Modi's 'sabka vikas': Can it help India's poor?

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One-third of world’s extreme poor are in India.
Despite being Asia's third-largest economy, India is home to the largest number of poor with one-third of the extreme poor global population living here.

According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) report for 2014, India tops the list of countries with the largest share of global extreme poor and has also recorded the highest number of under-five deaths in the world.

One-third of world’s extreme poor live in India

The report also revealed that almost 60 per cent of the people who defecate in open reside in India, which has also accounted for 17 per cent of global maternal deaths. South Asia, of which India is the largest and most populous country, has fared worse than other Asian regions in most of the parameters.

All these figures are giving a clear message to the Government that a more intense fight is needed against poverty, child mortality and open defecation in our country.

Poverty rates: India vs other countries

From 51% in 1990, poverty rates in Southern Asia came down to 30% in 2010. In China, the figures came down from 60% in 1990 to 12% in 2010. Now if we look at the figures in India, the figures changed from 49.4% in 1994 to 32.7% in 2010. As per a TOI report, two-thirds of the extreme poor (those who lived on income less than $ 1 a day) live in India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Congo.

Understanding the new benchmark for poverty

A panel headed by former PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan, estimated that about one-third of India's population (2011-12) are below the poverty line. The panel suggested that a person spending less than Rs 1,407 a month (Rs 47/day) would be considered poor in cities, and in villages, those spending less than Rs 972 a month (Rs 32/day) would be considered poor.

These benchmarks keep changing because of which the estimation of number of poor in our country also keeps on changing but which benchmark is right and which is wrong is not known to anyone.

As per The Hindu report, the international poverty line, as defined by the World Bank keeping in mind the standards of the world's poorest countries, stands at $1.25 a day, which translates to about ₹75 (if $1 = ₹60). This is the definition used by the UN as well.

Other findings of the UN report:

The UN report also said, "India had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children dying before reaching their fifth birthday."

Sanitation is another area which brings woe for India. It retains its infamous status as having the biggest population without access to proper toilets. "Close to 60 per cent of the one billion people practising open defecation live in India," the UN report notes.

The Government's say:

Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla, who had a long association with the UN programme and was closely involved with it during the previous NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said that these findings present a challenge to the government under Narendra Modi. She also said that they will soon be able to surmount this challenge to bring "achche din" and good days will come for sure she said.

Stressing on Prime Minister's commitment to poverty elimination and "sabka saath sabka vikas" she said, "We don't have to be proud of what we have done. Poverty is the biggest challenge... I am sure when the next report comes, we will have done much better."

As per a prediction by The World Bank, by 2015, 40 per cent of the estimated 970 million people living on less than $1.25 a day will be from Southern Asia of which India is a major part. So rather than deciding the benchmarks of poverty, we should find out the root cause of these problems and solve them to improve.

While delivering his maiden budget in Parliament, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, "The people are in no mood to suffer unemployment, inadequate basic amenities, lack of infrastructure and apathetic governance. The Indian economy will have to maneuver its way through a sluggish global recovery."

We should thank the erstwhile Government for all this but will India free itself from the curse of poverty under the Modi Government and will good days come for India is to be waited for.

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