Let’s do everything we can to end poverty
The government should focus on labour-intensive projects; moreover, all the benefits of economic growth should trickle down to the target groups
Poverty with its penumbra marginalizes the growth and development of a nation. Since there is the choice of Hobson, we must move towards its eradication.
Poverty is no longer seen as limited to economic factors alone. A broader view of poverty deprivation indicators such as life expectancy, education index (years of schooling), standard of living, inequality in the distribution of assets, gender inequality and, finally, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI sets out various determinants of poverty beyond income level. Multiple deprivation is manifested by deprivation and backwardness in health, education and standard of living. It is clear that poverty is (and recognized as) a multidimensional concept based on deprivation.
The Constitution contains many provisions that may relate to poverty and its alleviation. While the preamble mentions the word “socialist”, article 14 (equality before the law), article 21 (protection of life and freedom: life means a dignified life, not only an animal life) , article 23 (prohibition of the circulation of human beings and forced labour) also touches directly or indirectly on the question of poverty. Under the guiding principles of state policy in the Constitution, Article 38 (social order, welfare of people), Article 39 (a) (right to adequate subsistence), the Article 41 (right to work), Article 42 and Article 43 also touch on issues related to poverty. But then why after so many years have we still not emerged from the quagmire of poverty, which has severely affected the economy, society and all related sectors?
Further examination, analysis and understanding would reveal which is the right way and we could discern the reason (for our inability as well) to lessen the effect of poverty. The measures to be taken to alleviate the hardships of the poverty-stricken people can be classified into two categories. Both methods can be broadly delineated as prophylactic and curative (in the former, it must be seen that no person above the poverty line (APL) falls into the poverty trap. It is a means of controlling the worsening of the standard of living of the poor.
Steps of preventive methods would include accelerating economic growth and rapid infrastructure development. Emphasis on human resource development, the proper functioning of public distribution systems and the growth of agricultural/non-agricultural employment. Agricultural growth also has a direct impact on reducing conditions of poverty. For a long time in the 1950s and 1960s, many growth models like the Harrod-Domar growth model and the Mahalanobis growth model emphasized rapid economic growth and a higher rate of capital formation for growth quick economy. They stressed that rapid economic growth would solve the problem. But although the GDP growth rate reached a range of 5.5 to 6 percent per year in the 1980s and 1990s, it could not have a significant impact on reducing poverty and creating employment. jobs.
What is the remedy? The remedy as such is to shift the focus to labour-intensive projects and furthermore to ensure that the benefits of economic growth trickle down to the target groups (those living below the poverty line). Montek Ahluwalia said that agricultural growth and poverty are inversely linked. The higher the agricultural growth, the lower the poverty rate. Punjab and Haryana in the sixties showed the way in this direction. But lately, the increased mechanization of agricultural operations has affected job creation in this sector. Nevertheless, agriculture being the mainstay of our economy, measures to ensure the growth and development of this sector (in rainfed and water-scarce areas through irrigation) would improve the condition of small farmers and farmers marginals.
Rapid infrastructure development would boost growth with a direct impact on poverty reduction. In addition, the growth of non-agricultural employment such as petty trade, transport, crafts, dairy industry, etc. can have a direct impact on the eradication of poverty. Poor households spend about 80% of their income on food purchases. Therefore, ensuring food security and the proper functioning of the public distribution system is a must for a frontal attack on poverty. If these methods are seriously and sincerely implemented and monitored, the condition of the poor will gradually improve and lift them out of the poverty trap.
The curative method is more critical and requires massive efforts to propel people out of the net of poverty. Broadly speaking, the steps would include access to sustainable livelihoods, universal access to basic social services, provision of a socio-economic protection system to support those who cannot support themselves needs.
Solutions must be found to combat the regional poverty syndrome. While short-term solutions may hinge on government poverty reduction and job creation programs and their rapid implementation, long-term policy should take into account factors such as the control of population, regional problems and meeting the minimum needs of the poor. The need of the hour is for a paradigm shift in the approach to eradicating poverty. Economists (like Nobel laureate Amartya Sen) having emphasized the concept of deprivation as the predominant symptom of poverty (beyond the calculation of income and level of consumption), a frontal attack to tackle the deprivation factor of the poor can increase the momentum to lift them from below the poverty line.
(The author is a retired senior IAS officer. Opinions expressed are personal.)