Thursday, December 8, 2011

POVERTY- PARADOX OF INDIA'S DEVELOPMENT STORY



                        "Poverty is the worst form of violence." 
                                          Mahatma Gandhi


Introduction

                 Development has been one of the most powerful quests shaping the social and economic structures in India. When India got independence in 1947, it had to keep into consideration the following things:- planning, growth, growth with equity, basic needs, participation, appropriate technology, alternative development, sustainability, liberalization, good governance, social capital, and indigenous knowledge.[1] However, above all these things stood development as the shibboleth in the post independence era, the tools for development were large and varied however the basic criteria for measuring it was whether India could stand face to face with the developed countries of the Western World. The First Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru whose vision was based on a historical and international perspective became scientifically attached to the socialist model of planning which was inspired from the former Soviet Union but achieved State led capitalism. 

Development was seen as the index of a desired modernity, it was throughout implicated in a political discourse of national statism. In all location, development came to be marked by the specific combinations of state projects aimed at growth, achievement of cultural unity and coherent political forms. For Nehru and his group development in India could be brought only by the tool of planning. Planning was considered as a mighty cooperative effort of all the people of India. Nehru hoped that the new projects would be solvent to dissolve the division of caste and religion, community and region. He somehow believed this in a way could deal with the separatism, provincialism and sectarianism that India longed to combat.

However, after six decades of independence the problem of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and poor infrastructure still prevails. Year after year policies, plans and programmes are introduced and implemented yet the result is gradual. Somewhere down the line there might be something which needs to be addressed, let us look into the way poverty is understood and tackled in our country.

Poverty: meaning, causes and some measures which were adopted
Layman’s understanding of poverty can be, “Poverty is the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute or destitution refers to being unable to afford minimum human needs, which commonly includes education, healthcare, providence of freshwater, clothing and shelter”.[2] Furthermore, for World Bank, “Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.”

So, in a way we can say that poverty is a denial of basic opportunities, a violation of human dignity for a decent living. It means not having sufficient to feed and clothe a family, but overall indicates not having enough money to go to clinic or school, not having enough to spend in recreational activities, these and many more. Yet again, poverty can be divided into two understanding; relative and absolute (this needs a further long explanation which has been avoided so as to make the essay comprehensive).

 
A number of factors or causes have been held responsible for poverty in the rural areas of India. So to say, it has been held that rural populations primarily depend on agriculture, which is highly dependent on rain patterns and the monsoon season. Climatic conditions like inadequate rain and improper irrigation facilities can obviously cause low, or in some cases, nil production of crops. On the top of it, the Indian family unit is often large, which can increase the effects of poverty. Also, the caste system which still prevails in most of the parts of India forms a major reason for rural poverty, for instance people from the lower casts are often deprived of the most basic facilities and opportunities. Like explained above, it has been commonly considered that the causes of poverty in India are caste system, and also India’s economic policies which are not effective, liberalization policies and their effects, rich Indians not generous enough, well all these reasons are being held responsible, but we cannot judge which of the reasons get the bigger blame.

Furthermore corruption is considered as one of the reason for poverty. In the sense, corruption in the public sector, the misuse of public office for private gain, is often held as a reason for aggravating conditions of poverty. Alternatively, countries experiencing chronic poverty are seen as natural blooming grounds for systemic corruption due to social and income inequalities and numerous economic incentives, sometimes the funds which are allocated for poverty alleviation schemes does not reach the targeted people. In addition, unemployment scenario among the youths in India which has always been quite severe may be one of the reasons. For with a huge population and slow growth of job opportunities, unemployment has been widespread in India. Plus large scale unemployment has led to several socio-economic problems like poverty, malnutrition, antisocial and criminal activities, drug and substance abuse, etc. The lack of proper unemployment insurance schemes has further widened this problem, thus it acts as an agent for poverty.


