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Month: July 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY – AN OVERVIEW

INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY – AN OVERVIEW

Foreign policy is the tool by which India interacts with the world outside its borders. The two primary objectives of India’s foreign policy are: a) protection of India’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity; and b) promotion of the well being of the Indian people. Thus, India’s foreign policy is designed to promote national security and development.

Foreign policy is impacted by global, regional and internal developments. India’s global, regional and internal environment has become highly complex, posing several challenges to India’s foreign policy.

The global environment is marked by the re-distribution of power, reflected in the rise of new power centres and the relative decline of the West. India has benefited from globalisation and economic liberalisation. It is one of the rising powers in the world. However, in order to leverage its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses, India will need to think strategically to navigate the turbulent global order.

The international order is in a state of flux. The uncertainties pertain to the redistribution of power, emergence of a polycentric world order, acuter competition for strategic resources, unequal distribution of wealth and power, the emergence of non-state actors, changing nature of conflict, threats to human security and state security arising out of climate change, poverty pandemics, terrorism, WMD proliferation, etc.

India can benefit from this uncertainty provided it maintains its natural strengths which are a strong economy, demography, democracy, political cohesion and a tolerant society. If we falter on any of these, we will suffer.

India is located in Asia, which is emerging as the new centre of global power. But Asia is home to great power rivalries. Asia has many security hot spots which impact India. West Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean Region are areas of great strategic importance for India. But they harbour many instabilities too. Therefore, India will need to approach these regions strategically.

A rising China will remain a significant foreign policy and security challenge for India. The boundary question is unlikely to be resolved in a hurry. The uncertainties of power transition in China, growth of nationalism, military modernisation, expanding ambitions in the Indian Ocean, its forays in South Asia, China-Pakistan nexus are all likely to remain concerns for India. Sino-Indian relations have improved in recent years but the mistrust has not disappeared altogether. India’s policy towards China must be nuanced and calibrated carefully. India cannot afford to have a hostile and powerful neighbour on its borders. India will need to learn to manage China with a combination of “hard” and “soft” power options. Our diplomatic skills must be of high order. Sino-Indian economic trade, which is growing, still remains asymmetric. India must look for economic opportunities in China.

South Asia is vital for India’s security and prosperity. Unfortunately, instability in South Asia is endemic. South Asian countries continue to remain sceptical about India’s attitude and behaviour. India can leverage its economic strength for bringing South Asian countries closer. Regional integration must be promoted. People-to-people contacts must be facilitated. Connectivity must be improved. However, the problem remains psychological. India must adopt policies that reassure its neighbours. India must adopt long term strategies rather than bank on ad-hocism and knee-jerk responses.

Pakistan is becoming increasingly ungovernable and unstable. Pakistan’s policy of using terrorism as a pressure point on India is a major challenge for India as is Pakistan’s ‘all weather friendship’ with China. Sino-Pakistan nexus is likely to deepen further as China’s global profile increases and Pakistan’s own problems deepen. Both China and Pakistan are nuclear countries. Radical elements in Pakistan do not countenance a prosperous and strong India. How should India deal with Pakistan? Our policy towards Pakistan must be based on deterrence as well as engagement. Pakistani society is getting differentiated and multi-layered. We should be looking for building favourable constituencies in Pakistan particularly amongst its civil society and youth. We should build our capacities to meet the terrorism challenge emanating from Pakistan, but a strategy of no-dialogue may not prove to be effective. We should also understand Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities and learn to exploit them to our advantage. In particular, we should highlight the situation in Baluchistan and Gilgit Baltistan. We should ensure that Pakistan does not get any special role in Afghanistan that would harm India’s interests. The Pakistan army appears to be under some pressure as is reflected in General Kayani’s recent statements about “peaceful co-existence” and the importance of democracy. We should be using both negative and positive levers vis-à-vis Pakistan. We should not hesitate to establish military-to-military exchanges with Pakistan. Trade can be used as a positive lever. At the same time, we should guard ourselves against nuclear terrorism and possible humanitarian crisis emerging out of spiralling instability in Pakistan.

India has tremendous strategic interests and stakes in West Asia. The region accounts for about two-thirds of our crude imports and $100 billion in trade. Nearly six million Indians living in West Asia remit over $ 35 billion every year. West Asia is saddled with seemingly intractable problems and rivalries. These include the unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict, Iran’s nuclear programme, Iran-Israel and Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalries. The tensions in West Asia are likely to continue. The region is becoming even more complex on account of the onset of political turmoil—-Arab Spring—in many countries. India’s vote on the Libyan and Syrian resolutions at the UN Security Council and India’s handling of Iran shows that Indian policy towards its region will also evolve. India cannot afford to alienate any side in the region. While maintaining good relations with all countries in the region, we will also need to shore up our capabilities in the maritime domain.

