Showing posts with label APPSC GROUP-1 GENERAL ESSAY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label APPSC GROUP-1 GENERAL ESSAY. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2012

APPSC GROUP-I MAIN 2012 PAPER - I GENERAL ESSAY QUESTION PAPER

                                                           

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New plan for census towns: PURA 2.0


In the Census of India, the definition of urban area adopted was as follows:

• All statutory places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, etc. 
• A place satisfying the following three criteria simultaneously:

a) A minimum population of 5,000;
b) At least 75 per cent of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and 
c) A density of population of at least 400 per sq. km. (1,000 per sq. mile).
But the definition is unclear: the census calls them towns, but since they have gram panchayats rather than municipal corporations, the government seems to consider them rural.

Thus Planning Commission has agreed to provide Rs-1500 Crore in the 12th Five year plan for developing infrastructure in rapidly urbanizing areas known as census towns in the new version of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) to bring basic infrastructure to these areas.

GOI have schemes for rural infrastructure, and schemes for urban infrastructure, but neither of them applies for these areas — caught in the middle of these two.

During the 12th Five Year Plan period public-private partnership scheme will be used to bring water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management and street lighting to such unofficial urban clusters, mostly in the six States — Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala — which have seen the highest growth of census towns.

Each project is likely to cost about 150 crore rupees with Rural Development Ministry providing a grant of 40 to 50 crore rupees; 70 to 80 crore rupees will be mobilized by ongoing central schemes, while the private sector is expected to bring in about 20 crore rupees. The Private Company in consulation with the Gram Panchayat will get the lease of 10 years for the physical infrastructure to be developed in such towns to recover the investment.

Private sector entities having experience in development and management of community-oriented infrastructure projects shall be selected through an open competitive bidding process based on rigorous qualifications and evaluation criteria. The selected private partners would be required to provide amenities like water supply and sewerage, roads, drainage, solid waste management, street lighting and power distribution and undertake some economic and skill development activity as part of the PURA project. The private partners may also provide add-on revenue-earning facilities such as village linked tourism, integrated rural hub, rural market, agri-common services centre and warehousing etc. in addition to the above mentioned amenities. 

The scheme is a revamp of the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's brainchild, PURA, which was initially aimed at providing city amenities to villages. In its latest avatar, PURA 2.0 is focussing on the development of 50 to 60 potential growth centres such as census towns. Initial pilot projects have begun in Kerala, with eight other projects awaiting final approvals from State governments. 

BONN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE 2012


The 36th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the fifteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), the seventeenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) takes place concurrently from 14 to 25 May.

The negotiations in Bonn were meant to build on a deal struck in December in Durban, South Africa, to create a new global climate pact by 2015 that would make both rich and poor nations rein in emissions caused by the burning of oil and other fossil fuels. More than 180 countries agreed on an agenda for work on a new climate treaty by 2015 at United Nations climate talks.

The European Union claims China and other developing countries are backsliding on commitments made in Durban to bring the discussion on emissions cuts from both rich and poor nations into one forum, instead of the current structure, which has two parallel negotiation tracks. Developing countries — backed by climate activists — accuse the U.S., EU and other industrialised nations of trying to evade commitments made in previous negotiations and shift responsibilities for tackling climate change to the developing world.

Environmentalist groups and countries that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change warn that time is running out to avert disastrous consequences like increased extreme weather, ocean acidification and glacier melts.

Countries have agreed that deep emissions cuts are needed to limit a rise in global average temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century above pre-industrial levels, a threshold that scientists say is the minimum required to avert catastrophic effects.

However, one of the main contributors to global warming, global carbon dioxide emissions, hit a record high last year, according to the International Energy Agency, which advises industrialised countries.

Some countries also look set to miss their emissions cut targets for 2020, putting the world on a dangerous trajectory towards a rise in global average temperature of 3.5 degree Celsius, research showed.

The only existing binding treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, was shunned by the U.S. because it doesn't impose any emissions targets on China, thus leaving out the two biggest carbon emitters on the globe. It was set to expire this year but countries agreed in Durban to extend it, though they haven't agreed on how long. Canada, Japan and Russia have refused to make any new commitments under Kyoto, meaning it only covers about 15 per cent of global emissions.

Microfinance: Issues and future in India

Microfinance is one sector about which the perception of common man, policy makers and public media has witnessed peaks and valleys in short span of time. The sector was perceived as Messiah for unbankables due to its unprecedented success in South Asia. Many social scientists and various political and business leaders looked at it as a panacea for poverty stricken vulnerable and marginalized section of the society. There was a strong advocacy to replicate the model across the third world countries.
In India the Microfinance was extended to remote areas with high euphoria, and as a model which was perceived to reduce “poverty through profits”. It was seen as a win-win model for financial institutions as well as for the bulk of population which does not have access to financial institutions. However within a short span of time microfinance institutions were perceived to be blood sucker of the poor. They were soon looked upon not only as anti developmental but also as a neo avtar of moneylender of pre independent era who use to charge exorbitant rate of interests and adhered to coercive methods for the recovery.
If we critically examine this sector the reality of this sector lies some where in between “messiah of poor” and “neo avtar of coercive moneylenders”. To understand the realities of this sector we must understand the basic issues in the model which resulted in its disgrace. The following were the issues with model in India:
1.    In the absence of any regulation various Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s) started charging very high rate of interests from their clients. Although it’s a fact that disbursement of loans in the rural areas involves high administrative cost and greater risk in the absence of collaterals. Thus it is impossible to deliver the credits in rural population on an interest rate at par with their urban counterparts. However, the profit motives of many MFI’s eclipsed the developmental goal of the sector. As a result exorbitant interest rates and opaque policies were rampantly practiced.
2.    MFI’s deviated from the principle of disbursing the loans for the productive purpose leading to debt cycle. The success of Microfinance model rests on the fundamental principle of lending for the productive purposes. In order to expand the clientele base various MFI’s ignored this basic tenet and started lending for non productive purposes as well.
3.    Overleveraging was also one of the major error which MFI’s indulged into. Multiple borrowing   from various sources resulted into indebtedness much above the credit wroth of the clients and finally resulted into bad loans.  
4.    Leakage in the form of “ghost loans” and fraudulent loans by the staff of MFI’s was also one of the major flaws in the model.
5.    In order to collect the loans the MFI’s adhered to coercive practices which at times were extra legal and even illegal. Since this financial model is complexly interwoven into socio-cultural and psychological dimensions as well, the result of these methods was counterproductive. Large number of suicides in Andhara Pradesh was the manifestation of this fiasco.
In order to deal with these issues, on the recommendation of Malegaon committee, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come up with the regulations. In order to regulate the interest rates by MFI’s, RBI has put a cap on the lending rate of MFI’s at 26% per annum and a margin cap of 12 percent over their cost of funds, whichever is lower.
In order to tackle the issue of overleveraging, RBI has now laid down a rule that only two MFI can lend to one borrower and both together cannot provide loans beyond Rs 50,000. The Information Technology is also being used to create an authentic data base of borrowers to prevent overleveraging.
The legislation and regulations by RBI have to a great extent addressed the flaws in the sector. Since the sector along with the financial inclusion is based on social capital as well, it can play a big role poverty elevation, empowerment and sustainable development.

Food Security and Public Distribution System

“Food security refers to a situation that exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” says an FAO report ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2001’.
It is now well recognized that the availability of food grains is necessary but not a sufficient condition to ensure food security to the poor. It is also necessary that the poor have sufficient means to purchase food. The capacity of the poor to purchase food can be ensured in two ways – by raising the incomes or supplying food grains at subsidized prices. While employment generation programs attempt the first solution, the PDS is the mechanism for the second option.
There are several ways in which food security can be improved. The strategies constitute several policies. India's strategies in this regard comprise economic growth, direct anti-poverty programs, which include wage-employed and self-employed targeted programs, public distribution system (PDS) nutrition-based programs and provision of health facilities.
India has a large program of public food distribution, mainly food grains, through a network of Fair Price Shops (FPS), both in rural and urban areas. The program has evolved with the twin objective of providing incentive prices to the farmer for a sustained supply of food grain and subsidizing its consumption. Until the seventies the focus of food distribution program was urban and the food deficit areas. The welfare focus of the program assumed importance during the eighties and coverage extended in rural areas, first in the south Indian states and later all over India. However, due to the mounting costs of subsidy, targeting was more focused during the nineties, first, with the revamped public distribution system in 1997. The program covered poor households as the target group, generally, and tribal and drought prone areas, universally.  
 The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introduced in June, 1997. It envisaged that the Below Poverty Line (BPL) population would be identified in every State and every BPL family would be entitled to a certain quantity of food grains at specially subsidized prices. While BPL population were offered food grains at half the economic cost, the APL, who were not to have a fixed entitlement to food grains, were supplied grains at their economic cost. Thus, TPDS intends to target the subsidized provision of food grains to ‘poor in all areas’ unlike RPDS, which laid stress on ‘all in poor areas’.

