Poverty fell fastest during UPA

Poverty fell fastest during UPA

Indian Rupee

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) annual report on multi-dimensional poverty is an important document that reveals the recent strides made by India in its fight against poverty. According to the report, India lifted 271 million people out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16, and made credible achievements in areas relating to nutrition, schooling, sanitation, access to drinking water, fuel and power, housing, child mortality, etc. The multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI) which it delineated is not made up of income alone but of 10 indicators based on people’s access to social benefits and facilities. The report found that India made the fastest reduction in absolute poverty, measured by the index, among the 10 poorest countries in the developing world. Within India, the fastest reduction in poverty was in Jharkhand. The decline of poverty between 2005-06 to 2015-16 was the fastest in India’s recorded history. 

This was possible because of the high and steady economic growth of about 8% during that period. The trickle-down effect of growth and the boost to incomes were supported and complemented by policies and activities in the social sector and by welfare programmes. The programmes which encouraged and promoted health, education, sanitation, and availability of facilities and conveniences like fuel and electricity improved the standard of life of millions of people. The high growth rate also boosted revenues and enabled the government to implement pro-poor schemes in these sectors and to launch employment plans like the MGNREGA. The effect was seen in all states, and those which managed these schemes better saw better results. The report said that “poverty reduction in rural areas outpaced that in urban areas’’ and the poorest 40% had the greatest relative improvement. The report also observed that “India demonstrated the clearest pro-poor pattern at the subnational level,’’ with the poorest regions reducing poverty fastest. 

These are creditable achievements. But there is much more to be done because India still has the largest number of poor people in the world. Not all social groups have gained in equal measure. The lives of Muslims and Scheduled Tribes did not improve as much as those of others. The performance in the field of child nutrition was below par. But even with underperformance in some areas, the overall achievement was impressive. It should also be noted that most of the period under study was the period when the UPA was in power which, according to the present government, was a dark period when growth was slow and did not benefit the people. It is no surprise, therefore, that the report did not receive much attention and recognition from the Modi government. But it must be hoped that while the government publicly ignores the report, it will privately draw the right lessons from it.