The British did not bother about the poor condition of Indians as long as they ruled over India, When India became independent in 1947, it started paying more attention to the problem of poverty and undertook many measures and launched many schemes, programmes and projects for the removal of poverty. Here is a brief survey of such measures.
1. The Five Year Plans:
The Indian Government set up the Planning Commission in 1950 and started the Five Year Plans with a view to develop the country in a methodical manner.
The First Five Year Plan [1951-56] had spent about Rs. 2378 crores for various developmental purposes and this amount had almost increased to 15.92 lakh crores in the 10th Five Year Plan, 2002-07, These Five Year Plans mainly aimed at – attaining self-reliance in agricultural production, the removal of unemployment; achieving desirable progress in industry, increasing standard of living, and finally, at wiping out poverty.
The progress achieved through these Plans, though not satisfactory cannot be neglected. In the time span of about 40 years after Independence we could achieve an annual economic growth of about 3% as against the world average of 4%.
This annual growth rate, however, crossed 5.5% in the decade of 1980s, and the 10th Plan intended to achieve 8% growth of GDP. Between 1951 -1991, the number of people living below the line of poverty has been reduced by about 28%. The 10th Plan poised to reduce it to 21% by 2007. The government is hopeful of achieving considerable progress especially in the industrial sector by means of implementation of the policy of economic liberalization.
With a view to facilitate economic growth, 14 banks were nationalized in 1962, when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. Afterwards in 1972, coal mines were nationalized and that was followed by government taking control of big private iron and steel company and wholesale business in food grains.
Nationalisation did not provide the expected benefits. Lack of efficiency, initiative and commitment to the cause, have been main casualities of the process of nationalization. Only in two areas, branch expansion and grant of loan to the weaker sections, the banks have achieved some progress.
The overall performances of many of these banks is, far from satisfactory. The government now seems to have learnt that nationalization cannot be the panacea for problems and hence it is switching over to the opposite pole of privatization.
3. 20 Point Programme:
During the period of emergency (1975-78), Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, introduced the much publicized 20- point programme with the main intention of removing poverty (“Garibi Hatao “) and economic exploitation, and upliftment of weaker sections of the society.
Under this scheme .number of programmes were included: development of S. C., S. T., and other backward classes: distribution of surplus land to the weaker sections, providing minimum wages to the landless workers, providing irrigational facilities to the rural people and expanding their employment opportunities, family planning, extension of primary health services, welfare of women children and labourers, simplifications of industrial policy, extension of primary education facilities, providing drinking water to all villages, etc.
Though many of the programmes included under the 20 point programme were laudable, they could not be effectively implemented for want of honesty and commitment on the part of the government officials and political leaders. The programme could only create awareness among the weaker sections, and in various other respects, it was a failure.
4. Other Programmes for Employment Generation and Poverty Alleviation:
Among the other anti-poverty and employment generation programmes launched by the Government, the following ones deserve a special mention.
(i) The JRY:
Jawahar Rozgar Yojana:
The JRY [Jawahar Rozgar Yojna] was introduced in the month of April 1989 with the intention of helping at least one member of each poorest family by providing employment for about 50 to 100 days in a year at his own work place or residential area.
About 30% of the jobs under this programme are reserved for women. The expenditure of this Yojna is to be shared by the Centre and State at 80:20 ratios respectively. About 80% of the funds obtained by the Centre and State are to be utilized through the Gram Panchayats for helping the targeted beneficiaries. The existing rural wage employment programmes such as NREP and RLEGP were merged into the JRY.
As per the provision of this Yojna, Panchayats with a population ranging between 4000 to 5000 persons are given an annual financial assistance from Rs. 0.80 lakh to 1 lakh. But 30% of the money goes only for women. In the year 1990-91, about Rs. 500 crore was spent under this Yojna. It covers about 46% of the population.
In the 8th Plan, about Rs. 30,000 crore was allotted for rural development out of which JRY got about Rs. 18,400 crores. Apart from this Central assistance, the JRY got the state assistance of about Rs. 400 crore. In the year 1998-99, Rs. 2095 crore was allotted for the implementation of this Yojna and by the end of 1998, around 190 million mandays of employment was created for the needy people. This scheme has been implemented in 2,20,000 villages all over the country. In April 1999, in place of JRY the Jawahar Gram Samriddhi Yojna came into being.
(ii) Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojana [PMRY] -1993:
This scheme launched in 1995, has the objective of making available self-employment opportunities to the educated unemployed youth. The PMRY is meant for educated unemployed youth with family income up to Rs. 40,000 per annum, in both urban and rural areas, for engaging in any economically viable activity.
