“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in the world, none of us can truly exist.” – Nelson Mandela
Our country has been facing poverty since independence. Situation of poverty accompanies lack of basic necessities, unemployment, low income, food scarcity, etc. India’s position in Global Hunger Index (herein “GHI”) is 94 out of 107 countries with a score of 27.2, i.e. serious state of condition. GHI is calculated by taking into consideration undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, child morality of a nation. According to Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (herein “Global MPI”), India ranks 62nd out of 107 countries. There are 3 dimensions of poverty that are health, education and standard of living. Keeping these criteria in view, the poverty index is measured by the United Nations Development Programme.
Eradication of poverty is important for the growth of individuals and the economy of the nation. Poverty causes hindrance in the growth as rich are becoming richer and poor are becoming poorer because of unequal distribution of opportunities, wealth and amenities amongst the population.
We know that poverty is pervasive and has far reaching effects in society, so to eliminate the poverty we need a far reaching solution. India has attempted a plethora of poverty alleviation measures so far. Since the government plays a key role in the fight against poverty, they launched the First program to alleviate rural poverty which was launched in the 1980s. Since then there has been the introduction of various schemes, opportunities offered, etc. to help in eradicating poverty. The government has to empower the people living in rural as well as urban areas to manage and optimally use the resources with them.
Schemes Launched for Poverty Alleviation
- Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
This scheme was launched in 2015 for providing affordable housing to all people in urban and rural areas. This scheme was a centrally sponsored scheme in which it was promised that by 31.03.2022, every family living in urban or rural areas will have their own pucca house with proper facility of toilet, water connection and electricity supply and access.
This scheme is divided into two components – Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Rural (PMAY-G).
Under this scheme, Housing for All Mission (HFA) was launched which focused on :
- Providing affordable housing to the weaker sections of the society though credit linked subsidy.
- With the help of private developers, slum rehabilitation of the slum dwellers by using land as a resource.
- Providing affordable housing in partnership with the private and public sector.
The people who are covered under this scheme are :
- Economical Weaker Section having annual income cap of 3 Lakh Rupees.
- Low Income Groups having annual income cap from 3 Lakh – 6 Lakh Rupees.
- Middle Income Groups having annual income cap from 6 Lakh – 18 Lakh Rupees.
- Slum dwellers, who live in unhygienic and unhealthy conditions, poorly build residence with no proper sanitation, drinking water, etc.
- Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
This scheme was introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016. This step was taken while taking into consideration the harmful effect on human health by using fossil fuel to cook the food in rural and urban areas by families belonging to BPL groups. The pollution caused indoors while preparing for the food has led to serious respiratory disorder in children.
The scheme has resulted in replacement of the old method of cooking food with new healthy cooking fuel. Further, it has boosted women empowerment and it was promised that the health of women, children and other people living in houses should not be compromised at any cost.
The key features of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana are:
- It provides 5 crore LPG connections to the Below Poverty Line families.
- The cost which is involved in installation of LPG will be generated by the Government.
- Interest free loans will be provided to the BPL families for stove and refill cost.
- Financial support will be given by the government of 1,600 Rupees to the BPL families.
For the families to get the benefits under this scheme, they require:
- BPL ration card;
- Applicant (Woman) should be above the age of 18;
- It must have a savings account in a bank.
- It must not have any previous LPG connection.
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana
This scheme was launched in 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It opened opportunities for the lower income groups of the society in respect to the banking facilities. The main and primary focus of the scheme was to target the families with lower income groups and encourage them to open bank accounts by providing them with various benefits. The banking facility will help them in managing their savings, avail and access the credit facilities, pension and insurance benefits.
Salient features of PMJDY are:
- One person can open only one account in its name;
- There is no requirement of minimum balance to open or operate an account;
- Interest will be provided on the amount deposited in the bank account;
- The account holder is covered under accident insurance also. The accounts active before 28th August 2018 are covered for 1 Lakh Rupees and the accounts active after the said date are covered for 2 Lakh Rupees.
According to the data, till 19th August 2020, approx. 40 crore of accounts have been opened under PMJDY. People living in rural areas and women are seen more participating and opening their bank accounts – out of the 40 crore accounts, 63% approx. are accounts opened in rural areas and 55% approx. are accounts which belong to women. This scheme provides banking facilities to all citizens of India irrespective of caste, gender, religion, etc.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA)
It is a scheme which aims to provide a minimum of 100 days of guaranteed non-skilled manual employment to rural workers every year. The scheme acts as a source of livelihood to the most vulnerable population living in rural India, so that they are able to sustain themselves. It was implemented in 2005 in phases and it covers all districts of the country with the exception of those that have 100% urban population. As of 11 February 2021, 708 districts are covered under MNREGA.