India has to pay much greater attention to the different regions of the world than has been the case so far. India’s Look East policy has brought considerable gains to the country, but it is still incomplete because of the lack of capacity in India to engage deeply with South East Asia and Asia. US’s Asian pivot strategy and China’s assertive stance in the South China sea will heighten tensions. North Korea remains a state of concern. US security guarantees in the region are being doubted by some countries. China sees a US ‘return’ to the Asia Pacific with concern. Tensions in the region will grow. India needs to enhance its engagement with Myanmar which is now opening up. India’s North-East Region must be integrated into India’s Look East policy. India will need to deepen its strategic partnerships with Japan, South Korea, ASEAN, Austria and countries in the South West Pacific.

Africa is opening up. There has been strong economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. India has sought to enhance its engagement with Africa. The India-Africa Forum has been a good beginning. This engagement must be deepened further. In contrast to the Chinese model, which is based upon the exploitation of Africa’s resources, India must have a mixed model of society building and economic engagement.

Central Asia remains important for India. We have not been able to leverage our historical closeness with the region mainly due to lack of geographical access. India must engage with Central Asian countries bilaterally as well as through multi-lateral institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. India needs to invest more in Central Asia. TAPI, if realised, will enhance India’s energy security.

Although Europe is in economic difficulty, its importance for India cannot be under-estimated. India’s trade with Europe remains significant. Europe can also be a source of investment and technology. A large number of Indians continue to live and work in Europe. In recent years, the strategic content of our relationship with Europe has been diminishing. This situation must be altered. Europe must be encouraged to invest in India. People-to-people contacts must also be enhanced. Similarly, India must look for long term opportunities in Europe despite the latter’s weaknesses.

Russia remains a time-tested friend of India, but over the years Indo-Russian relationship has, to some extent, weakened. This is largely due to the changes in global and regional environment. Russia is engaging more and more with China and is disillusioned with the US and Europe. It is also in the midst of a major internal political and economic churning. India has also diversified its foreign policy. The Russians are watching the growing Indo-US relationship with some concern. They are also apprehensive that their dominance in India’s defence market may be affected. Indo-Russian relations need to be diversified. Particular attention must be paid to improving the economic content of the relationship.

The United States remains the single biggest power and India must have an ever-deepening strategic partnership with it. The US is likely to turn towards India as its relative power declines. The many commonalities in the value systems of the two countries will make it possible for India to maintain its partnership with the US while retaining its strategic autonomy.

India needs to play an effective role in the emergence of global institutions of governance. India’s role in the G20 is a good beginning. India’s economic engagement with the world must improve. India can leverage its vast market, human resource potential and scientific and technological infrastructure to engage with the world. India’s defence industrialisation programmes can provide new stimulus for this engagement.

Multilateralism is in a state of flux. Many UN institutions are in crisis. The role of informal non-official communities and regimes in the fleshing out of the norms of governance is increasing. The influence of informal institutions on formal institutions is also increasing. India has staked its claim to a permanent membership in the UN Security Council but this may not be forthcoming easily. India needs to recognise that much of today’s global norm-setting is done outside formal institutions, by informal networks of professionals. These informal networks have a profound impact on the functioning of formal institutions. India should ensure that it has membership of the relevant institutions, both formal and informal. India has benefited from its engagement with groupings like IBSA and BRICS. India should broaden its options so that its influence increases around the world.

India’s foreign policy must be backed by hard power. India should be ready for a two-front armed conflict to be fought under a nuclear overhang. Hard power is important not only in the context of Pakistan and China but also in the context of the Indian Ocean where India should vouch for freedom of navigation. India must develop a significant maritime orientation to its military power. Its nuclear deterrence must be credible. Air power must be developed to neutralise the air assets of the adversary. Cyber security and space security must be given due attention.

India’s foreign policy challenge also lies in uncertain domestic politics. A recent example was India’s inability to sign the Teesta Water sharing agreement with Bangladesh. India’s Sri Lankan policy is influenced by politics in Tamil Nadu. Over the years, the consensus on Indian foreign policy has been breaking down. The numerous problems within India, particularly on the internal security front, also affect India’s foreign policy. The capability of the Indian state to meet the internal security challenges, which can be exploited by external forces, must be built up. Internal security challenges range from the Maoist threat to insurgencies in different parts of the country.

India will also need to resolve a number of non-traditional security issues where diplomacy will play an important role. These include energy security, nuclear security, climate change, etc. Energy Security will depend upon India’s ability to ensure energy supplies from abroad, promoting energy efficiency at home, taking a lead in renewable energy and clean technologies. Nuclear security is emerging as a new issue, arising out of concerns about the safety and security of nuclear assets. India needs to strengthen its national efforts towards nuclear security while contributing towards the emergence of nuclear security standards in the world.