Issues with Public Distribution System

1.      The most important issue related to the TPDS is identification and definition of poor. The poverty estimates of various institutions and organization differ remarkably. A slight change in the identification criteria of the poverty line can have huge implication on a large number of families. According to the critics the definition of poor in India has severe limitations and the official numbers are abhorrently underestimated by the government agencies under the pressure of ballooning food subsidies.
2.      The second issue after identification and definition of poor is that of proper targeting. In many states the cases of fraudulent BPL ration cards are rampant. As a result the “genuine poor” are unable to get benefits of this system. Several empirical studies, based on PDS purchases, have shown that the poor were not benefiting much from the PDS. In a study on the effectiveness of the PDS in reaching the poor, Parikh (1994) says that 'the cost effectiveness of reaching the poorest 20 per cent households through PDS cereals is very small'. For every rupee spent, less than 22 paisa reach the poor in most states
3.      The large scale diversion and black marketing of PDS food grain is also a pertinent issue that this system is facing.
4.      The quality of the food grain supplied through the PDS is also inferior in quality and low in nutritional value. Thus even in a very few pockets where the leakages are absent the malnutrition among the vulnerable section of society is not arrested.
5.      In the PDS large quantities of grains are procured from one part of the country to the other, stored in warehouses and moved to other parts. There are high storage and transportation losses. Also the existing centralized system is a major hurdle in ensuring availability in various remote pockets.
6.      The availability of cheap rice and wheat at PDS outlets has dissuaded many a rural households from trying food that is grown locally out of the environmental and socio-economic condition in a given area.

Measures for strengthening the Public Distribution System

1.      The proportion of population with food insecurity should be identified with Planning Commission’s poverty ratio. The Planning Commission should make appropriate adjustments in the method of BPL identification that would enable the States to limit the size of the target group in the neighborhood of its own estimates of people with food insecurity
2.      Families, who do not have a secure source of regular income, should be included in the BPL list, irrespective of their income. This would benefit a large majority of the poor, particularly, those with economic insecurity. The Planning Commission in its study conducted between 2002 to 2005 found that many daily-wage earning families have been left out of BPL category because their current income levels were above the Planning Commission’s Poverty Line.
3.      Since the BPL identification survey is critical to the success of TPDS, it is appropriate that this be carried out with the assistance of reputed agencies such as the NSSO and State level research /survey institutions. The database should be then computerized for effective monitoring and regular updating.
4.      A major cause of diversion of food grain is non-availability of food grains, as per allocation, at FCI based depots or State Agency's distribution centers. Hence, in FCI based depot (which is generally present in each district) six months' stock, as per allotment, should remain. At present, it has been instructed that stocks for three months should be kept, but in many districts three months' stocks are not present. If there is sufficient availability of stocks, on one hand food grain will be made available, as per allotment, and on the other hand, diversion will be checked and food security will be strengthened.
5.      The involvement of local bodies in overseeing the functioning of PDS is, generally, nominal/non-existent in most states. A committee should be formed among members of each Municipality/Gram Panchayat, which should be responsible for effective functioning of Fair Price Shops.
6.      Composition of food grains offered, through PDS, in different States should give due weight ages to local preferences, in terms of cereals and their varieties, wherever feasible. Various studies have revealed that variations in such preferences, significantly, affected their decision to buy food grains from the PDS.
7.      A large majority of the BPL cardholders do not lift or lift only part of the ration quota during the harvest and sowing seasons in rural areas, as many of them receive wage payment in kind and also because market prices during harvest season are low. This seasonal pattern varies across states. Thus, it is necessary to accommodate such lifting pattern into the delivery schedule of PDS to minimize leakage and diversion.
Two major reasons for diversion of food grains are, (a) the PDS outlets are run by individuals and, (b) they are unviable. Regarding (a), it is proposed that the retail PDS outlets be handed over to cooperatives or institutions like Mahila Nagrik Banks, Regional Rural Banks, etc. These organizations will not be solely dependent on PDS for their existence, as is the case with individuals and even in many cases ‘Self Help Groups’ and ‘Consumer Federations’. Such organizations would be able to cross-subsidize the PDS operations through other profitable operations


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jan Lokpal Bill


The Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body  that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year. Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist), the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission. Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption. Its website describes the movement as "an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption. We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption."Anna Hazare, anti-corruption crusader, began a fast-unto-death today, demanding that this bill, drafted by the civil society, be adopted. The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an "eyewash" and has on it a critique of that government Bill. It also lists the difference between the Bills drafted by the government and civil society.

A look at the salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill:

1.     An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
2.     Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be
able to influence their investigations.

3.     Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial
should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.

4.     The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
5.     How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
6.     So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
7.     But won't the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won't be possible because its members will be
selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.

8.     What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
9.     What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
10.    It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.

United Nations Convention against Corruption

Corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the "start-up costs" required because of corruption.

In its resolution 55/61 of December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (resolution 55/25, annex I), was desirable and decided to establish an
ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument in Vienna at the headquarters of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly by resolution 58/4 of October 31, 2003. In accordance with article 68 (1) of resolution 58/4, the United Nations Convention against Corruption entered into force on December 14, 2005. For each new State or regional economic integration organization becoming a party to the Convention, the Convention enters into force on the thirtieth day after the date of deposit by such State or organization of the relevant instrument.


This convention, which came into force in 2005, has 140 countries on its list. India, ratified the convention on May 13, 2011.


India had signed the convention in 2005 but the UPA government, particularly the department of personnel and training (DoPT), had steadfastly refused to ratify it. Over the years, MEA (which is the nodal ministry for international treaties), had been pushing the government to ratify the convention. The official reason was that India has not yet brought its domestic laws in line with the international convention.


Acceding to the convention will make it easier for India to repatriate the billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth that have been stashed overseas. Under the convention, asset recovery is a fundamental principle, Article 51 provides for the return of assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle of this convention.


The convention requires signatories to put in place certain preventive measures—like enhanced transparency in funding election campaigns and political parties—which certainly in India is at the root of a lot of government corruption.


The convention criminalises not only basic corruption such as bribery and the embezzlement of public funds but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. According to UN literature, "offences committed in support of corruption, including money-laundering and obstructing justice, are also dealt with. Convention offences also deal with the problematic areas of private sector corruption."


The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. The Convention's far-reaching approach and the mandatory character of many of its provisions make it a unique tool for developing a comprehensive response to a global problem.


The UNCAC covers five main areas: prevention, criminalization and law enforcement measures, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.


The UNCAC also covers many different forms of corruption, such as trading in influence, abuse of power, and various acts of corruption in the private sector. A further significant development was the inclusion of a specific chapter of the Convention dealing with the recovery of assets, a major concern for countries that pursue the assets of former leaders and other officials accused or found to have engaged in corruption. The rapidly growing number of States that have become parties to the Convention is further proof of its universal nature and reach.


Prevention

Corruption can be prosecuted after the fact, but first and foremost, it requires prevention. An entire chapter of the Convention is dedicated to prevention, with measures directed at both the public and private sectors. These include model preventive policies, such as the establishment of anti-corruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties. States must endeavour to ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards that promote efficiency, transparency and recruitment based on merit. Once recruited, public servants should be subject to codes of conduct, requirements for financial and other disclosures, and appropriate disciplinary measures. Transparency and accountability in matters of public finance must also be promoted, and specific requirements are established for the prevention of corruption, in the particularly critical areas of the public sector, such as the judiciary and public procurement.

Preventing public corruption also requires an effort from all members of society at large. For these reasons, the Convention calls on countries to promote actively the involvement of non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as other elements of civil society, and to raise public awareness of corruption and what can be done about it. Article 5 of the Convention enjoins each State Party to establish and promote effective practices aimed at the prevention of corruption.


Criminalization

The Convention requires countries to establish criminal and other offences to cover a wide range of acts of corruption, if these are not already crimes under domestic law. In some cases, States are legally obliged to establish offences; in other cases, in order to take into account differences in domestic law, they are required to consider doing so. The Convention goes beyond previous instruments of this kind, criminalizing not only basic forms of corruption such as bribery and the embezzlement of public funds, but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. Offences committed in support of corruption, including money-laundering and obstructing justice, are also dealt with. Convention offences also deal with the problematic areas of private-sector corruption.

International Cooperation

Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures that will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.

Asset Recovery

In a major breakthrough, countries agreed on asset-recovery, which is stated explicitly as a fundamental principle of the Convention. This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth, and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies under new governments. Reaching agreement on this chapter has involved intensive negotiations, as the needs of countries seeking the illicit assets had to be reconciled with the legal and procedural safeguards of the countries whose assistance is sought.

