Will you and I see poor-less India?
India’s Human Development Report 2011 had presented a rosy picture on social inclusion through economic development but it fails to a clear a paradox — the day when all Indians start their day not worrying whether they would be able to afford dinner or not.An ideal situation for any nation, most economists would say, which does not exist anywhere in the world. Even in the world’s most powerful nation United States, the demand of food from government or charity is on rise but those guys are not comparable with India.
India, unlike United States, does not have a state run system of providing cooked meal to hungry meaning millions sleep hungry every night even on the sides of sparkling high-rises in Gurgoan, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Huge migration of deprived from poor states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had its impact on Human Development Index (HDI) of these cities with Delhi losing its top position in 1999-2000 to be behind Kerala in 2009-10, the state where subsidized food is provided to all. In Delhi only 14.5 % of the population have access to subsidized food grains but, in reality, the number of poor getting these food grains is much less.
High malnutrition, which Rural Development minister described as a “puzzle” remains a bane in India’s high economic growth pathway. Even today a staggering 21.5 % of babies born in India have low birth weight, a problem that begins in the womb, for which planners have failed to find a solution.
India’s per capita availability of cereals has declined and the share of non-cereals in our thali (daily food plate) has not grown to compensate for the decline in cereal availability, the HDI report says. Our protein intake has consistently fallen since 1983, a reason for nutritional indicators for children and adults being much lower than for 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
More on darker side of India’s high economic growth story is that the number of anaemic women in 15 to 49 age group has increased by three percent in the last decade to stand at 59 % in 2009-10 and over 60 % of children in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh critically malnourished. Muslim women suffer the most from anaemia and their children have highest malnourishment among different social groups.
These indicators have direct co-relation with how India has dealt with its poverty, an object of recent statistical jugglery by the Planning Commission, which said those spending more than Rs 31 in urban area and Rs 20 in rural area every day were not poor.
Panel’s deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia had tried to justify the jugglery blaming poor statistical collection by National Sample Survey Office but his claim indicates total disdain of the planners towards the poor. With economic growth the sole focus of Ahluwalia and his team, National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy rightly asked them whether they can survive on Rs 31 a day.
In the same poverty debate, Ahluwalia had claimed that India’s poverty has fallen at a rate of one percentage point every year since 2004-05. It means that in 2011 about 32.5 % of Indians were still poor and at a current pace India would be able to eradicate poverty in another 32 years. The timeframe, to which, even able economist like Ahluwalia is non-committal knowing well that inclusive growth did not had desired impact.
Well after 64 years of Independence, we Indians are still waiting for an answer from country’s top planners on when every Indian will be on equal footing on basic standards of living and poverty would be a thing of past. Or, it will not happen, as keeping certain population poor is important for India’s divisive vote-bank politics.