India’s strengths will emerge from a strong economy which, in turn, has to be based on sound formation of knowledge and information. We need to build our education system to world standards. Innovation must be given a premium. National security must be an integral part of our education system. Strengthening of national security will also depend upon addressing cyber security challenges. We must leverage ICT in national security.

India must transform its governance to meet the coming challenges. Foreign policy is a part of overall governance and can play a role. The key is to back our good intentions in foreign policy with adequate power. At the same time, power must be embedded in our values for it to be legitimate.

1) What are the features of Indian Foreign Policy?

1. Non-Alignment: It is an independent foreign policy tool to actively engage in international politics. Nehru himself coined the term Non-Alignment in 1954. He defined it as non-alignment means not tying yourself with military blocs of nations … but independently… trying to maintain friendly relations with all countries. The origin of Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), could be traced to a conference hosted in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955.

2. Anti-Colonialism and Anti-Imperialism : India achieved independence in 1947 and extended its helping hand to liberate other colonies from the shackles of the imperialist powers.

3. Opposition to Racial Discrimination : India condemned racial discrimination in any form. Mahatma Gandhi raised his voice against racial discrimination in South Africa. India was the first country to raise this issue at the UN and argued that this was against the principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

4. Faith in Peaceful Co-existence and Cooperation : For centuries, India has subscribed to the policy of sarva-dharma-sambhava ( goodwill and tolerance towards all religions), which is a Vedantic concept. India adopted this policy at the foreign policy level as peaceful co-existence and cooperation.

5. Faith in the United Nations : India being a founder member of the UN has always remained committed to the purposes and principles of the UN and has been significant contributions to its peace-keeping operations. India is a member of G 4 and is also an aspirant for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council.

6. Peaceful use of Nuclear Energy : In 1965, alongwith a small group of non-aligned countries, India had put forward the idea of an international non-proliferation agreement under which the nuclear weapons states would agree to give up their arsenals provided other countries refrained from developing or acquiring such weapons. India’s decision not to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty was in keeping with the basic objective of maintaining freedom of thought and action. Now, though India is a nuclear weapon state but remains committed to the basic tenet of foreign policy—a conviction that global elimination of nuclear weapon will enhance its security as well as that of the rest of the world.

2) Is India’s current foreign policy guided more by economic than strategic interests?

It depends on how you define the term ‘strategic’. The economic and strategic interests of any state/country/nation are inextricably intertwined. In today’s world, no nation can safeguard its strategic interests without taking care of its economic interests. In fact, if a nation ignores its economic growth, it can hardly spend adequately for its defence. In a world, where technology is developing at a very fast pace, there is a continuing demand for modernising defence/security forces, which require resources. The nature of world economy has changed vastly over the years because of revolution in technologies of mass communication. This has made the world a smaller place and made economic cooperation among nations inevitable. The much used and abused term “globalisation” describes the state of world economy better than anything else. A nation can maximise its economic gains only through proactive association with the world community, rather than choosing to grow in isolation.

Therefore, it is of critical necessity for every nation today to have a proactive foreign economic policy. In fact, foreign policies of different countries are emphasising more on economic diplomacy today than ever before. Such engagement serves two purposes. One, they build networks of dependency among nations and reduce the potential for hostile interaction among them. Two, by offering a chance to nations to develop their resources, they enable them to access better technologies and thereby have better levels of defence preparedness, which serves their strategic interests.

Coming to India, there is an adequate balance between pursuit of economic and security interests in our foreign policy. Our engagements with countries within the region and beyond reflect this trend. Our trade and aid policies in the neighbourhood have resulted in building relationships of trust and confidence which can be gleaned from the fact that countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and even to some extent Sri Lanka have cooperated with India on security matters with much more enthusiasm than ever before. The arrest of north eastern insurgents from Bangladesh, terrorists from Nepal and continuing defence and security cooperation with Bhutan prove this point.

Our relationship with the US and other Western powers has undergone a huge transformation in the last decade; so much so that the US has started recognising India as a net-security provider in the Indo-Pacific region! This has both contributed to raising anxieties in China and building deterrence to some extent. India’s growing economic and strategic relationship with countries like Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and Australia, as also deepening economic relationship with South East Asian countries, is being interpreted in China as India throwing a reverse string of pearls against China in a bid to counter Chinese ingress into the South Asian region. At the same time, India continues to enhance its economic engagement with China, which also serves as a strategic deterrent for a rising and restless China by way of fostering a vested interest in keeping the relationship stable and peaceful.