Article 51 provides for the return of assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle of this Convention. Article 43 obliges State parties to extend the widest possible cooperation to each other in the investigation and prosecution of offences defined in the Convention. With regard to asset recovery in particular, the article provides inter alia that "In matters of international cooperation, whenever dual criminality is considered a requirement, it shall be deemed fulfilled irrespective of whether the laws of the requested State Party place the offence within the same category of offence or denominate the offence by the same terminology as the requesting State Party, if the conduct underlying the offence for which assistance is sought is a criminal offence under the laws of both States Parties".


Criminalization and law enforcement

As per the convention, each State Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence, when committed intentionally, the promise, offering or giving to a foreign public official or an official of a public international organization, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage, for the official himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other undue advantage in relation to the conduct of international business.

Bribery in the private sector:
Each State Party shall consider adopting such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences, when committed intentionally in the course of economic, financial or commercial activities: (a) The promise, offering or giving, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage to any person who directs or works, in any capacity, for a private sector entity, for the person himself or herself or for another person, in order that he or she, in breach of his or her duties, act or refrain from acting; (b) The solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage by any person who directs or works, in any capacity, for a private sector entity, for the person himself or herself or for another person, in order that he or she, in breach of his or her duties, act or refrain from acting.

Protection of witnesses, experts and victims:
The Convention also provides for appropriate measures in accordance with a State’s domestic legal system and within its means to provide effective protection from potential retaliation or intimidation for witnesses and experts who give testimony concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention and, as appropriate, for their relatives and other persons close to them.

Each State Party also has to take appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention.

The Significance of Cooperatives for Social Justice

Throughout the world today, societies are being torn apart due to the fact that various social groups and classes are not getting their due respect from other forces in society. Many societies are lacking social justice which could be seen as equal opportunity treatment of all persons in society. Various institutions have the responsibility to ensure this happens. Yet social justice is absent in many instances.

Cooperatives are based on principles and values that speak directly to the issue of social justice. Most traditional cooperatives follow the seven principles of cooperative identity, promoted by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), an Apex organization for cooperatives around the world. These principles call for the practice of democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Cooperatives also embrace the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

With these principles and values at the core of cooperative operations, the poor, excluded and marginalized sectors of society are usually served well by cooperatives. The financial sector is one area where this has shown well. Financial cooperatives are some of the largest providers of micro-finance services to the poor. It is estimated that globally, financial cooperatives reach 78 million clients living below a poverty line of $2 per day. Financial cooperatives thus play a central role in the achievement of an inclusive financial sector that encompasses the poor.

Through their commitment to servicing the poor and under-served, financial cooperatives are helping to lessen the burden of poverty. Financial cooperatives, by providing savings products, help to reduce members’ vulnerabilities to shocks such as medical emergencies.

Cooperatives have also been instrumental in promoting inclusive development in rural areas, helping to both strengthen and diversify rural economies. Financial cooperatives provide access to credit for members who might not typically have access to the larger savings and commercial banks. This is significant in markets where financial providers are absent owing to poor revenue prospects, high risks, or high transaction costs. This access to financial services often supports the formation of small and micro businesses.

Cooperatives have also been able to strengthen agricultural production and improve access of poor farmers, especially through engaging in fair trade arrangements. Small farmers who struggle to create and sustain businesses of their own are able to increase farm revenues, lower marketing and information-gathering costs, as well as enter into high-value supply chains that they would not be able to do on their own.

While the need for more research cannot be denied, that which exists supports the idea that, if given the right supportive environment, cooperatives could help in profound ways to achieve social justice, where it is lacking. Empowering cooperatives to leverage their capacity to contribute to social justice requires a sound policy and legislative framework.

The International Year of Cooperatives 2012, declared by the United Nations General Assembly, is one means to raising awareness. By raising awareness of cooperatives – what they are and what they do – the IYC will empower cooperatives to promote their social justice values and encourage governments to create supportive policy and legislative frameworks, where needed.

Even with this support, the challenge of effective implementation of the cooperative principles and values cannot be ignored. The sound governance of cooperatives depends upon a well-informed and active membership base, dedicated to cooperative values and principles. To sustain the drive of cooperatives for social justice, a strong membership base, bound by the democratic one-member-one-vote principle, is essential to addressing weak or unethical management, capture by local politicians, or other conflicts of interests which could divert cooperatives from addressing social justice issues.

Democratisation for Human Development

It has been seen that a lasting solution for eradicating poverty and shaping human progress can be found as much through politics as through economics. Politics matters in a large way, because it is through this mechanism that the rights of the citizenry in any country are determined. It decides whether the people should be allowed to participate in the decision-making process that impacts their lives.

In the last few decades, the polity has witnessed a sea change. There are innumerable instances across the world, of the opening up of political systems and increased rights and power to the people. The world can be labelled as much more democratic, but there are several underlying problems to be dealt with. A report outlines that 140 countries hold multi-party elections, out of which only 81 have taken significant steps towards democracy.

The democratic system of voting in the elections has added crucial element of governance from the human development standpoint, because elections symbolize enforceable accountability. When a government fails to live up to the needs and desires of the people, they can simply vote it out of the office the next time.

There can be no stricter form of accountability, no more egalitarian form of participation. The right to vote itself gives every individual a choice. However, it would be a grim mistake if one equated democracy with the ritual of regular elections. A vibrant democracy requires functioning institutions-for instance a legislature that does not do a specific individuals bidding, a judiciary that is independent and understands the importance of equal treatment of all through the eyes of the law; a free, independent and unbiased media and security forces that carry out their duties without specific political allegiances. It also requires an active and alert civil society that can ensure that the government works in the general public interest, and also keeps giving its inputs wherever required. An independent judiciary provides the necessary checks and balances between the democratic institutions of governance. Accountability is central to democratic governance. It ensures that holders of public trust are acting effectively and fairly.

In the presence of a free press and an active civil society, people can have several ways of participating in the policy decisions and debates. There is the example of participatory budgeting and gender-responsive budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Here, the citizen participation in preparing the municipal budgets has helped in economizing in several areas, to divert funds to human development activities. During the first seven years of this activity, the houses having access to water services increased from 80 per cent to 98 per cent. Also, those with access to sanitation increased dramatically from 46 per cent to 85 per cent.

Democracy is not only instrumental in expanding political freedom, but also goes a long way in fostering growth. Democracies are better at managing conflicts than the authoritarian regimes because of the political space and the institutions that create the opportunity for open contests, vindicating the fact that change is possible without tearing down the system. Socio-political unrest and handover of the reins of power occurs more often in democracies than in authoritarian regimes and, most remarkably, without coming in the way of development.

Democracies also are better at avoiding catastrophes and at managing sudden downturns that threaten human survival itself. Free speech makes more effective the efforts at spreading the word about critical health issues, about the benefits of family planning and containing the population, simple ways for reduction in infant mortality, and spread of the HIV/AIDS. Promoting democratic politics also means giving the much-required thrust to education. It is important for nations to realise that their biggest asset is the human capital. It would be wrong to regard the populace as merely the beneficiaries of economic and social progress, who, in fact, are the facilitators of the same. It is for this very reason that health and education (the two factors boosting the productivity of an individual) are the major focus areas.

Human development carries much more import than just growth in the national incomes. Political freedom and people's participation are vital, as they are means of advancing human development. In the recent years, people around the world have fought for, and paved way for a democratic set-up, in the hope of getting political freedom and, consequently, better socio-economic conditions, as well as opportunities. However, it is increasingly being felt that this form of government has also not delivered. Even the longer established democracies have not been able to stay uncorrupted.

Altering the constitutions, making the ministers and the judiciary mere puppets, openly defying the norms of clean and fair elections are some practices hindering the progress of the societies, as well as individuals. It is only when democracy does not respond to the needs of the people that they get drawn towards the authoritarianism. Building democratic institutions, along with achieving equitable socio-economic development, poses a lot of problems. If a system confers political equality on all people, it does not imply that the individuals would have similar desire to participate in the processes, or that they would be in equal control of the results that follow. It has been seen very often that inequity of resources and political clout undermine the very purpose of the institution of democracy.

One factor that more often than not plays foul is money. It subverts the democracies with its influence on determining who gets elected. A rise in the campaign cost does not augur well, for it indicates only to the degree of the politicians' expected inclination towards business interests.

A successful and efficient democracy requires an independent and fair media. In order to be plural and independent, the media must be free, not just from the State control, but also be immune from corporate and political pressures. The State ownership of media has gone down tremendously owing to the market reforms and the economic integration. However, the trend visible currently is not too encouraging as the ownership rests increasingly with private concerns. The report outlines a range of mechanisms that can promote the non-partisan media without having to take recourse to government controls. These include self-regulation through independent bodies, professional code of ethics and using official ombudsmen, coupled with training the journalists and media persons and increasing their awareness levels.

