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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS– Necessary steps to ending poverty

The Editorial covers GS paper 2: Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections.

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Introduction

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

How Income generation and poverty elimination are inter-linked?

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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 India is still haunted by poverty?

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  • 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. 
  • 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. 

Why welfare programmes are more efficient?

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  • 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 determines whether the poor will remain so or exit poverty permanently.

How can UBI help?

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  • 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.

What are the needs of the hour?

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  • 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.

Conclusion

  • 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.

Source: The Hindu.