[op-ed snap] Necessary steps to ending poverty

Mains : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Universal Basic services will lead to overty elimination.


CONTEXT

It is by now close to 50 years since Indira Gandhi brought the idea of eradicating poverty into the electoral arena in India. ‘Garibi Hatao’ had been her slogan.

Income Generation And Poverty Elimination

  • The role that income generation actually played in lowering poverty in India may be gauged from the facts that economic growth had surged in the 1980s, and the late 1960s was when agricultural production quickened as the Green Revolution progressed.

Why poverty still exist?

  • So, if there had been a focus on poverty even 50 years ago, why have we not seen it end?
  • This is because the approach of public policy to the problem has been to initiate schemes which could serve as no more than a palliative, as suggested by the very term ‘poverty alleviation’ commonly used in the discourse of this time.
  • These schemes failed to go to the root of poverty, which is capability deprivation that leaves an individual unable to earn sufficient income through work or entrepreneurship.
  • Income poverty is a manifestation of the deprivation, and focussing exclusively on the income shortfall can address only the symptom.

Efficacy of income support programme

  • An income-support scheme for any one section of the population is grossly inequitable.
  • We can think of agricultural labourers and urban pavement dwellers as equally deserving of support as poor farmers.
  • While it is the case that at present agricultural subsidies go to farmers alone, these are intended as production subsidies and so channelled due to the criticality of food production to all.

Welfare Programme More Efficient

  • On the other hand, a welfare programme cannot, ethically speaking, exclude those equally placed.
  • The BJP’s hurried introduction of its scheme also came with an overshooting of the fiscal deficit target, suggesting that it involves borrowing to consume, a fiscally imprudent practice.
  • The PM-Kisan has, however, been dwarfed by the promise of the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) of the Congress, which envisages an annual transfer 12 times greater to the poorest 20% households.
  • While this scheme is not discriminatory, it is severely challenged by the issue of beneficiary identification in real time.
  • Poverty is capability deprivation.
  • Health, education and physical infrastructure are central to the capabilities of individuals, and the extent of their presence in a society determine whether the poor will remain so or exit poverty permanently.

What is needed?

1.Universal Basic Scheme

  • In light of a pitch that has been made for the implementation in India of a publicly-funded universal basic income (UBI) scheme, we can say that from the perspective of eliminating poverty, universal basic services (UBS) from public sources are needed, though not necessarily financed through the budget.
  • The original case for a UBI came from European economists.
  • Europe is perhaps saturated with publicly provided UBS.
  • Also the state in some of its countries is immensely wealthy.
  • So if a part of the public revenues is paid out as basic income, the project of providing public services there will not be affected.
  • This is not the case in India, where the task of creating the wherewithal for providing public services has not even been seriously initiated.

2.Focus on Human Development

  • There is indirect evidence that the provision of health, education and public services matters more for poverty than the Central government’s poverty alleviation schemes in place for almost half a century.
  • A discernible pattern is that the southern and western regions of India have lower poverty than the northern, central and eastern ones.
  • This, very likely, is related to higher human development attainment in the former. This indicator is based on the health and education status of a population apart from per capita income, bringing us back to the relevance of income generation to poverty.

Way Forward

  • There is a crucial role for services, of both producer and consumer variety, in eliminating the capability deprivation that is poverty.
  • As these services cannot always be purchased in the market, income support alone cannot be sufficient to eliminate poverty.
  • It is in recognition of the role of services in enabling people to lead a productive and dignified life that the idea of multi-dimensionality has taken hold in the thinking on poverty globally.
  • At a minimum these services would involve the supply of water, sanitation and housing apart from health and education.
  • It has been estimated that if the absence of such services is accounted for, poverty in India would be found to be far higher than recorded at present.
  • The budgetary implication of the scale at which public services would have to be provided if we are to eliminate multi-dimensional poverty may now be imagined.
  • This allows us to appraise the challenge of ending effective poverty and to assess the potential of the income-support schemes proposed by the main political parties. There are no short cuts to ending poverty, but ending it soon is not insurmountable either.
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