Whenever there is a discussion about human development, democracy must come into picture. Though the awareness about how to promote equitable development that benefits poor people, including measures like widening access to credit, reforming land ownership, investing in basic social services for all, following the macroeconomic policies, promoting the informal sector etc., remain relegated to the theory books only, for they do not in any way help the interests of the elite.

The need for making people participate in the decisions affecting their lives, and to hold the authorities accountable, no longer remains a problem at the national level. In the breeze of globalisation, there are bigger decisions being taken at the international level that are likely to have a greater affect. No wonder, it creates a feeling of optimism about the future in some, while others see globalisation as a threat. This fact is evident from the anti-globalisation protests in the industrialized as well as the developing countries. The reasons for protests and the agendas of the protesters may differ, but their angst is indicative of one demand-the people acting at the global level should be more responsive and inclusive of the poorer people.

Though the emergence of a global integration movement has created vistas for widening the scope of democracy at the international, level the institutions working at that level require certain reforms. They seem to be toeing the line of the rich and the powerful countries, as reflected in their decisions. For instance, each member in the World Trade Organization has a seat and a vote-a practice that appears very democratic in itself, but the decisions are arrived at by consensus, which is influenced more than a little by the richer countries.

There have been a large number of studies conducted, which suggest that a poor system of governance is responsible for a long-standing poverty problem and lagging development. The crisis of governance is evident through a widespread corruption pervading through the important offices, inefficient public services and a number of other snags in the system. But, it is true that democracy requires a long process of political evolution and development. It needs the setting up of the basic institutions, formal and informal, within the State and outside it.

The spread of democracy is a tough job, unless it is backed by a strong influx of the democratic culture-of values and principles that determine the conduct of individuals and groups. The challenges to democracy may not only spring from political parties, incited by their interests, but from the other factors like extremism, intolerance and discrimination finding its roots in lack for respect for human rights and human dignity.

Democratic governance means that:

  • People's human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, allowing them to live with dignity.
  • People have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
  • People can hold decision-makers accountable. Inclusive and fair rules, institutions and practices govern social interactions.
  • Women are equal partners with men in private and public spheres of life and decision-making.
  • People are free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, gender or any other attribute.
  • The needs of future generations are reflected in current policies.
  • Economic and social policies are responsive to peoples needs and aspirations.
  • Economic and social policies aim at eradicating poverty and expanding the choices that all people have in their lives.

Mid-day Meal: A Social Equity Program


All social equity programs are started with a view to make an impact on the social problems at grassroots levels. However their effectiveness depends on the program structure and strategies adopted to address the issue. In a country like India with wide cultural diversity, no single program can make a substantial dent at grassroots level without the dedication of the implementing agencies. One such project that is being undertaken by the government to address the social issues related to education in India is Mid-day Meal Scheme.

The Mid-day meal scheme can be traced for its origin way back to pre-independent India in 1925 when some school authorities in Madras district implemented the noon meal program to take care of the students need. Similar program was started in Kolkata in 1927 and Kerala in 1941. This scheme was formally adopted by the government in 1958 in independent India. However it was only in 1982 that the government undertook serious step to promote the scheme. It was then implemented with the objective to universalize the scheme in all the states with decentralized features. It was implemented in all government run primary school with the help of local authorities playing the role of implementing agencies. This was further expanded from primary age group to cover the students between the 6-14 years. By 1995, most of the South Indian states had implemented the scheme.

In 1995, the government reoriented its strategy when the stress was paid on the spread of literacy drive making it apt time to reorient the strategy. The scheme provided the government with the best alternative method to not only increase the enrolment of school going children but also addressing the other social problems such as eradication of poverty, eradication of malnourishment and undernourishment among the children. It also provided the government with the opportunity to increase the coverage of the social program with minimal cost incurred which the other poverty schemes failed to do as it was implemented through the primary school. Another benefit it entailed was giving the opportunity to address the issues at the grass root level.

The objectives and strategies of the program have been changed to suit and adjust to the national policy objectives. Initially the scheme sought to integrate the noon meals schemes that were being already implemented by some States and to cover all the States. Under the scheme, the children were given free supply of 100 grams of food grain per child per day. The State governments were required to meet the costs of infrastructure and the cooking cost. Initially, the scheme was introduced in the 2,368 blocks where the RPDS or Employment Guarantee Schemes (EGS) were being implemented and in forty low female literacy (LFL) blocks all over India. Local bodies were declared to be the implementing agencies, with supervision from the district and State levels of the government’s administrative machinery. However with the initial success of the program, the government was encouraged to implement it in all the states.

In 2000, the government’s national policies were focused on making the education and access to education a basic right of its citizen. Thus, literacy drive was launched and the government increased spending on educational infrastructure substantially. A number of primary schools were opened especially in rural areas. The existing one got the fund for improving the infrastructure by setting up buildings. The middle schools and high schools were also covered under the national literacy mission. Despite much spending, the government could not increase the literacy rate as it only helped in increasing the enrollment without substantial decrease in dropout rates.

Thus the re-strategizing of Mid-day meal scheme was done. The authorities combined it with the National Literacy Mission. Also the form was changed as now the school authorities were given the responsibility of providing the cooked food based on nutritional norms prescribed by the UN. This strategy was implemented with the twin objective. First it helped increase in enrolment and retention at the same time it also addressed the issue related to reduce the chronic hunger and malnourishment among the school going age group of children. The Mid-day meal scheme helped in increasing the learning capabilities of the children. Also the parents did not have to bear the additional cost of food.

Initially, the State governments were advised to derive finance from poverty alleviation schemes such as JRY for providing necessary infrastructure and meeting the costs. But, from April 1999 onwards, responsibility for raising their share of funding was transferred to States and Union Territories. In December 2003, Planning Commission of India asked the States to earmark a minimum of 15 per cent of additional Central assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) for the financial requirements of converting grains into cooked meals.

The scheme also helped in impacting the social problem associated with the rural infrastructure. Thus the gender equity issue and social equity was also addressed as the scheme helped in making the children learn the sharing basis by sitting together and eating from the common kitchen. The school enrolment improved substantially as both the genders entering the literacy drive. This also increased the school enrolment for irrespective of the caste and cultural groups. At the level of India as a whole, the number of children covered under the MDMS rose gradually from 10.36 crore in 2001 – 02 to10.87 crore in 2004 – 05, and then registered a sharp increase to 11.94 crore in 2005 – 06.

MDMS also has the potential for creating awareness among the children about hygiene and clean environment. The Mid-day meal scheme in school provided an opportunity to educate students about the importance of washing hands and plates, of hygienic toilets and of maintaining a clean environment in and around the school. Similarly, a participatory MDMS, where parents will be involved in monitoring the programme, can play an indirect role in improving basic knowledge about nutrition and elementary education among the parents of school-going children.

Despite massive achievement, the scheme is marked with a number of weaknesses and limitations. The scheme lacks the onus to cover the children out of school and drop outs. This is major issue in making the right to education and right to food a fundamental right of the citizen. Another problem associated is resource to fund the scheme is limited. Most of the states failed to meet the cost incurred to provide the cooked food. Also in absence of adequate infrastructure, the scheme could not be provided to many schools. The infrastructural problems associated with the scheme were in terms of not only physical infrastructure as most schools did not even have the proper building and shades to carry out the project. Moreover the human laborer required for cooking the food also lacked, for which the government paid a meager amount.

Thus some of these limitations and weaknesses are being looked into and adequate measures are being taken to step up efforts to make the scheme a big success.

Urbanization in India and issues involved

It is more than half of a century that India became independent. The country has evolved and emerged a lot from pre independence to post independence era. At the time of independence, the country was poverty stricken, impoverished and a rural agrarian society. In 1947, only 15 per cent of the population in cities and towns were classified under urban areas. The rapid development and economic growth helped the country achieve the status of emerged nations.

The country is now one of the leading nations among the developing countries and the progress has made the country leave behind many developed nations as well. As per recent United Nations development reports on urbanization, India has achieved 30 per cent urbanization in 2010. The urbanization in India increased from meager 10 per cent in 1901 to more than 30 per cent. However it was much lesser in terms of rank when compared to other nations that have achieved a higher rate of urbanization and much less below the world urbanization population of 50 per cent  (UNPD World Urbanization Prospects: The2009 Revision).

Urbanization implicates increase in population living in urban areas. An urban area, according to the Census definition, is one that has (i) a minimum population of 5,000; (ii) at least 75 per cent of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and (iii) a density of population of at least 400 per square kilometre (1,000 per square mile).  With increase in population, the country’s urban population also increased. The Census 2001 reports that almost 29 percent of Indians in urban India.

