Poverty alleviation  

Published: May 16, 2019 22:07:41 | Updated: May 18, 2019 22:04:42

The country's fight against poverty is on and its success is quite remarkable. However, for a country registering one of the fastest gross domestic product (GDP) growth and on the threshold of lower-middle-income economic status, the urgency of winning over the poverty's last frontier is overriding. The Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) confirms this observation. It finds progress in the country's poverty reduction between 2016 and 2018. Nonetheless, the pace of reduction among extreme poor households during the period is rather slow, it concludes. Poverty rate among households belonging to the upper poverty line dropped to 21.8 per cent in 2018 from 24.3 in 2016. Here the gain is by 2.5 percentage point. But the corresponding rate of poverty reduction among households belonging to the lower poverty line is only 1.6 percentage point -from 12.9 to 11.3.

Clearly, those lying below the lower poverty line usually called the marginalised or the hardcore poor constitute the last frontier of poverty. So far as the poor just one notch above them are doing fine in terms of changing their lot. In villages or in urban centres they toil hard and somehow maintain an income level for bettering their economic status. In a rural setting, in particular, households with more working hands but not much land or other property to fall back upon can enhance their income because they can either take lease of land for growing crops or give labour which is in high demand. Labour is in short supply and very costly in harvesting season. More working hands means they have an opportunity to make the most of the cultivation and harvesting seasons. Female-headed households and ones with single male member unused to working in crop fields are the most vulnerable.    

Sure enough, wealth creation in this country is happening at a phenomenal pace but it is mostly limited to the privileged segment of society. The poor and the marginalised are unable to take advantage of the openings because of lack of education and investment. There is no report that anyone in the country goes hungry. This is largely because economy in general has improved. Those at the bottom of the social rung find themselves under the coverage of the government's social security net. However, such social benefits are not enough to pull the marginalised from the poverty trap.

The need, therefore, is to invest more in social programmes such as education and employment. If children of the poor and the marginalised can be educated in a systematic way to turn their idle hands into working ones, they will no longer be a liability on society but come out stronger to improve their lot. However, the conventional education will prove inappropriate. They will need technical education and on-the-job training. That it is possible has been proved by experiment with the 'Bede' (boat people) community. Experimental projects on the transgender people in a few countries have also yielded positive results. These are grey areas of economy where the focus should be directed in order to ensure social integration of all. There lies the remedy for socio-economic discrimination.

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