Indian Poverty and slums: Government perspective
Republic of India is a biggest democracy and the second most populous country in the world. Geographically, it is situated in South Asia and with its vast area, it is the seventh largest country in the world. As a newly industrial state, the economy of the country is considered as eleventh-largest by nominal gross domestic product (GDP) and third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) in the world (Ravallion and Martin, 2008). The economic progress witnesses the reduction of poverty to 21.9 percent. However, about 68 million people still live in slums (Census, 2011). United Nations report reveals that third of the world’s poorest people live in India (Ravallion and Martin, 2008).
In India, about 269.3 million people are poor. They have limited access to basic requirements of life like pure drinking water, education, healthcare, security etcetera. Nineteen cities in India have a million plus population with 25 percent live in slums. A majority of the slum population i.e., 71 percent exist in six states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, west Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Also, ten places in the country were identified as 'all-slum towns.' The state of Jammu and Kashmir alone has got its five places as 'all-slum towns' (Rehman, and Srinavasan, 2013).
Indian poverty incidence is declining. As per 2001 census, 23.5 percent of households in urban areas live in slums but according to latest census, it came down to 17.4 percent (census 2011). In India, there are about 17.35 million slum houses and 13.74 million slum households with 68 million people living in the slum areas (census, 2011).
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 2000) described being poor as those people who have no food to eat, lack shelter and clothing, suffer from diseases and with no healthcare, and are illiterate and not schooled. These people are mostly susceptible to harsh situational conditions, with almost no power to overcome. They are kept devoid of their basic rights and are treated worse by the society. Being an economically emerging country, India struggles to improve the quality of life of its citizens. India has weak governance to deal with providing of the basic public services such as water, education, health, sanitation etcetera. Corruption is prevalent, accountability mechanisms are not executed and service distribution is morbid (Loughhead, Mittal, Wood, 2011 referencing (DFID, 1999)). Such performance contributes to chaos and does not facilitate improvement. These factors act as barriers in the development process.
Mumbai city has the largest about 41 percent absolute slum dwellers in India. New Delhi, the capital city, has 15 percent of households in slums and 30percent and 29percent respectively in the cities of Kolkata and Chennai. The other two metro cities, Kolkata and Chennai have 30 percent and 29 percent slum households respectively. The capital city, Delhi, has about 15 percent households in slums. There are very less municipal facilities in the slum areas of the metropolitan cities (Rehman, 2013).
According to a study (Department for International Development (DFID), 1999), the needs of poor people can be broadly characterised as survival, security and quality of life. These categories reveal the need aspect of the poor people, indicating the areas that need to be addressed to get them above the poverty line.
Over the past seven decades, the government of India and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) made organized efforts to reduce the poverty, and it declined from 55percent in 1973-74 to 27.5 percent in 2004-05 to 21.9 percent in 2011. However, due to population growth, the number of the poor remained more or less same.
Poverty has its adverse effects on the lives of the poor people. It leads to malnutrition due to less dietary intake, infectious diseases, insufficient medical facilities etcetera. Up to the age of five about 48percent of children are stunted and about 43percent are underweight in India (NFHS-3, 2005-06).
In order to uplift the children and elderly people of the country by providing them a good quality education and healthcare, the central government launched various schemes including Midday Meal scheme, Annapoorna scheme, and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) etcetera. The Midday Meal scheme benefited children from an estimated 22.8percent of rural households in 2004-2005; 5.7percent of rural households were benefitted by the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS); however, only about 2.7percent were helped by the Food for Work Scheme, and the Annapoorna scheme for the elderly promoted about 0.9percent of the rural population. In urban India, the Midday Meal scheme benefitted the children from 8percent of households, and the ICDS scheme helped 1.8percent households. Annapoorna benefitted only 0.9 percent of the urban households while as only about 0.1percent from Food for Work (ICR, 2013).
The union government of Indian introduced ‘Rajiv Awas Yogna (RAY)’ to build ‘Slum Free India’ during 2013-2022. The scheme focuses on bringing the slum dwellers and the urban poor within the formal system and empowers them to avail the basic conveniences of the town including legal housing, security, and employment etcetera.
The government of India began to decrease the incidence of poverty in 1960. For this purpose, the Indian government started a number of schemes that help to reduce the poverty. The Schemes include Jawahar Rozgar Yojana, Employment Assurance Scheme, Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana , Food for Work Programme, , Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana etcetera. It also started Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in 2005. MNREGA provides one hundred days of non-skilled work to rural adults (at least 18 years old) of the country. This act guarantees the right to work and ensure the right to work. The main purpose of the act is to uplift the rural masses of the country.
Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM, launched from 2005-march, 2012), ensured to improve the quality of life and infrastructure of the cities in India. Such policies obviously help the poor people to rise above the poverty line but, at aver y slow rate.
The implementation of these systematic efforts could contribute to the reduction of the poverty. International bodies support the country to be more productive by generating the employment opportunities and improving the quality of life. Despite the implementations of strategic qualitative plans to reduce the incidence of poverty in Indian state, there remains a chasm between goals and targets and their achievement. Developmental policies surely operate in the country but the accountability aspects still need to be revised. However, the developmental plans need more focussed and accurate because of the large population. Poverty has its consequences associated with it. It escalates crime, sex slavery and social exploitation. Poverty in the country is, obviously, declining but at a slow rate. The country need to formulate more concrete plans and more objective purposes to ease the developmental process. Mutual cooperation between the slum dwellers and the development organizations including the central and state governments can pay the best results. Educating people about health cre, empowering children (also girls), skills training, and positive attitude in improving the life standards can be helpful to eradicate poverty from the country.
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