Apart from increase in population the other factors that have contributed to rapid urbanization are migration from rural sector to urban. This happened mainly on account of the increasing infrastructural development to facilitate growth for corporate sector. While the major factor in initiating migration from rural areas to urban sector was increased landlessness in agricultural sector, reduced livelihood potentials in rural sector and increasing employment opportunities in the urban sector with the growth of industries. The high level of income in urban areas, education, availabilities of basic amenities, improved infrastructural facilities and increase in medical facilities were some other factors that helped increase rapid urbanization.

Among the states, Tamil Nadu is the most urbanized in large states with almost half of its population living in more than 600 towns. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka and Haryana are the other states where the urban population exceeds 30 per cent of the total. In terms of absolute number of people living in urban areas, Maharashtra led with 41 million in 2001, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Orissa, Assam and Bihar are very low in terms of urbanization and remained largely agricultural states, where less than 20 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. These are also the states with low per capita incomes since their residents have little recourse to the opportunities in cities.

The basic features of urban development is increasing infrastructural facilities, access to improved communication and information technologies, qualitative living standard, high income spending, consumerism and improvement in other socio economic parameters. These areas are also distinguished from the rural counterpart in terms of demographic indicators like low birth rate, low mortality, increased longevity, etc. the issues of migration, unemployment are linked to increasing the urbanization in the country. The seasonal unemployment, disguised unemployment and other factors that reduce the rural livelihood potential leads to increased migration towards urban sector. Improvements in connectivity through better communication and transport facilities have also made the migration, which was transitory in nature to permanent migration.

Besides, the increase in population the other factors that increased the urbanization in India are the development of the sub urban areas that got upgraded to the urban sector. Thus the peripheral areas got the status of urban sector. Some other semi urban areas also got upgraded to urban sector with increased amenities and setting up of institutions. Increase in village population with improved civic amenities also made these villages get the status.

Along with increased urbanization some issues emerged with the urbanization in India. The increase in slums in urban sector became a major problem. Unplanned growth of residential and commercial structures, inadequate supply of drinking water facility and increase in traffic were some other adverse effects that emerged with increase in urbanization. Also increasing urban population in absence of proportionate increase in employment opportunities also increased urban rate of unemployment.

The civic amenities were also curtailed with more persons to benefit from the existing ones. Some of the cities across India are failing to provide essential resources to the residents. Some states have managed their cities better than others. Karnataka is now reportedly the first state to plan for night shelters for the urban homeless. To address some of the issues, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and multiple government schemes were initiated by the central and state governments. Still the urban infrastructure is inadequate to cope even with the present rate of urbanization, with many cities turning into haphazard concrete jungles, grappling with growing problems of traffic, garbage, water and power supply.

The increase in property and assets prices is some other repercussions of the urban development. Increase in essential commodity price and non essential commodities price resulted as the demands from urban sector grew. However issues on inflation and increasing prices pertained to whole of India which has failed to increase the supply in tandem with growing population.

Conclusion:
Urbanization in India increased rapidly in post independence era. Despite the rapid growth rate the country was ranked much lower as compared to other developing nations of South East Asia. The major factors that affected urbanization were increase in population, migration from rural areas and peripheral suburban and semi-urban areas getting the urban status. However with the urban growth issues related to development also emerged. There has been increase in slums, reduction in civic amenities, increase in property prices, increase in prices of other essentials and non essential commodities.

TRIBAL PROBLEMS

The tribals are a special concern of the nation in view of their low technological development, general economic backwardness, and complex problems of socio-cultural adjustment to distinctive cultural identity. Development of tribals and tribal areas is a challenging task for the government, as they are spread over a wide spectrum of diversities of geographical location, socio-economic and politico-cultural conditions.

Despite its popular as well as academic usage, tribe is a contentious concept. In popular imagination, tribe is associated with “primitivism” and “backwardness,” clearly referring to non-Western or indigenous groups inhabiting the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America or to American Indian reservations.

Approximately 8.2 percent of the total Indian population has been designated as “Scheduled Tribes” (STs), according to the Indian census of 2001. The official Web site of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, states that “the Scheduled Tribes are the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within these tribes and tribal communities which have been declared as such by the President through a public notification.” The Indian government regards retention of “primitive” traits, geographical isolation, possessing distinct culture, shyness of contact with the community at large, and economic backwardness as the essential characteristics of Scheduled Tribes.

Many tribes have come to symbolize the most victimized segments of societies. It is a strange paradox that although they inhabit the most resource-rich regions of the world, many of them are in a state of impoverishment. They are the most severely affected victims of induced development, such as the establishment of mega-hydroelectric projects, conservation through parks, sanctuaries and bioreserves, mining and allied activities, urbanization and industrialization, ecotourism projects, and so on.

The tribal people are concentrated in four regions. They form a majority in the north-eastern states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Naga­land, Manipur, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. However, the majority of the tribals live in the belt of middle India from Gujarat to Bengal. In states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Odisha the tribals account for more than 20 per cent of the population. In Jhakhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, the percentage of tribals ranges between 4 to 15 per cent of the total population. However, in the entire middle Indian zone, the tribals are in a majority only in 13 districts. The third zone of tribal concentration is the ‘Himalayan region’ extending from Kashmir to Sikkim. In the far South, we have the fourth area of concentration, but the population is rather small. There are nearly 450 distinctive tribal groups in the country varying in size from around four millions to a bare two dozen. Their styles of living are largely determined by their means of subsistence which includes a wide spectrum of activities such as hunting and food gathering. Artisan groups are engaged in different types of arts and crafts and some are employed as industrial labour. Although the bulk of the tribals are reported to be Hindu in the census, substantial numbers have been converted to Christianity and some to Islam and Buddhism. Some others still follow their traditional faiths.

The history of the tribes has been a history of becoming peasants. It is the policy of the government to minimise the extent of shifting cultivation, promote terrace cultivation and apply the new agricultural strategy to the tribal region and to accelerate the flow of capital for agriculture there in. There has been a diffusion of improved agricultural technology by governmental agencies. Efforts are being made to develop innovative technologies which would yield results in drought-prone areas and highlands. At present much of the settled cultivation is at subsistence level and the majority of the tribal produce is not marketed. They sometimes make distress sales in order to buy some necessities.

In the central zone of tribal concentration agrarian issue stand at the centre of development. In the western zone we find land scarcity and land hunger. This is due to the expulsion of the tribes in those regions by the more vigorous Rajput, Maratha, and other Hindu peasantry. Other contributory factors to land hunger are low productivity  of land, the primitive mode of agriculture and the continued exploitation of tribals by others against whom protective legislation do not afford sufficient safeguards and the non-diversification for tribal economy.

Integration in which attempts will be made to bring the tribals in the mainstream of national life without destroying their distinctive identity. Indian culture is like a mosaic in which its separate elements add to its beauty. Anthropologists regard the integration of the tribes into the mainstream of Indian life as a natural and desirable goal. They only insist on care and caution on planning for the tribes and emphasize restraints in certain areas against innovations of doubtful value. The essential elements of anthropological thinking on the problem have been largely incorporated in national policies. They have emphasi­sed the importance of understanding tribal culture, identifying not only their different problems but the integrative forces in their life bringing out the vital linkages in their cultural fabric. They have pleaded for cautious formulation of development plans with a view to harmonise tribal needs with regional and national interests. They recommend a careful watch on the trends set in motion by these measures with a view to eliminating elements that destroy their social solidarity and kill their zest for living.

The Constitution of India provides specific measures for the protection and promotion of the social and economic interests of the Scheduled Tribes (STs). These include: reservation of seats in the legislature, educational institutions, services and posts, a tribal development program and provisions for autonomy.

The Constitution of India ensures the political representation of Scheduled Tribes in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of the Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies through reserved seats.

Reservation in Educational Institutions and Services: Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution provides for the reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in educational institutions. In order to improve the social situation of the tribal people, the government has, in addition to quotas in education, also designed a reservation policy for employment in government services. Depending on the respective positions, posts reserved for members of "Scheduled Tribes" are either in proportion to the tribal population of the state in question, or – in most cases – comprise 7.5% of the total number of government jobs.

Geographical areas designated as Fifth and Sixth Scheduled areas by independent India are identical to those already delineated by the British as Scheduled Areas.

Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: This act is aimed primarily at promoting village-level democracy through the Panchayat Raj institutions. It includes changes aimed at adapting the generally established system for use in the Scheduled Areas, which have a different socio-economic and politico-administrative setting.


The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes: Article 338 of the Constitution provides for the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Tribes and Castes by the President, who is commissioned to investigate and report to the President on all matters relating to the constitutional safeguards on Scheduled Tribes and Castes. A National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was subsequently created to take over these responsibilities.