The goal for implementing this scheme was:
- To provide social security to a fraction of the population which is economically weak and unemployed.
- Decrease migration of labour force from rural areas to urban areas.
- To enhance Panchayati Raj establishments in India.
- Augmenting the economic security of the rural sector by increasing wage employment opportunities.
- Mid Day Meal Scheme
The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education was launched on 15th August 1995 and later in 2001, The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India ordered all the state and UT government to enforce the Mid Day Meal Scheme and the children who are going to Government or Government aided schools should be provided with cooked meals. The scheme was a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. The nutritional standards are set for the schools to comply with minimum of 300 Calories and 8-12g of Protein per day and the schools have to serve for a minimum of 200 days in a year.
The main objective of MDM scheme was:
- To eliminate mal-nutrition amongst the children because due to poverty many children were not getting the adequate amount of nutrition which they require for proper growth and development of the child.
- It encourages the parents, living in rural areas or of disadvantaged sections, to send their children to attend the school regularly and educate themselves properly as it gives them the benefit of having proper healthy food to eat.
- It also resolves all the deficiency related diseases in the country.
MDM Scheme aimed at primary two goals i.e. Quality Education of children and Zero Hunger amongst the children.
- Public Distribution System
Under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, PDS was established for the purpose to manage the food distribution amongst the disadvantaged section at an affordable and subsidised price. PDS includes rice, wheat, sugar, kerosene, etc. which are available at shops in the whole country. This system helps to isolate the disadvantaged section from the impact of inflation and rising price in respect to these commodities which helps them to buy at subsidised prices and maintain their nutritional intake for proper health.
For the proper implementation of the system, the government has appointed an agency for PDS which is Food Corporation of India (FCI). Initially, FCI procure the commodities from the farmers at Minimum Support Price fixed by the government. Further, FCI sells these commodities to states at central issue price. FCI is responsible for transportation from farmers to the respective godowns of each state and then the state bears the responsibility of allocation of the commodities to various ration shops where the end beneficiary buys the items at subsidised rates.
As a part of our research, only the above mentioned schemes were taken into the process to access the implementation at grass root level. Whether these schemes are helping the targeted population? Whether the schemes have proper execution or are they mere promises written on the paper?
Further in the paper, we will be discussing the survey conducted on the population.
Due to the pandemic, physically reaching out to the slums and backward areas for the purpose to get the survey was not possible. So, the survey was distributed amongst the family and friends, they got it filled from their maids or any person who is poverty stricken in their locality.
The respondents were asked to answer the questions related to the implementation of government schemes.
The Study depicts that the age of the respondents varies from 25 to 61 where 71.4% of them were female and remaining 28.6% were male. 85.7% of them were married. The findings of the study indicated that around 92% of the population have more than 4 members in their families where only a mere number of people are employed.
Even after establishment a fair amount of different uplifting schemes, the results were disappointing. The study shows that a large number of people did not have access to basic amenities even after they were registered under such schemes. So, the question arises, why is the targeted population not being benefited from these programs? Even after introducing these schemes, there are people who are still suffering from lack of facilities and opportunities.
Ration card is an official document which is issued by the state government for the people. This card provides benefits to the eligible households to buy essential food grains at subsidized rate under NFSA, which helps to isolate them from the inflation in the market.
The survey conducted showed that 92.9% of the population is having the ration card issued by the Government but it can also be observed that only 85.7% of the population is getting essential commodities at subsidized rate.
Amongst the respondent, 42.9% of population belongs to Schedule Caste, 14.3% of population belongs to Schedule Tribe, 21.4% of population belongs to Other Backward Class and remaining 21.4% of population belongs to General category.
Distribution of Population by Caste
Below Poverty Line (BPL) Card is issued by the government to the households which fall below the poverty line. BPL Card includes facilities like access to free healthcare facilities and monthly access to subsidized food products apart from the essential commodities. They also receive 20 kg- 30 kg of food grains at 50% lower cost. According to the respondents, 50% of the population is issued with BPL cards and others are not. The population who are issued with the BPL card are getting the cooking gas at subsidized price (50%) but the percentage of population getting benefit of BPL card should be increased as the main purpose of segregating the households/individuals as “Below Poverty Line” and issuing them the card is that they do not get affected by the inflation in the market. They are isolated from experiencing the high prices for the essential and basic commodities required for living.
85.7% of the population is having rehabilitation of slums by government or other organisations but still the people are facing problems related to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities in their area. 71.4% of the population is getting access to clean drinking water for their household, 7.1% of the population sometimes have access to clean drinking water and the remaining 21.4% does not have proper access but clean drinking water being an essential for living. The government should work and formulate plans to provide clean drinking water to every individual of the country. In regards to sanitation facilities, 78.6% of the population has a sanitation facility in the area where they live and the remaining 21.4% lacks the basic sanitation facility.
