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Fourth of global ‘extreme poors’ in just eight Indian states

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Marble_Grinding_Near_Taj_Mahal_June_2006

 

New Delhi: Over a fourth of the world’s people living in extreme poverty, or 440 million out of the global figure of 1.6 billion, are in just eight Indian states, parliament was informed on Thursday.

These states are Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

“As per Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released on June 22 by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, approximately 440 million MPI poor people are living in poorest eight major Indian states out of total 1.6 billion people globally.

“The multi-dimensional poverty headcount ratio is calculated as the ratio of the number of households who are ‘multi-dimensionally poor’ to the total number of households,” Rao Inderjit Singh, minister of state (independent charge) for planning and minister of state for defence, told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

The multi-dimensional poverty headcount ratio is calculated as the ratio of the number of households who are ‘multi-dimensionally poor’ to the total number of households. A household is defined as multi-dimensionally poor if it is deprived in some combination of two to six ‘indicators’ (or more than 30 percent of the weighted indicators) from among a list of 10 indicators in the areas of education, health and living standard.

The indicators are – years of schooling and child enrolment in the area of education, child mortality and nutrition in the area of health, and electricity, sanitation, drinking water, floor space, cooking fuel and assets in the area of living standard.

The methodology for estimation of poverty followed by the erstwhile Planning Commission was based on the recommendations made by the experts in the field from time to time, the minister informed.

These poverty estimates have been computed from the Large Sample Surveys on Household Consumer Expenditure carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

These surveys are normally conducted once in five years. The latest data of Large Sample Survey on Household Consumer Expenditure has been collected by NSSO in its 68th round conducted in 2011-12.

In another written answer, the minister said according to the 2011-12 survey, about 270 million persons are living below poverty line in the country.

He, however, mentioned that according to the Cabinet Secretariat Resolution dated January 1, 2015 NITI Aayog has not been given a specific mandate to undertake a national survey to determine the number of people living below the poverty line.

 

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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

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MGNREGA to employ at least 52 million Indians in the next 20 years

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Image source: nregs-mp.org/

New Delhi: There is a 14-percent rise in the programme run under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the 2016-17 Budget, the world’s largest state-run jobs plan, after a decade of operation continues to be India’s top poverty mitigation programme.

MGNREGA, which guarantees 100 days of work to unskilled people in villages of India, will employ at least 52 million people and provide livelihoods to their families. That means about 260 million (considering an average family of five) will depend on it over the next 20 years, according to an analysis.

In three years MGNREGA funding has raised up to 18%. Unlike last year, though, when the programme exhausted its money by December, it is unclear what might happen this year when — which is more likely than if — the money runs out.

In 2015-16, there was a cushion of Rs5,000 crore in case the ministry over its money, but New Delhi released only Rs.2,000 crore of that money, according to Aruna Nikhil Roy of the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee, a Delhi-based NGO.

More Indians are still poor than the population of Indonesia. The unqualified number of poor as well as the proportion of poor below the poverty line (according to the Tendulkar poverty line) has been declining over two decades, as we reported.

But about 270 million are still below the poverty line, more than the population of Indonesia (255 million), the world’s fifth-most populated country. The poverty line is the ability to spend Rs.47 per day per person in urban areas and Rs 32 in rural areas.

MGNREGA is being lauded for its achievements in the past decade. Around 277.9 million people are registered under the scheme, and 98.3 million of them are active workers. The programme covers all adults from rural households who seek employment.

The “work” under MGNREGA covers “unskilled manual labour”, providing an opportunity to every person who needs employment. Without skills, young Indians in rural areas will need MGNREGA.

To know exactly how many Indians will need employment in the coming years, the illiterate rural population was scrutinised, according to the 2011 census. There are 51.7 million illiterate people aged 16 to 30.

Since they will not benefit from the Right to Education, which guarantees free and compulsory elementary education till age 14, this population will not be a part of India’s skilled labour force.