Promotion of the economic and educational interests of the Scheduled Tribes and their protection from social injustice and exploitation are enshrined as a national goal in article 46 of the Constitution. Realizing that earlier programs under the central government's Five-Year Plans had failed to address the development needs, marginalization and exploitation of tribal communities, the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) was devised as a new strategy in the Fifth Five-Year Plan in 1973. It is still the approach that guides development programs in tribal areas. Its main objectives are to eliminate exploitation, to speed up social and economic development, and to promote and improve the organisational capacity of tribal people.

Naxalism : a great threat to Nation

The problem of Naxalism is more dangerous than any other form of violence in India, either terrorism or religion or caste related violence. The number of people died in Naxalite violence is more than the deaths caused by insurgents in Kashmir and north-eastern states. Naxalism is an informal name given to communist groups that were born out of the Sino-Soviet split in the Indian communist movement. Ideologically they belong to various trends of Maoism. Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengal.

In recent years, Naxalites have spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern India, such as Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist). They are conducting an insurgency, the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency. They now have a presence in 40% of India’s geographical area, and are especially concentrated in an area known as the ‘Naxal Belt,’ comprising 92,000 square kilometers. According to India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, 20,000 insurgents are currently in operation, and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them as the most serious threat to India’s national security.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The term comes from Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal, where a section of Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a violent uprising in 1967, trying to develop a ‘revolutionary opposition’ in opposition to the CPI(M) leadership. The insurrection started on May 25, 1967 in Naxalbari village when a peasant was attacked by hired hands over a land dispute. Local peasants retaliated by attacking the local landlords and the violence escalated. Majumdar greatly admired Mao Zedong of China and advocated that Indian peasants and lower classes must follow in his footsteps and overthrow the government and upper classes whom he held responsible for their plight. He engendered the Naxalite movement through his writings, the most famous being the ‘Historic Eight Documents’ which formed the basis of Naxalite ideology. In 1967 ‘Naxalites’ organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), and later broke away from CPI (M). Uprisings were organized in several parts of the country. In 1969 AICCCR gave birth to Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

During the 1970s, the movement was fragmented into several disputing factions. By 1980, it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30 000. A 2004 Home Ministry estimate puts numbers at that time as ‘9,300 hardcore underground cadre…( holding) around 6,500 regular weapons beside a large number of unlicensed country-made arms’. More recent figures put the strength of the movement at 15,000, and claim the guerrillas control an estimated one fifth of India’s forests, as well as being active in 160 of the country’s 604 administrative districts.’ India’s Research and Analysis Wing believed in 2006 that 20,000 Naxals are currently involved in the growing insurgency.

Today some groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. Others, such as Communist Party of India (Maoist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti are engaged in armed guerrilla struggles.

Naxalite-Maoist insurgencyThe Naxalite-Maoist insurgency is a low-level war of maoists against the Indian government. The insurgency started as a peasant rebellion in the eastern Indian village of Naxalbari in 1967 and has now spread to a large swath in the central and eastern parts of the country. In 2004 the Maoist rebel organisation People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre of India merged to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). In 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites “The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.” In 2009 Manmohan Singh said the country was “losing the battle against Maoist rebels”.

Naxalites claim to be supported by poorest rural population, especially Dalits and Adivasis. They have frequently targeted tribals, police and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs for neglected agricultural labourers and the poor and follow a strategy of rural rebellion similar to that of protracted people’s war against the government.

Region affectedThe rebels claim to operate in 182 districts in India, mainly in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The area affected by Naxalism stretches from the border with Nepal to Karnataka in the South (2006). In West Bengal areas west of Howrah are affected by the insurgency. Chhattisgarh is the epicenter of the conflict (2007).

THE RED CORRIDOR
The Red Corridor is a term used to describe an impoverished region in the east of India that experiences considerable Naxalite maoist militant activity. These are also areas that suffer from the greatest illiteracy, poverty and overpopulation in modern India, and span parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal states.

According to Judith Vidal-Hall (2006), “More recent figures put the strength of the movement at 15,000, and claim the guerrillas control an estimated one fifth of India’s forests, as well as being active in 180 of the country’s 630 administrative districts.

There exists the pro-democratic and anti-Maoist Salwa Judum, which is a government sponsored self defense force which was constituted after the maoists unleashed a campaign of violence against the tribals of Chhattisgarh.The Ranvir Sena, a caste-supremacist paramilitary of the upper-caste landlords and proscribed terrorist organisation by the Indian government, is anti-communist and has been known to kill Dalit civilians in retaliation to Naxalite activity.

Similar self-defense groups have emerged in Andhra Pradesh during the last decade. Some of these groups are Fear Vikas, Green Tigers, Nalladandu, Red Tigers, Tirumala Tigers, Palnadu Tigers, Kakatiya Cobras, Narsa Cobras, Nallamalla Nallatrachu (Cobras) and Kranthi Sena. Over ground activists of maoists were axed to death by the Nayeem gang in 1998 and 2000. On 24 August 2005, alleged members of the self-styled Narsi Cobras killed a maoist activist in Mahbubnagar district.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Poverty Alleviation Programmes

The fruits of economic growth have not benefited everyone uniformly. Some are left behind and some others are not touched by the benefits of economic growth. It is proved globally that the so-called trickle-down effect does not work in all the societies and India is no exception to this. There are various reasons for this uneven development in the society. Modern economy is technology driven and not labour-intensive.

High volume of high quality goods and services are produced with fewer labour hands. In short, the modern economy is not generating much employment and sometimes it displaces and replaces labour with machines and tools. The period of 1999-2000 to 2004- 2005 saw rapid economic growth in the country but it has not impacted on the unemployment problem of the country. During this period, the unemployment rate remained almost same for rural males and decreased by just one percentage for urban male. On the other hand, unemployment among females increased by one percentage for urban and rural females.

One-third of the country’s population is still illiterate and a majority are not educated up to the age of 15 years. Even among the educated, all do not have employable skills of the modern economy. The education system is not tuned to the changing economic scenario. The large agriculture workforce in rural areas is not sustainable with dwindling cultivable land and use of modern methods of cultivation. As a result, the rural labour is pushed into cities in search of work but they do not have any employable skills in the urban formal sector often end up doing odd jobs in urban areas.

Urbanization in this country is mainly due to acute poverty in rural areas, rather than due to the economic opportunities in urban areas. Further, poverty is not uniformly spread in the country. States like Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have high level of poverty and the levels have not come down significantly in the post-economic reform era.

It is also pertinent to understand that some of the people are unable to be part of the economic reform and do not have the capacity to participate in the economic development process. Such groups need government intervention to ensure that they are not left behind in the development process and deprived of the benefits because they do not have the capacity to be part of the global economy. The government needs to develop safety nets for such groups and try to mainstream them in the development process. They need welfare measures in the form of poverty alleviation programmes to ensure that they survive, if not prosper, in this era of economic reform. Further, the poor are not a homogeneous population and their capacity to survive the economic reform varied from one group of poor to another. Especially, those who are below the poverty line or the poorest among the poor need more government help.

The government of India's poverty alleviation programmes can be broadly classified under five categories: (a) Self-employment programmes like the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana; (b) Wage-employment programmes like the Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojana and the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme; (c) Area development programmes like Drought Prone Area Programmes and the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana; (d) Social security programmes like the National Old Age Pension Scheme; (e) Other programmes like the Indira Awaas Yojana.

Self-employment programmes
Self-employment programmes were introduced at the national level in the late 1970s. Initially, the programmes were designed to provide skills, subsidized credit and infrastructure support to small farmers and agricultural labourers so that they could find new sources of income.

In the 1980s, the focus of the self-employment programmes was extended to cover target groups such as scheduled castes and tribes, women and rural artisans. The coverage also extended to specific areas such as animal husbandry, forestry and fishery.

The largest of these programmes was the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP). According to a mid-term appraisal of the Ninth Plan done by the Planning Commission, the IRDP suffered from several defects including: sub-critical investment, unviable projects, illiterate and unskilled beneficiaries with no experience in managing an enterprise, indifferent delivery of credit by banks, overcrowding of lending in certain projects such as dairy, under-emphasis on activities like trading, service and even simple processing, poor targeting and selection of non-poor, rising indebtedness, and scale of IRDP outstripping capacity of government and banks.

Other self-employment programmes suffered from similar deficiencies.

In 1999, several self-employment programmes were integrated into the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY). The key feature of the SGSY is that it does not seek to promote individual economic activities. It seeks to promote self-help groups that are trained in specific skills so they can formulate microenterprise proposals. Such projects are based on activities that are identified for each block on the basis of local resources, skills and markets. The projects are supported by bank credit and government subsidies.