Although, several government schemes under the guidance of Planning Commission have been undertaken in India to tackle the problem of poverty like the other Five Year Plans, the Tenth Five Year Plan recognized that the economic growth cannot be the only aim of national planning and development objectives but needed to be defined not just in terms of increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or per capita income but in broader terms of improvement of human well being.  Although the Plan aimed at a growth target of eight per cent per annum, in order to mirror the significance of these dimension it also identified specific targets for a few key indicator of human development. Governmental Programmes like Integrated Rural Development Programme/Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, Jawahar Rozgar Yojana/ Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana, Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana, had been implemented in many states of India but the benefits of these programs are yet to bear fruits. Also, the Central government takes initiatives in antipoverty programs, as the constitution assigns responsibility to the states in a number of matters, like ownership; redistribution, improvement, and taxation of land. It seeks to establish programs and rules among the states and union territories, though implementation has often remained at the lower bureaucratic levels, and the achievements of such endeavours have been marginal. Likewise, State governments execute most central government programs concerned with land reform and the situation of small landless farmers. However, the question is how much the targeted groups have been benefited out of it.  

The Paradox and Challenges of Development in India
Though India may have abundant food grain stocks and ample foreign exchange reserves but still the poverty is prevalent and, this is the paradox of India’s development story. Debate on poverty in India has remained mostly in the domain of economists for poverty is defined in terms of income, expenditure and nutritional value (calorie intake).  But it is not more an issue to be tackled by the economist alone, social dimension of poverty should not be neglected while taking poverty eradication as an area of study. For poverty is more of social marginalization of an individual, household or group in the community/society rather than inadequacy of income to fulfill the basic needs. Indeed, inadequate income is therefore one of the factors of marginalization but not the sole factor. The goal of poverty alleviation programme should not only aim in increasing the income level of individual, household or group but main stream marginalized in the development process of the country. The country cannot claim for economic growth when a set of the people is marginalized to the periphery of the society.

The rapid economic growth process should accelerate the access to services like education and health services for all, especially the marginalized citizens. The link between ignorance and poverty and ill health and poverty are well-established. Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and malnutrition have been considered as disease of poverty. Having fallen ill due to poverty, the poor do not have the monetary means or resources to seek quality health care, for he/she does not have ways or means to borrow money for treatment of such life threatening diseases. Poverty therefore is a complex phenomenon of many dimensions not merely the economic dimension. Poverty alleviation programmes should address the issue of poverty from broader social and economic perspectives.

Conclusion
 
It is true that the fruits of economic growth have not benefited everyone uniformly. Some are left behind and some others are not touched by the benefits of economic growth. It is rightly been proved globally that the so-called trickledown effect (where everyone gets benefit- core to the periphery) does not work in all the societies and countries and India is no exception to this such phenomena. There are various reasons for this uneven development in the society, and we cannot sick on one of it, there may be technological reasons, sociological, political or economical reasons.

But whatever it is, to stimulate pro-poor agricultural growth and rural development, India will need to make some strategic choices. We should aim to propose actions in various necessary areas that can help the government to accelerate agricultural growth and reduce poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment quickly and on a sustainable basis. All of these reforms can be achieved with due regard for the well-being of the country’s rural poor in particular and of India in general.
             
 To end with, we can contemplate on what Amartya Sen had written, The removal of poverty, particularly of extreme poverty, calls for more participatory growth on a wide basis, which is not easy to achieve across the barriers of illiteracy, ill health, uncompleted land reforms and other sources of severe inequality. The process of economic advance cannot be divorced from the cultivation and enhancement of social opportunities over a broad front.”[3] And it in fact holds true, and we must act in unity to achieve such a gigantic task.





[1] Zachariah, Benjamin., ‘Developing India: An Intellectual and Social History’, Oxford University Press, 2005
 
[2] "Poverty (sociology)". Poverty (sociology). britannica.com. 

[3] Sen, Amartya., ’The Argumentative Indian’, Penguin Book, 2005.

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