Out of the total population, 71.4% have children at their home. Questions regarding proper education guaranteed by the government and Mid-day meal scheme were asked. The result came out that only 64.3% of the population gets the basic proper education till the age of 14 for their children and the other 28.6% disagreed as there is no proper opportunity for their child to go to obtain education. Further, the mid-day meal scheme is benefitting only 50% of the population.
People benefited from Mid Day Meal Scheme
A question was put forward that which government scheme is beneficial to respondent and following options were given, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Mid Day Meal Scheme, Public Distribution System. Only 7.7% of the population is benefited by Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, 23.1 % of the population is benefited from Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, 23.1% of the population is benefited from Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, 23.1% of the population is benefited from Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 46.2% of the population is benefited from Mid-Day Meal Scheme and lastly 38.5% of the population is benefited from Public Distribution System.
Distribution of population benefited from different government schemes
The respondents were asked about the implementation of the poverty alleviation schemes, most of them were not satisfied by the implementation and gave several different responses like benefits promised by Government is not reaching the people, no proper facilities or opportunities for the people, mere promises made by Government, etc. These responses reflect that the Government is not able to fulfil their promises made to the people and failed to provide basic facilities to all the people for survival in these times which is very disheartening.
Respondents made few suggestions in regard with the poverty alleviation schemes which shows how much these people are struggling for their survival. One of the suggestion was that the government should allocate more funding for essential commodities, sanitation facility, drinkable water, etc. rather than spending that money on avoidable work (i.e. Ram Mandir, Statue of Unity, Central Vista Project, etc.); other suggestion was given by respondent while keeping in mind the current situation of pandemic, that is, the government should provide financial assistance to the poor families because it is becoming difficult for the daily wage workers and other families with low income to survive the pandemic. Further, suggestions were that the government should work on grass-root level and implement the schemes with proper instruction, so that it reaches the masses.
We have witnessed that spread of poverty amongst the people results in the downfall of the economy of a country. For growth of any nation, developed or developing, elimination of poverty from the grass-root level is expected from the Government. Government formulates and introduces various poverty alleviation schemes for uplifting the status of people who are suffering from poverty.
During these difficult times of pandemic when all the nations across the globe are struggling, vulnerability of the people can be seen. Countries like India with a population of 137 Crores (Approx.) have been working in providing food, financial assistance, medical assistance to the people who cannot afford. As due to pandemic, major businesses, construction sites, shops, etc., were closed. It was very difficult for daily wage earners and people with low income to survive and provide basic necessities to their families.
By virtue of our survey, we have collected data to comprehend and analyze the implementation of the poverty alleviation schemes in our country. We have mentioned in the beginning of the research paper that the various schemes which are introduced benefits the targeted audience in different ways like one of the scheme focuses on providing cooking gas subsidised to the eligible families, the other scheme focuses on isolating the families from inflation in the market in respect of essential commodities, another scheme worked in providing quality education to the children till the age of 14 and also provided mid-day meals to the children to fulfil their nutrition required for proper growth. The intention of the schemes are appreciable as it really focuses on protecting and alleviating the poverty stricken families. If these schemes are implemented with proper framework and instruction, it can help India as a nation to provide better quality of living to the people and increase in the economy of the country. But as we have analysed the responses on our survey and interacted with the respondent, we got an insight of the situation of people. It is noticed that the schemes look beneficial and attractive but the implementation is not reaching the mass population for whom they are formulated. The families are registered for various schemes but the benefit is not enjoyed by everybody. Respondents have commented that the implementation needs to be improved and proper instructions should be provided.
The most enjoyed scheme amongst above mentioned schemes is the mid-day meal scheme. 46.2% of the population is getting the benefit out of it. The children are getting cooked meal in their school and are provided with proper education but few flaws are witnessed in this scheme too .i.e. the meal is not up to the nutrition standard which is required or the meal provided to the children is not properly cooked, some of these cases are reported by various news channels.
The second most enjoyed scheme is the Public Distribution System in which essential commodities like wheat, rice, dal, etc. are provided to the eligible families at subsidised price.
In my opinion, the goals and objectives set in various government schemes are tremendous. If it is achieved, it can result in reduction of poverty in the nation and provide quality of life to every individual but the government is lacking in proper implementation. Government has to put some more effort into making the whole process effective and efficient. The funds which are allotted for the schemes should be monitored by the government properly that it is being used optimally and fulfilling all the standards and criterion of the scheme. The focus should be benefitting the mass population because in the end it will result in the ultimate objective of reducing and eradicating poverty from the nation.