(iii) Rural Employment Generation Programme [REGP] 1995:
With the objective of creating self-employment opportunities in the rural areas and small towns the REGP was launched in 1995. The
[It may be noted here that some of the schemes and programmes launched by the Government earlier were replaced by or got merged into the new ones. For example, the IRDP [Integrated Rural Development Programme] initiated in 1978-79 was replaced by the SGSY [Swarna Jayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojna] in 1999; the NREP and RLEGP [National Rural Employment Programme and Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme] were merged into JRY that is Jawahar Rozgar Yojana in 1989; the EAS [Employment Assurance Scheme] got merged with the SGRY [Sampoorna Grameena Rozgar Yojana] and so on.] Scheme is being implemented by the K VIC that is, Khadi and Village Industries Commission. A target of creating 25 lakh new jobs has been set for the REGP during the 10th Plan.
(vi) Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana [PMGY] 2000:
The PMGY was launched in 2000-2001 in all the states with the objective of achieving sustainable human development at the village level, Initially, it had five components namely; primary health, primary education, rural shelter, rural drinking water and nutrition, and rural electrification. The Central Assistance for this yojna amounted to Rs. 2800 crores for the period 2003-05.
(v) Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana [PMGSY] 2000:
This scheme came into force in December 2000 to provide connectivity to 1.6 lakh unconnected habitations with population of 500 persons or more in the rural areas by the end of the 10th plan.
The scheme estimate indicated a requirement of Rs. 60,000 crores in the beginning. The present estimates reveal that it requires at least. Rs. 1,30,000 crore for its achievement. It is being executed in all the States and Union Territories. The scheme is in force and about 88685 kms of rural roads have been taken up under these programmes.
(iv) Swarnajayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana [SGSY] 1999:
The SGSY launched in April 1999 in place of the IRDP [Integrated Rural Development Programme], is the only self-employment programme currently being implemented. This scheme provides assistance to swarozgar is above the poverty line in the form of income-generating assets through bank credit and government subsidy.
The scheme is being implemented on a 75:25 cost sharing between the Centre and the States. Since its inception, and up to April 2004, a total allocation of Rs. 6734 crore was made available for this scheme by the Centre and States.
(v) Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana/SGRYJ-2001:
This scheme came into force in Sept. 2001 by merging in it the on-going schemes of Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana [JGS Y] and Employment Assurance Scheme [EAS], This is open to all rural poor who are in need of wage employment and desire to do manual and unskilled work in and around the rural habitat.
The programme is to be implemented through Panchayat Raj institutions. The cost-sharing of the scheme between the Centre and the States in the ratio of 75:25. During the year 2003-04 alone an amount of Rs. 4,121 crore as cash component and about 50 lakh tones of food grains were released to the States / UTs.
(vi) ValmikiAmbedkar Awas Yojana [VAMBAY] 2001:
The VAMBAY, launched in December 2001, intends to find remedy to the horrible conditions of the urban slum dwellers living below the poverty line without adequate shelter. The Centre provides 50% subsidy to the states to implement this scheme. Since its inception up to December 2004, the Central Govt. has released a total subsidy of Rs. 753 crore.
(vii) National Food for Work Programme [NFWP] 2004:
This programme was launched on November 14th 2004 in 150 most backward districts of the country. Its objective was to intensify the generation of supplementary wage employment. It is open to those rural poor who are in need of wage employment and desire to do manual unskilled work.
This programme is 100% centrally sponsored one and the food grains are supplied to the states freely. Rupees 2020 crore had been allocated for the programme in the year 2004-05 in addition to 20 lakh tones of food grains.
(viii) Rural Housing Schemes:
The Government has also launched rural housing schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana [IAY] which intends to provide dwelling units, free of cost, to the poor families of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, freed bonded-labourers and also to those who are below the poverty line in the rural areas. Since its inception up to June 1st 2004, as many as 113,96 lakh houses have been constructed / upgraded by spending as much Rs. 19,869 crore.
It is an indisputable fact that India still remains a poor country in spite of our various developmental projects, plans and programmes. An all-pervading problem like poverty cannot be removed all on a sudden. Governmental agencies and instruments alone cannot fix a master solution for it.
People’s active involvement in various developmental programmes is equally important. Above all, we require committed civil servants, dedicated bureaucrats, strong political leaders committed to the cause of nation and a ‘general will’ on the part of people to march ahead, facing the challenges of poverty.