8 Targeted Anti Poverty Measures in India
Our approach to poverty alleviation is comprehensive, not isolated. All key schemes are aimed at eliminating poverty. – Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Since 2014, the Narendra Modi government has consistently rolled out bold and far reaching policies and reforms, including implementation of the goods and service tax (GST), cleaning toxic assets from the banking system and hammering on the cult of black-money through harsh policies like demonetization and promotion of digital transactions. The impact of Modi’s humble background, his rise through personal enterprise and his remarkable insight into people’s issues are seen in the host of anti-poverty measures – ranging from promoting financial inclusion to providing free LPG and electricity connections to health insurance to the poorest masses. There is no corner of the country untouched by his integrated infrastructure development initiative.
The GST created a single market of 2.6 trillion dollar economy without local/regional trade barriers. It added more indirect tax payers and made tax evasion harder while bringing down average tax on most items from around 30 percent to 18 percent, with potential for further reduction. The long overdue insolvency and bankruptcy code of 2016 gave teeth to bankers and financial institutions besides allowing promoters to come clean. For the first time since independence, there is honest governance under the visionary leadership of a truly mass leader Narendra Modi who knows India across its length and width. And, also for the first time in the history of free India that the corrupt power-brokers and middlemen have become totally irrelevant as the benefits of government schemes go directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries and even defense purchases take place without international middlemen and kickbacks. These changes are truly profound and thus highly painful for all those who thrived in the corrupt environment till 2014! Around 80 million fake beneficiaries were weeded out of the welfare schemes through use of unique identification.
Underlining the deep-rooted culture of corruption, in 1980s an Indian Prime Minister had publicly admitted that of the welfare funds meant for the poor barely 15 percent reached the beneficiary. Middlemen and power brokers were making fortunes by siphoning out around 85 percent of the anti poverty funds. But under Modi government, 100 percent money goes directly from the government to the bank account of the recipient!
Modi government has implemented several schemes targeting the poor and ordinary people who easily make up to almost 50 percent of India’s population. They cover key areas such as financial inclusion, affordable housing, electrification, cooking fuel, spreading the fibre optics network in the rural areas, promoting skill development and entrepreneurship in different ways and speeding up work on road, rail, air and water connectivity so that every region of the country becomes part of mainstream development. Narendra Modi is also personally promoting vital social issues like girls’ education, women empowerment and sanitation. Thus, there is multi-faceted push for development, reflecting Modi’s slogan “taking all together and developing all”.
No wonder this hard working charismatic prime minister has transformed India in less than five years – in 2014 Indian economy was among the fragile five in the world; in 2018 it is the fastest growing economy that moved from the tenth to the sixth place in GDP terms!
It might be helpful if this page is read along with my widely read page highlighting causes of Indian poverty: 8 Reasons Why India is So poor
Here are Indian government's 8 focused anti-poverty initiatives since 2014.
1. Financial Inclusion
If for decades India was seen as world's poverty capital, a major reason is that almost half of its adult population remained outside the financial network. Realizing this factor, Narendra Modi’s first policy drive was to open bank accounts of the excluded Indian masses. This financial inclusion was done through a scheme called Jan Dhan Yojana. It not only ensured that the poor have access to the banking facility by opening savings account (with no minimum balance requirement), but also linked the account with other facilities such as credit, insurance, money transfer and pension. Special benefits under this scheme include accidental insurance cover of rupees 100,000 and a life cover of rupees 30,000.
It is amazing but true that over 330 million bank accounts got opened under this scheme in less than five years! What is still more remarkable is that 53 percent account owners are women and 60 percent of the total accounts are opened in the rural areas or smaller cities. These thus far ‘financially excluded’ people also deposited around rupees 81,000 crore (around 1.2 billion dollars) in their newly opened bank accounts! This reflects the fact that even the poor Indians are saving conscious. This deposited ‘cash’ is now part of the country’s formal financial system.
Clearly, it is by far world’s largest financial inclusion scheme. Welfare funds are now directly deposited into these accounts, leaving no scope for corruption by the middlemen and corrupt politicians who are clearly the angriest people today, praying for return of the good old days of corruption and defeat of Modi in April 2019 elections!
2. Housing For All
Government of India aims to provide ‘housing for all’ by 2022 when India completes its 75th year of Independence. These houses come with water connection, toilet facility and 24X7 electricity supply. The scheme was launched on November 20, 2016 and aims to build 29.5 million homes by 2022.
The immediate target of 10 million homes by March 31, 2019 is already achieved. What was mere impractical dream and a perennial election slogan for decades, is now becoming reality at a much faster pace, as the poor across India gets their ‘Home Keys’ and become home owners!!
3. Promoting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
The formal sector in India consisting of government and private sector has traditionally accounted for only 10-15 percent employment. It caters mostly to the educated class people living mostly in metro cities or other towns. The rest of the majority Indians who mostly live in the countryside and possess lower skills survive on their own in the informal sector. Thus, over 85 percent employable Indians find livelihood support in this unorganized segment of the economy. They are typically individual traders/venders of different goods, shopkeepers, artisans, plumbers, electricians, drivers, rikshaw pullers, daily wage labors and watchmen etc.
Looking at the pace of population growth, India ideally needed creation of at least 10 million new jobs every year. Most of it falls in the low-skill category. This has been a known fact, yet no prime minister took the challenge head-on.
Realizing that it is virtually impossible to create so many job positions annually in the formal segment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving thrust to the idea of self-employment through skill development and promotion of entrepreneurship by supporting ‘startups’. The government is actively encouraging young graduates to start their own business, rather than ‘looking for job’. This way they also become ‘job providers’ as their business grows.
