.25/day) which also includes socio-economic, and political concepts. Whereas, absolute poverty (as defined by the United Nations) is “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, such as food, clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.”
- India saw a rapid rise in poverty levels and even famines in 19th and 20th centuries i.e. during the colonial period, whose sole objective was to reduce the country to being a raw material exporter for Britain’s rapid industrialisation. For that purpose, it encouraged conversion of more lands into farms, collection of revenues, introduction of Zamindari system, etc.
- To make India, a self-reliant and progressive economy in agriculture, efforts such as 5-year plans, land reforms, green revolution were made just after the independence. Though a little progress was made, too much reliance on ‘inward-oriented’ policy, led to the economic recession of 1980s.
- The economy was forcefully opened up only in the 1990s, and progress in terms of higher GDP growth rate started showing signs. But, this growth was mainly concentrated selected areas such as services sector rather than the agriculture and manufacturing sector. As a result, inequality increased.
- Contribution of agriculture to national GDP today is less than 20%, even though it provides livelihood security to millions of people in India and quantitatively, we are a major producer of various crops in the world (such as rice, wheat, etc). Therefore, we need to pay adequate attention to the agriculture sector with the state in leadership position so as to provide for improvement in irrigation (India being monsoon-dependent), latest technology (like drip irrigation, modern farm equipment, computer monitoring system), so as to provide for increase in productivity and more investments to meet infrastructure deficiencies in rural areas.
- Poverty has increased rapidly in urban areas too due to migration of rural population towards urban centres in search of better livelihood opportunities. But these migrants end up being beggars, street vendors, poor casual workers etc. because of the fact that the manufacturing and services sector is unable to absorb them in time due to lack of skills required by the respective sectors.
- Policies designed for poverty alleviation objective needs to be implemented efficiently and effectively. This may be done through the help of digitalization and e-governance techniques.
- India is the second most populous country in the world today and we’re projected to be the most populated country by 2022. Hence, overpopulation needs to be controlled at the earliest. More and more jobs need to be created in diverse sectors to reduce the stress of unemployment and prevent our population from poverty trap.
- Healthcare facilities suffer from low-quality standards, thereby they need to be improved and made cheaper further, as costly healthcare services may also lead a person to slip to below poverty line category in case of a health emergency.
- Human resource management is to be ramped up through skill upgradation so as to raise them as capitals which can make them employable. Simultaneously we also need to focus on raising avenues to boost entrepreneurship among the population so as to turn them job generators.
Multiple efforts by the Government were made since 1947 such as development of manufacturing sector, Green revolution for agriculture, LPG reforms of 1991 etc. Yet issues such as healthcare, undernourishment, lack of basic amenities and the rural-urban gap in terms of development continue to haunt Indian society due to the trap of poverty. Therefore, more efforts need to be made to make this wheel of development more inclusive and diversified so that the fruits of development can be reaped by all sections of society and the trap of poverty can be eliminated by root and branch from the Indian society.