According to this International Labour Organisation definition, skills require at least five years of schooling. So, for at least 20 years, MGNREGA will likely need to support this group of Indians.

A word of caution: This 52 million (rounded-off) population includes only illiterates from the Census 2011 data. There are many among the literate population who have basic reading and writing skills but are not skilled enough to work in industry.

MGNREGA critics contend that the scheme does not help pare poverty because of corruption and poor implementation. “From a policy point of view, we should be interested in the efficiency of transferring incomes to the poor,” economist Surjit Bhalla wrote in a column recently.

With no cost-benefit valuation of MGNREGA work and no technical support, the programme struggles to create assets or infrastructure in rural areas, which it should, Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) economics professor Reetika Khera, wrote in a recent column.

MGNREGA is short of funds- 17 percent of its budget went into paying wages and material from the previous financial year, according to a letter from Ministry of Rural Development to the Ministry of Finance.

The actual allocation for MGNREGA this year is around Rs.29,000 crore ($4.6 billion).

This fund squeeze for MGNREGA is not new and has been evident under both the United Progressive Alliance II and the National Democratic Alliance regimes. Ending the year with pending obligations, which effectively means workers’ wages are unpaid, has been a consistent trend.

As much as 95 percent of the budgetary allocation for the current financial year (2015-16) was exhausted by December 30, 2015. Further, as per the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Finance calculations, state governments require at least an additional Rs.6,300 crore to pay wages and other expenses.

The drought-affected states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh will provide 150 days of employment against the normal 100-but there is no extra money evident, from Delhi or in their budgets.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget for MGNREGA may not be enough. Under the devolution recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, India’s states have been given more money, and hence more powers, to decide how they want to finance social welfare.

The one-time Planning Commission had 66 centrally sponsored schemes, reduced to 30 under the NITI Aayog, the body that has replaced the Planning Commission. MGNREGA is one of these 30.

Even though the central government has transferred social welfare to the states through “devolution” (transfer of powers-fiscal or administrative-from higher level of government to lower level of government), it will pay for important programmes, such as NREGA and rural roads.

Jaitley said in his budget speech: “In spite of the consequential reduced fiscal space for the Centre, the government has decided to continue supporting important national priorities such as agriculture, education, health, MGNREGA, and rural infrastructure including roads.” (IANS)

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Centre launches GIAN to boost higher education

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Picture Courtesy:-www.thelittlenews.com

Kharagpur/Ahmedabad: The human resource development (HRD) ministry on Monday launched the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) scheme to boost the quality of the country’s higher education through international collaboration.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry’s initiative GIAN was launched at the Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar by HRD Minister Smriti Irani and was flagged off parallelly at IIT Kharagpur in the presence of R Subrahmanyam, additional secretary for technical education in the ministry.

GIAN is not limited to only those from the IITs and national institutes, but will also be available for government institutes who not usually expect an opportunity to meet, interact and learn from international faculty,

Subrahmanyam said GIAN aims at bringing high-quality academicians to participate in delivering courses in Indian institutions.

It is interconnected with the ‘Make in India’ campaign and the IMPRINT program.

The inaugural courses are 10-day courses — ‘3D Digitization for Cultural Heritage’ at IIT Gandhinagar and ‘Orthopedic Bio-mechanics: Implants and Biomaterials’ at IIT Kharagpur.

They are among 201 courses approved to be conducted under GIAN so far from among 495 courses proposed by various higher education institutes in India.

IIT Kharagpur is the nodal institution and national coordinator for this flagship program.

Irani said the courses will have a credit-based approach.

The Orthopedic Biomechanics course will be taught by professor Nico Verdonschot from the Netherlands who is a leading international figure in the field of computer modeling of Orthopedic Biomechanics.

More than 350 academicians from 38 countries are participating in this program in 13 broad disciplines. It currently includes 68 national institutes.

(Inputs from IANS)