While the SGSY is implemented by district rural development agencies through panchayat samitis, NGOs are expected to play a major role in the success of the programme.

Wage-employment programmes
The first major wage-employment programme was introduced in the 1960s to provide employment to the rural unemployed particularly during the lean agricultural season.

Subsequently, several wage-employment programmes were launched by the Central and State governments. The largest of these was the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY), which was redesigned in 1999 as the Jawahar Gram Samridhhi Yojana (JGSY).

Other notable schemes were: the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), and the Employment Guarantee Scheme of the Maharashtra government.

According to a mid-term appraisal of the Ninth Plan done by the Planning Commission, the JRY suffered from the following defects: Provided inadequate employment (only 11 days as per concurrent evaluation); Resources were spread too thin; Violation of material-labour norms and corruption (fudging of muster rolls); Projects were executed by contractors who sometimes hired outside labourers at lower wages.

There were similar deficiencies in the EAS.

In 2001, the JGSY and EAS were merged to form the Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojana (SGRY). The objective of the scheme is to provide additional wage employment with food security in rural areas. Beneficiaries are temporarily employed to build community assets and infrastructure. The cost of the scheme, which includes the distribution of foodgrain, is shared by the Central and State governments in a ratio of 87.5:12.5.

In August 2005, the Indian Parliament passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), one of independent India’s most ambitious interventions to address rural poverty and empower poor people.

The NREGA follows a set of legally enforceable employment norms. Its aim is to end food insecurity, empower village communities, and create useful assets in rural areas. It is based on the assumption that every adult has a right to basic employment opportunities at the statutory minimum wage.

Under the scheme, one member of every poor rural family is guaranteed 100 days of work at the minimum wage of Rs 60 a day. All rural poor are eligible, not just those designated below the poverty line (BPL). One-third of the beneficiaries must be women. If five or more children accompany their mothers to any site, the implementing authority must appoint a woman to look after them on the site.

Panchayats at district, intermediate and village levels will identify and monitor the project, together with a programme officer. Social audits of the work will be available at gram sabhas. Work will, as far as possible, be provided within a radius of 5 km.

The work to be undertaken will be public works such as water harvesting, drought-proofing, micro and macro irrigation works, renovation of traditional water bodies, flood control barriers and rural connectivity.

Medical costs necessitated by injuries at work will be borne by the implementing authority.

Area development programmes
Drought Prone Area Programmes (DPAP), Desert Development Programmes (DDP), Hilly Area Development Programmes and Tribal Area Development Programmes were introduced in the 1970s to prevent environmental degradation and provide employment to the poor in these regions.

In the mid-‘90s, the environment management aspect of these programmes was strengthened by the introduction of watershed development programmes.

Currently, several Central government, State government and non-government watershed development programmes are being implemented.

The government has mooted a “single national initiative” under the National Watershed Development Projects for Rain-fed Areas (NWDPRA) programme. A new Department of Land Resources has been created by merging all area development programmes with the Department of Wasteland Development.
The Tenth Plan has a new scheme called the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana(RSVY) to tackle the problem of extreme deprivation in backward pockets of the country.

Started with an outlay of Rs 2,500 crore for 2002-03, the RSVY aims to promote focused developmental programmes for backward areas that would help reduce imbalances, speed up development and help backward areas overcome poverty. The programme also aims to encourage states to take up productivity-enhancing reforms.

Social security programmes
Social security programmes were launched, at the national level, in the 1980s with an old age pension scheme. Currently, there are four major national social security schemes:
—National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), which provides a pension to people above the age of 65 with no source of income or financial support.
—National Family Benefit Scheme, which provides Rs 10,000 to families living below the poverty line when their main earning member dies.
—National Maternity Benefit Scheme, which provides Rs 500 to pregnant women of families living below the poverty line.
—Rural Group Insurance Scheme, which provides a maximum life insurance of Rs 5,000 covering the main earning members of families living below the poverty line on a group insurance basis; the government pays half the premium of Rs 50-Rs 70.

Other programmes
The largest of the 'other' programmes is the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), which provides houses free of cost to below the poverty line scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families living in rural areas. Recently, several other poverty alleviation programmes have been launched, including Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana, which provides additional funds to States so that they can provide basic minimum services such as primary health, primary education and drinking water.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana there are two schemes, Gramin Awas for rural shelter and the Rural Drinking Water Project for water conservation in DPAP and DDP programme areas.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, launched in December 2000, to provide road connectivity to 1.6 lakh remote habitations with a population of over 500 by the end of the Tenth Plan period

Antyodaya Anna Yojana, launched in December 2001, to provide 25 kg of foodgrain at highly subsidized rates to 100 million of India's poorest families living below the poverty line. In 2002, around 24 lakh tonnes of foodgrain were provided by the central government under this scheme.

The Annapurna Scheme to provide 10 kg of foodgrain per month free of cost to persons who are eligible for pension under the NOAPS but haven’t received any.

Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna:
 This programme was launched in April, 1999. This is a holistic programme covering all aspects of self employment such as organisation of the poor into self help groups, training, credit, technology, infrastructure and marketing.

The objective of SGSY is to provide sustainable income to the rural poor. The programme aims at establishing a large number of micro-enterprises in the rural areas, based upon the potential of the rural poor. It is envisaged that every family assisted under SGSY will be brought above the poverty-line with in a period of three years.

This programme covers families below poverty line in rural areas of the country. Within this target group, special safeguards have been provided by reserving 50% of benefits for SCs/STs, 40% for women and 3% for physically handicapped persons. Subject to the availability of the funds, it is proposed to cover 30% of the rural poor in each block in the next 5 years.

SGSY is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme and funding is shared by the Central and State Governments in the ratio of 75:25 respectively.

SGSY is a Credit-cum-Subsidy programme. It covers all aspects of self-employment, such as organisation of the poor into self-help groups, training, credit technology, infrastructure and marketing. Efforts would be made to involve women members in each self-help group. SGSY lays emphasis on activity clusters. Four-five activities will be identified for each block with the approval of Panchayat Samities. The Gram sabha will authenticate the list of families below the poverty line identified in BPL census. Identification of individual families suitable for each key activity will be made through a participatory process. Closer attention will be paid on skill development of the beneficiaries, known as swarozgaris, and their technology and marketing needs.

Jawahar Gram Samriddhi Yojna:
 The critical importance of rural infrastructure in the development of village economy is well known. A number of steps have been initiated by the Central as well as the State Governments for building the rural infrastructure. The public works programme have also contributed significantly in this direction.

Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojna (JGSY) is the restructured, streamlined and comprehensive version of the erstwhile Jawahar Rozagar Yojana. Designed to improve the quality of life of the poor, JGSY has been launched on 1st April, 1999. The primary objective of the JGSY is the creation of demand driven community village infrastructure including durable assets at the village level and assets to enable the rural poor to increase the opportunities for sustained employment. The secondary objective is the generation of supplementary employment for the unemployed poor in the rural areas. The wage employment under the programme shall be given to Below Poverty Line(BPL) families.

JGSY is implemented entirely at the village Panchayat level. Village Panchayat is the sole authority for preparation of the Annual Plan and its implementation.

The programme is implemented as Centrally Sponsored Scheme on cost sharing basis between the Centre and the State in the ratio of 75:25 respectively.

The programme is to be implemented by the Village Panchayats with the approval of Gram sabha. No other administrative or technical approval is required.

Indira Aawas Yojna:
 IAY is the flagship rural housing scheme which is being implemented by the Government of India with an aim of providing shelter to the poor below poverty line. The Government of India has decided that allocation of funds under IAY will be on the basis of poverty ratio and housing shortage.

The objective of IAY is primarily to help construction of new dwelling units as well as conversion of unserviceable kutcha houses into pucca/semi-pucca by members of SC/STs, freed bonded labourers and also non-SC/ST rural poor below the poverty line by extending them grant-in-aid.

IAY is a beneficiary-oriented programme aimed at providing houses for SC/ST households who are victims of atrocities, households headed by widows/unmarried women and SC/ST households who are below the poverty line. This scheme has been in effect from 1st April, 1999.

IAY is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme funded on cost sharing basis between the government of India and the States in the ratio of 75:25 respectively.

Grant of Rs. 20,000 per unit is provided in the plain areas and Rs. 22,000 in hilly/difficult areas for the construction of a house. For conversion of a kutcha house into in pucca house, Rs. 10,000 is provided. Sanitary laterines and chulahs are integral part of the house. In construction/upgradation of the house, cost effective and environment friendly technologies, materials and designs are encouraged. The household is allotted in the name of a female member of beneficiary household.

