NEW DELHI: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of,” said Chinese politician and philosopher Confucius circa 520 BC. In India’s 68 years of democratic rule, Raisina Hill may have witnessed government of all hues, but what has remained consistent is the political promise of ‘gareebi hatao’ (eradicate poverty). When they say that poverty often hides her charms behind an ugly mask, the government appears to be doing just the same when it comes to the poor and hungry.
Successive governments spent Rs 2,13,000 crore through seven flagship schemes in the last five years to eradicate poverty which, according to NITI Aayog’s erstwhile avtaar the Planning Commission, is 25.7 per cent in rural areas and 13.7 per cent in urban areas. What the masked figure will not tell you is that 15 per cent of the population still sleeps hungry at the end of the day, and that the bureaucratic system has delayed many schemes to uplift the poor. Did they meet the targets while utilising lakhs of crores of rupees? Perhaps not, as has been revealed during the analysis of some of the schemes. The poverty alleviation project National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) barely reached half of its target of social mobilisation of Self Help Groups (SHGs). The idea of this scheme is to organise the poor into SHGs and make them capable of self-employment.
Government data shows that the target of SHGs in 2013-14 was 3,13,427, but it achieved only 1,94,162. In 2014-15, the target was 279,707, but the progress report noted just 187,076 social mobilisation of SHGs. The target for providing community investment fund to SHGs was 75,814 in 2014-15, but it could achieve only 48,920.
Similarly, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) for helping the poor by providing skill training is lagging behind. DAY was repackaged by the Narendra Modi government to enhance livelihood opportunities for the rural and urban poor. As per government data, in 2014-15, DAY helped set up 35,449 individual and group micro enterprises against the target of 60,000. Moreover, only 182,037 poor people were provided training against the target of 500,000. The dismal performance was repeated in 2015-16 with just 155,360 trained against the target of 300,622.
The only achievement the Modi government can claim for the uplift of the poor is surpassing the UPA’s achievement in setting up individual micro enterprises for them. In 2015-16, the government set up 39,851 units against the target of 30,000 micro units.
Indira Awaas Yojana’s target remained elusive for successive governments. During UPA rule in 2013-14, the achievement was around 60 per cent of the target, while in 2015-16, it was merely 30 per cent. Only Odisha, which has a 57.2 per cent poverty ratio, was able to surpass the target of 135,403 and constructed 176,190 houses for the poor.