The Global Hunger Index (GHI) has in its report released by US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ranked India 97 of 118 countries. The 28.5 GHI score of India in the 2016 ranking looks dismal when compared to the developing country average score of 21.3. All other south Asian countries are comparatively better placed; Nepal (72), Myanmar (75), Sri Lanka (84) and Bangladesh (90). There is no doubt that the situation is grave and the government needs to take immediate measures to alleviate poverty in the country.
But before that, what needs to be understood here is that poverty is the legacy of years of misrule and only collective effort can reverse the fortunes. The incumbent government had inherited an economy that was marred by corruption, crony capitalism, parallel economy and inefficient government spending.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined the approach of the government by quoting the party ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Modi said, “Pandit ji believed that the economic model of the nation must be bottom-up, not top-down; he believed that the poor and welfare should be at the centre of all policies of the government, and only then the country would truly grow.”
The government has through schemes like Jan Dhan Yojna, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM) which ensures timely and efficient delivery of subsidies put a start to poverty alleviation. It is estimated that over Rs 36000 crore has been deposited into 22 crore accounts of citizens across the country through these schemes. This reform in public spending in addition to the multiple efforts undertaken by the government has yielded some substantial results. The GDP has accelerated to 7.6 per cent in 2015-16 from 6.6 per cent in 2013-14. CPI inflation decreased to 5.4 percent and foreign exchange reserves sit at a comfortable high of $350 billion. The current account deficit has also declined by $4 billion since last year. In addition to this, the FDI has also hit an all-time high in early 2016 according to the rating agency Moody’s reports.
It is evident from the figures that the economy is growing at a fast face and the real challenge is to ensure that it is not a jobless economic growth. The government through its schemes like Make in India, Skill India etc has tried to address the issue of unemployment. The Prime Minister has also directed the states to focus on poverty alleviation programs. Atal Bhima Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bhima Yojna and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna are some of the schemes where the state governments can play a major role in increasing its reach. Also the state governments can emulate the model of Tamil Nadu and give subsidized food to those who are below poverty line.
It is believed that lack of information is the major deterrent in eliminating poverty in India. Even if there are schemes in place for the benefit of those hailing from poor backgrounds, it is seldom availed due to lack of knowledge. Here the ambitious Garib Kalyan Yojna of the government is expected to spread awareness and help those who are in need of help. In spite of all the positive measures, the fact remains that the government has to do a lot more to bring the situation under control. Perhaps it is time to think of a social security scheme which takes care of the basic needs of the population.