DRDA Administration: 
District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) has traditionally been the principal organ at the District level to oversee the implementation of the anti-poverty programmes of the Ministry of Rural Development. Created originally for implementation of Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), the DRDAs were subsequently entrusted with a number of programmes, both of the Central and State governments. Since inception, the administrative costs of the DRDA (District Rural Development Agency) were met by setting aside a part of the allocations for each programme. Of late, the number of programmes had increased and several programmes have been restructured with a view to making them more effective. While an indicative staffing structure was provided to the DRDAs, experience showed that there was no uniformity in the staffing structure. It is in this context that a new centrally sponsored scheme—DRDA Administration—was introduced from April 1, 1999, based on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee known as Shankar Committee. The new scheme replaced the earlier practice of allocating percentage of programme funds to the administrative costs.

The objective of the scheme of DRDA (District Rural Development Agency) Administration is to strengthen the DRDAs and to make them more professional and effective. Under the scheme, DRDA is visualised as specialised agency capable of managing anti-poverty programmes of the Ministry on the one hand and effectively relate these to the overall efforts of poverty eradication in the district on the other.

The funding pattern of the programme is in the ratio of 75:25 between the Centre and the States.

The DRDA will continue to watch over and ensure effective utilisation of the funds intended for anti-poverty programmes. It will need to develop distinctive capabilities for poverty eradication. It will perform tasks which are different from Panchayati Raj Institutions and line departments. The DRDAs would deal only with the anti-poverty programmes of the Ministry of Rural Development. If DRDAs are to be entrusted with programmes of other Ministries or those of the State Governments, it must be ensured that these have a definite anti-poverty focus. In respect of such States where DRDA does not have a separate identity and separate accounts.

Basic Minimum Services:
 The Government of India launched this scheme in 1997 incorporating seven vital services of importance to common people. The State Government has opted to provide shelter to shelter-less below poverty line under this scheme.

The objective of providing this scheme is to supplement the constitution of dwelling units for members of SC/ST, freed bonded labour and also non-SC/ST rural poor below the poverty line by providing them with grant.

The Central government provides additional funds for Basic Minimum Services subject to the condition that the State government will provide 15% of the required funds.

Additional Indira Awas are being constructed with the guidelines analogous to that for the Awas Yojana. The salient features are:
—Rs. 20,000 is provided to the beneficiaries for construction of the houses in phases. Sanitary latrines and smokeless chulah are integral part of the houses.
—Houses are allotted in the name of female members of the family or in joint names of both spouses.
—Selection of construction technology, materials and design is left entirely to the choice of beneficiaries. Contractors, Middlemen or the Departmental Agencies have no role in the construction of houses.
—Cost effective and environment friendly housing technologies/design and materials are provided.
  
Drought-Prone Areas Programme:
 The Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP) aims at mitigating the adverse effects of drought on the production of crops and livestock and productivity of land, water and human resources. It strives to encourage restoration of ecological balance and seeks to improve the economic and social conditions of the poor and the disadvantaged sections of the rural community.

DPAP is a people's programme with government assistance. There is a special arrangement for maintenance of assets and social audit by Panchayati Raj Institutions. Development of all categories of land belonging to Gram Panchayats, Government and individuals fall within the limits of the selected watersheds for development.

Allocation is to be shared equally by the Centre and State government on 75:25 basis. Watershed community is to contribute for maintenance of assets created. Utilisation of 50% of allocation under the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS) is for the watershed development. Funds are directly released to Zila Parishads/District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) to sanction projects and release funds to Watershed Committees and Project Implementation Agencies.

Village community, including self-help/user groups, undertake area development by planning and implementation of projects on watershed basis through Watershed Associations and Watershed Committees constituted from among themselves. The Government supplements their work by creating social awareness, imparting training and providing technical support through project implementation agencies.
 
Credit-cum-Subsidy Scheme for Rural Housing:
 There were a large number of households in the rural areas which could not be covered under the IAY, as either they do not fall into the range of eligibility or due to the limits imposed by the available budget. On the other hand due to limited repayment capacity, these rural households cannot take benefit of fully loan based schemes offered by some of the housing finance institutions. The need of this majority can be met through a scheme which is part credit and part subsidy based.

The objective of this scheme for rural housing is to facilitate construction of houses for rural families who have some repayment capacity. The scheme aims at eradicating shelter-lessness from the rural area of the country.

The scheme provides shelter to rural families who have not been coveted under IAY and who are desirous of possessing a house. All rural households having annual income up to Rs. 32,000 are covered under this scheme.

The funds are shared by the Centre and the State in the ratio of 75:25, respectively.

Poor just above the poverty line are entitled to get the benefits of the scheme. A maximum subsidy of Rs. 10,000 per unit is provided for the construction of a house. Sanitary latrine and smokeless chulha are integral part of the house. Cost effective and environment friendly technologies, materials, designs, etc. are encouraged. Sixty per cent (60%) of the houses are allocated to SC/ST rural poor.

Appraisal of Anti-poverty programmes
On review of all the poverty alleviation programmes, one gets the impression that these programmes are not benefiting the poor in terms of increasing their income. For example, the PDS is plagued with seepage, corruption, high administrative cost and targeting errors. Self-employment are better utilized by the non-poor or those who are above BPL. Wage employment programme is caught in red-tapism and administrative delays leading to poor utilization of the allocated funds. All these factors have been used by some economists to argue against these programmes and to suggest the winding up the programmes.

Looking at purely narrow economic point of view is not the right approach to poverty alleviation. Poverty does not mean not having enough income alone. Poverty means not having access to a whole lot of services like education, health services, water supply, sanitation and so on. It also means loss of status in the community, exclusion from certain social functions, and a sense of inferiority in the group or community. In short, poverty means marginalization of an individual or household in the community.

There is no denial that poverty alleviation programmes should lead to high income to the poor, but to come out of the culture of poverty, one needs to be empowered and also requires access to basic services. While some of the poverty alleviation programmes may not be performing well in terms of utilizing the allocated funds and increasing the income of the poor, these programmes have contributed to the social arena of poverty. For example, wage employment programme was not very successful in terms of utilizing the allocated resources and generating additional employment for the BPL. But this programme has created village level assets and infrastructure in terms of schools, health centers, roads and ponds.

Similarly, Self-help Groups (SHGs) formed by the women has given them tremendous confidence and empowered them to become entrepreneurs. Today, SHGs are not only active in creating micro-enterprises but also they are involved in implementing community programmes like immunization programmes, literacy programmes and so on. Some of them have empowered to the level of contesting panchayat elections and become members of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI). Again, there is no denial that all these cannot be achieved without an increase in income. Therefore, the economic and social aspects of poverty alleviation are interlinked to one another. Economic upliftment alone cannot alleviate poverty but it must lead to social upliftment in terms of access to services, empowerment and independence. Therefore, the current poverty alleviation programmes in the country should broaden their focus and goal in addition to increasing income to achieve the target of removing poverty from the country.

Also, involvement of the local communities is key to the success of poverty alleviation programmes. In the absence of community involvement, the programmes are plagued with bureaucratic muddle and corruption at every level. Unfortunately, States still lag behind handing over these programmes to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). While PRIs are created in most of the States and elections are held, these institutions are not given the financial resources, administrative powers and the capacity to run programmes. State governments still hold the financial powers and the PRI is not in a position to plan and decide based on their needs. The administrative machinery of the PRI is very week to carry out these national level programmes. Also, the PRI does not have the capacity to handle resources and technical capacity to implement programmes. These issues have to be addressed immediately to strengthen PRI to implement poverty alleviation programmes.

Apart from decentralization and community involvement, participation of the poor in the programme that affects their welfare, is important. Some of the self-employment schemes failed to take off because no effort was made to involve the poor in identifying the skills which they can learn easily. Some of the skills imbibed may not have job potential in the community. On the positive side, micro-enterprise under the self-employment programme was successful because of the role of SHGs. The SHG members actively participated in the whole process and decided for themselves for the kind of skills they wanted to learn and also the kind of credit they needed from the bank to start the microenterprise. Many well-intentioned programmes fail to take off because of lack of understanding of the ground realities due to lack of participation of the beneficiaries.

At the macro-level, there is a need to co-ordinate a myriad of poverty alleviation programmes of the central government and the State governments. The transfer of central funds to the States for different programmes should be efficient. Currently, such funds and goods like foodgrains are not fully utilized by the States. There is a need to strengthen the financial management capacity of certain States to use the funds efficiently. These are the States where the percentage of the BPL is more than the national average.

Poverty is more of social marginalization of an individual, household or group in the community/society rather than inadequacy of income to fulfill the basic needs. Indeed, inadequate income is one of the factors of marginalization, but not the sole factor. The poverty alleviation programmes should not aim merely to increase the income level of individual, household or group, but mainstreaming marginalized in the development process of the country.