Thus, a financial scheme called ‘Mudra Yojana’ was launched on April 8, 2015. It is designed for the non-corporate and non-farm sector micro and small enterprises whose credit needs are below rupees 1 million. The loans come with lower interest rates and longer repayment period. Till end of 2018, around 123 million people had benefitted from the scheme, of which over 35 million beneficiaries started new businesses.
In the pre 2014 ‘leftist’ and ‘socialistic’ era, things like entrepreneurship, startups and micro-financing were just ordinary English words. But grown up running a tea-stall at railway station, Narendra Modi knows the importance of self-employment and how it can transform businesses and societies.
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4. Electrification of Remote Village
In August 2015, India had 18,452 ‘dark’ villages with no access to electricity. The government resolved to electrify them within 1000 days and achieved the target in 988 days on April 2018. The last village to see ‘electricity light’ was Leisang in Manipur. Just imagine living without electricity even after 70 years of independence!
As per existing definition, 10 per cent or more of total houses in a village need to have power for it to qualify as ‘electrified’; and by the latest Government data, 15 per cent of the country’s homes still have no power. Therefore, now the next task is to provide electricity to around 25 million households still in dark. Arrival of electricity means arrival of computer and Internet, which means access to all facilities dependent upon them. It also means better education for the children and development of region.
5. Clean Cooking Fuel
The scheme called ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ was launched in May 2016. It aimed to provide free cooking gas connection to the poor households. Over 60 million free LPG connections have been already provided under the scheme. Now the new target is reaching 80 million by 2020.
Imagine the convenience enjoyed by the women with clean gas connection at home – they no more have to go out and collect wood to make food and expose themselves to smoke while cooking meals. It is not just a gas connection program, but is also a tool to enhance the health and enable free time that can be utilized more productively by women. Therefore, it has an empowerment angle as well.
A unique aspect of this scheme is that a lot of people who were clearly not 'poor' voluntarily gave up their subsidized LPG cylinders merely on Modi's call.
The poor are the first and the worst victim of bad sanitation.
In 2014 India had slightly less than 40 percent rural sanitation coverage and around 530 million people going for defecating in the open, at the end of 2018 the sanitation coverage is beyond 95 percent and the number going for open defecation has come down to 250 million. While the record keeping has not been consistent and numbers may be disputed but no one can deny that Narendra Modi has made the sanitation campaign a people’s movement.
Prime Minister Modi launched the sanitation drive on October 2, 2014 across the country to get rid of open defecation and build home and public toilets. The goal is to have complete sanitation by Oct 2, 2019. Each rural household is given Rupees 12,000 for constructing toilet. Well over 80 million individual toilets have been constructed till end of 2018. Across India, government bodies are working with social workers, volunteers and NGOs.
Even the Bollywood film industry has come forward to spread the message; who else could think of making a movie titled Toilet – A love Story where the 21st century hero is forced to make a ‘Toilet’ – not Taj Mahal – to get back his love! Another Bollywood initiative is the movie Pad Man – highlighting the issue of sanitary napkin for rural women. For several women groups across India making low cost sanitary napkins has become a business now!
While much remains to be done, the sanitation awareness has gripped people across India. As a result, it is a pleasant surprise to see significantly clean railway or bus stations when one travels.
7. Modicare – World’s Biggest Health Insurance Program
The Ayushmaan Bharat Yojna was launched in September 2018. Popular as ‘Modicare’ it is a great initiative to provide half-million rupee annual health insurance to 107 million poor families. It covers more than 1300 ailments including heart diseases. If average family size is taken as 5, it covers around 500 million poor Indians – which is around 40 percent India’s population!
By January 2019, around 14,434 hospitals had empanelled and over 11 million E-cards were issued of which slightly over 1 million had availed of the free medical care under the scheme. Launch of this mega scheme also means creation of around 1 million jobs in the health and insurance sectors, besides creating demand for doctors and nurses that would push for opening more medical institutes in the country.
Medical expense is a major factor that pushes vulnerable people into poverty. This scheme will sure provide mental peace and improve the quality of life of the financially weaker sections.
India still spends only around 1.3 percent of its GDP on healthcare compared with China’s 2.45 percent. Countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand spend almost double in terms GDP fraction.
8. Girl Education and Women Empowerment
Save Daughter, Educate Daughter
It is a great campaign to spread awareness about the imbalance in the Child-Sex ratio in the country and aims to improve the impact of women welfare schemes. Its prime objective is to curb sex-selective abortions that distort the male-female ratio. The campaign is also supported by the Indian Medical Association. The ‘Save Daughter, Educate Daughter’ campaign was launched on January 22, 2015. It specially targets the Northern Indian States where child sex ratio is worse than the national average.
Alongside Modi also launched another small savings scheme, the Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme, with attractive interest rates to encourage parents to save for their daughter’s education as well as marriage when she grows up. The importance of girls’ education leading to women empowerment can never be under emphasized.
The Best is Yet to Come!
While India may no longer be world’s poverty capital in terms of numbers, but if poverty is seen as an issue of human suffering much remains to be done. If the April 2019 general elections do not throw surprises and Modi retains power on the strength of his hard work and policies, his anti-poverty programs would bring much relief in the lives of India’s poor masses. India’s GDP is expected to sustainably grow in the 7.1 – 7.4 percent range in the coming years. It means the real fruits of development are yet to come in the lives of the poor!