Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum 2010 arrow Poverty Syndrome:RURAL REJUVENATION CRUCIAL,Dhurjati Mukherjee, 17 April 2010
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Poverty Syndrome:RURAL REJUVENATION CRUCIAL,Dhurjati Mukherjee, 17 April 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 17 April 2010

Poverty Syndrome



By Dhurjati Mukherjee


The government has regularly been providing figures to what extent poverty exists in the country. However, experts believe these could be double instead i.e. anything around 40 per cent of the population. Recently, the Suresh Tendulkar report estimated 37 per cent of the total population was under the poverty line while the proportion of the poor was almost 42 per cent in rural areas.


Indeed, this is a sharp hike from the official poverty estimates of 27.5 per cent for the country and 28.3 per cent for rural areas. Over half of the rural population in States such as Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are still living under abject poverty and are unable to meet their basic necessities of food, health and education.  


Earlier, the World Bank estimated that India had 456 million people (42 per cent of the population) living below the new international poverty line of $ 1.25 a day. Also the country had 826 million people (75.6 per cent of the population) living below $2 a day which was more than that of Sub-Saharan Africa, considered the world’s poorest region.


Even the Saxena Committee, constituted by the Rural Development Ministry, came out with an alarming figure of over 49 per cent of the population existing below the poverty line. The number of poor is estimated to be over 400-450 million (or even more) of which ¾ live in the countryside There is another major section of 150-250 million who have to struggle for existence with meagre earnings equivalent to $1.5/2  a day. The number of rural landless families increased from 35 per cent in 1987 to 45 per cent in early 2000 and to 55 per cent in 2005, which may be anything around 60 per cent presently.


The lowest poverty ratio was 5.4 per cent for Jammu & Kashmir and highest for Orissa (46.4 per cent). Nine States namely, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Orissa accounted for nearly 76.2 per cent of the total rural poor in 2004-05 as compared to 62.3 per cent in 1973-74. The concentration of the poor has increased in these States except Maharashtra and West Bengal.


An estimated 23 per cent of the poor do not have a ration card, let alone the BPL card. Though there have been demands for a national survey to identify the poor, whatever welfare measures that are in vogue do not reach even 40 per cent of the beneficiaries. The delivery mechanism is poor. The panchayats either do not have the capacity to deliver the goods or political squabbling as also corruption and favouritism come in the way of delivery and intended services for the impoverished. 


As the level of consumption came in for criticism, the Planning Commission has reviewed the issue. The exercise is also significant as the government is interested to reach food to all those who are hungry. But with high inflation and rising cost of essential commodities, the BPL families have been struggling to ensure two square meals a day. 


Meanwhile, it has been found that the Rs 5000 crore National Food Security Mission (NFSM), launched to ensure food security for all by 2012, may be inadequate to meet the demand for foodgrains. While the total production has been estimated to touch 230 million tonnes by 2012, this is expected to fall short of the demand by 4.15 million tonnes.


The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that one-fifth of the Indian population is undernourished because of poverty. With general consumption being on the rise and a changing pattern discernible there would be an increasing pressure on foodgrains. It is thus prudent for the Centre to set up the Central Food Security Fund to monetarily compensate the BPL beneficiaries of the targeted PDS who fail to get the mandatory 25 kg of wheat or rice per family per month at a subsidized rate of Rs 3 per kg. The four years of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has had some impact on the rural areas as the poor use over 70-80 per cent of their income on food, and the demand projections may increase.  


Besides, the 11th Plan emphasized on certain measures for taking agriculture to a higher trajectory of four per cent annual growth for tackling poverty. Apart from making low-cost technology available to the small farmers at the grass-root level, some of the specific measures outlined in the Plan include: improving water management, rainwater harvesting and watershed development; reclaiming degraded land for cultivation and focusing on soil quality; bridging the gap through effective extension at the grass root level; diversifying into high-value outputs, fruits, flowers, medicinal plants, bio-diesel etc.; providing easy access to credit at affordable rates; and  improving the incentive structure and functioning of markets.


Let us now refer to the strategies envisaged in terms of generation of income through Scenario-I and Scenario-II (Mission Mode) approach to poverty eradication by 2015-16. As per projections by the Ministry of Rural Development, the NREGA envisaged providing wage employment of 100 days to the entire BPL household thereby ensuring an income of Rs 8000 per household. Under SGSY (Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana), 2.8 crore household are expected to enter into the economic activity zone through Scenario-II approach of which 1.4 crore households would be able to get incremental income of around Rs 14,000 by 2015-16. Also through Skills Development & Placement Programme 1.7 crore BPL youth would be able to earn at least Rs 24,000 per annum. The Social Security Programme would cover 3 crore beneficiaries and thereby supplement family income by Rs 4800 per annum by 2012-13.


New strategies in the realm of agriculture, agro-industries, wage employment, self employment, non urban-based knowledge parks and revitalization of small and cottage industries have to be conceived. Thus the basic element of the poverty eradication strategy has now to focus on the development needs of the rural areas so as to rehabilitate the poor and the half-starved farmer and his family. More resources have to be allocated for such development.


In view of the growing demand for food, there has to be strong emphasis on modernizing agriculture and increasing and diversifying foodgrains production. This would entail ensuring three crops per year, encouraging horticulture and floriculture production and keeping an eye on productivity increase. Since land holdings have become smaller over the years, cooperatives should be encouraged to cultivate a few holdings together and then share the produce equitably. The output would have to increase considerably and benefit the poor farmer. But for this, the panchayats need to come forward and ensure that the land yields optimum and value-based products while all sorts of inputs have to be made available free of cost to these cooperatives. Moreover the government has to ensure that agricultural land should under no circumstances be used for industrial/township development.


Obviously, requisite agricultural reforms have to be brought forth for efficient use of resources and conservation of soil, water and ecology on a substantive basis along with introduction of newer technologies, encouraging production and use of bio-fertilizers and application of bio-genetics for improved plant and horticultural products. One may conclude with an estimate by the eminent economist, Dr. C. Rangarajan, in 1982, that a mere one per cent increase in agricultural output led to a 0.7 increase in national income and that most part of this enhanced income reached the grass-root levels of rural India and benefited the farming community. --INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT