Adverse comparisons between India and Africa with regard to development indicators always serve as a red rag to our governmental bull. So, the latest report from Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative that says that eight Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, account for more poor
While many African countries have unstable governments and virulent epidemics that have kept them back in terms of development parameters, we really have no such excuse. Yet, India has not been able to stave off starvation deaths, leave alone malnutrition. The pain of hunger has been cited as a human rights violation by experts in the field such as Amartya Sen. The report that casts India in an unfavourable light could be occasion to examine how best to streamline interventions to lift more people out of poverty and afford them a better quality of life. There is no dearth of schemes for the poor starting from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to legislations like the Right to Education Act. The problem is that these are managed in a scattered manner and rarely, if ever, monitored.
The government, whose enthusiasm for setting up committees knows no bounds, would do well to set up yet another one comprising experts to monitor all the well-meaning schemes meant for the poor. This would enable it to identify the black holes into which money goes and who facilitates this shortchanging of the poor. If this could be done with the efficiency with which we have become a leading IT power, we would see a rapid reduction in poverty figures. The expertise is there, the schemes are there, the will is there and so is the money. They just need to come together for once. Since we are so prickly about our image on the world stage, it would, if nothing else, spare us the embarrassment of being anachronistically bracketed in company that we don’t want to be seen in. If the government that represents the ‘aam aadmi’ fails to intervene decisively even now, we certainly will be the poorer for it.
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