India is considered a fast growing economy in present day world. Astute economic development has been possible largely due to fairly stable political support given to the need. But despite political gambits we have not been able to share this rising fortune by redistributing gains fairly with our poorer populations. Despite the country’s spectacular GDP growth rates India remains poverty stricken. Acutely so in rural areas, that are home to 70% of its people.
What is reproachful is that our country spends only 4.1% of its GDP on health! This is half of what China spends and surprisingly public expenditure on health by Russia and Brazil exceeds ours. We in India have been fighting poverty for over sixty years now. And yet it remains rampant in the length and breadth of the country. Despite the anti-poverty policies since independence, decline in poverty appears nowhere in sight. Notwithstanding our entry into global markets we miserably lag behind.
The omnipresent face of poverty in India is there for all to see. India uses an income-based poverty definition and also consumption-based poverty statistics.You would be taken aback to learn that the latter norm was used to measure by a poverty-line that follows the ridiculous and archaic “starvation line”. This insidious decisive factor accounted for the feeling of satiety, measured in calories! Of course the criteria has been under continuous flak. More so as World Bank’s contentious poverty line drew inspiration from the Indian model!
What this meant was that the bare minimum required for the human body to survive is what is said to be the threshold for allaying poverty!! Access to things like clean water, shelter or education is not a marker for defining poverty. It is a fact that 50% of Indians do not have proper shelter, 70% do not have access to toilets, 35% do not have access to water supply, 85% of villages do not have secondary schools/colleges and additionally they do not have roads connectivity.
How then, does an enhanced annual GDP growth help the situation? And what exactly are the political ramifications for including poverty line populations in the haphazard growth syndrome. Where do the 600 million poor figure in all of this. It looks like political parties and governments work for the well-off segments of populations, and pay mere lip-service to the poverty affected by allocating schemes that never really make a difference or amount to much. Moreover there is hardly any accountability ensuring outreach in terms of sustainability.
What needs to be done on a priority basis is to redefine the poverty line definition making it more comprehensive. It ought to include detailed parameters like education, sanitation, shelters, livelihoods and so on. In view of the large size of the country and also as poverty differs from region to region, criterion should be adapted as per state government regulations vis-à-vis the required pace of economic growth. Health, Education, Employment should be the three pronged road-map for Rural Development to alleviate poverty.
Special attention has to be focused on urban poverty syndrome that directly results in rural migration creating unemployment and poverty. Every state should work in a concerted manner via departmental inter-linkages to bring an end to poverty, along with slew of measures rather than simply ensuring minimum calorific survival rates. What should then be kept in mind and understood by all is that GDP is no indicator of ground realities as far as poverty prevalence is concerned.