All this indicate that India is not pursuing a lame-duck foreign policy. This is not to deny that there are many strategic challenges that require much more innovative thinking and approach. The threat of terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood for example needs to be countered. We are trying to build trade and commercial relationship with Pakistan and hope to interlock our bilateral economic interests which could lead to diminution of the sense of hostility being nurtured by vested interests in Pakistan. While one may criticise such a policy, the alternative strategy of not talking to Pakistan is much worse. In an unstable neighbourhood, seething with political and economic uncertainties, India, as the largest and most powerful country, has no other option but to engage. At the same time, the benefits of economic growth are being properly channelised into modernising our defence forces and augmenting our defence preparedness.

INDIAN DIASPORA

According to Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, India has the second largest diaspora in the world after Overseas Chinese. The overseas Indian community estimated at over 25 million is spread across every major region in the world. By creating an independent Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, India has given mainstream attention to this 25 million strong Overseas Indian community. The experience gained from bilateral and multilateral engagement with the Diaspora,
and with migration related institutions has helped India develop appropriate and well-calibrated institutional responses both for Diaspora engagement and migration management. The common thread that binds India with its Diaspora together is the idea of India and its intrinsic values.

Ø The primary motivation for migration is economic and, at the heart of migration management, is the imperative to maximise the development impact of international migration for all.

PIO:
A person of Indian origin (PIO) is a person of Indian origin or ancestry (other than from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and some other countries) who was or whose ancestors were born in India but is not a citizen of India and is the citizen of another country. A PIO might have been a citizen of India and subsequently taken the citizenship of another country. The Indian government considers anyone of Indian origin up to four generations removed to be a PIO, with the exception of those who were ever nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka. The prohibited list periodically includes Iran as well.
The government issues a PIO Card to a PIO after verification of his or her origin or ancestry and this card entitles a PIO to enter India without a visa. The spouse of a PIO can also be issued a PIO card though the spouse might not be a PIO. This latter category includes foreign spouses of Indian nationals, regardless of ethnic origin, so long as they were not born in, or ever nationals of, the aforementioned prohibited countries. PIO Cards exempt holders from many restrictions that apply to foreign nationals, such as visa and work permit requirements, along with certain other economic limitations.

NRI:
A non-resident Indian (NRI) is a citizen of India who holds an Indian passport and has temporarily emigrated to another country for six months or more for work, residence or any other purpose. The term non-resident refers only to the tax status of a person who, as per section 6 of the Income-tax Act of 1961, has not resided in India for a specified period for the purposes of the Income Tax Act. The rates of income tax are different for persons who are “resident in India” and for NRIs.

Emigration, Immigration, and Diaspora Relations in India
Ø During the 19th century and until the end of the British Raj, much of the migration that occurred was of poor workers to other British colonies under the indenture system. The major destinations, in chronological order, were Mauritius, Guyana, the Caribbean, Fiji, and East Africa. Before the larger wave of migration during the British colonial era, a significant group of South Asians, especially from the west coast (Sindh, Surat, Konkan, Malabar and Lanka) regularly travelled to
East Africa, especially Zanzibar. It is believed that they travelled in Arab dhows, Maratha Navy ships (under Kanhoji Angre), and possibly Chinese junks and Portuguese vessels. Some of these people settled in East Africa and later spread to places like present day Uganda. Later they mingled with the much larger wave of South Asians who came with the British.
Ø Indian migration to the modern countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania started nearly a century ago when these were part of British East Africa. Most of these migrants were of Gujarati or Punjabi origin. Indian-led businesses are the backbone of the economies of these countries. These ranged in the past from small ruralgrocery stores to sugar mills. After independence from Britain in
the 1960s, the majority of Asians, as they were known, moved out or were forced out from these countries (in 1970’s by Idi Amin in Uganda). Most of them moved to Britain, or India, or other popular destinations like the USA and Canada.
Ø Gujarati and Sindhi merchants and traders settled in Iran, Aden, Oman, Bahrain, Dubai, South Africa and East African countries, most of which were ruled by the British. Indian Rupee was the legal currency in many countries of Arabian Peninsula.
Ø After the 1970s oil boom in the Middle East, numerous Indians emigrated to work in the Gulf countries. With modern transportation and expectations, this was on a contractual basis rather than permanent as in the 19 th century cases. These Gulf countries have a common policy of not naturalizing non-Arabs, even if they are born there.
Ø The 1990s IT boom and rising economy in the USA attracted numerous Indians who emigrated to the United States of America. Today, the USA has the third largest number of Indians. Also, as per UNESCO Institute for Statistics the number of Indian students make India second after China among the world’s largest sending countries for tertiary students.
Ø In addition, Indian professionals, such as doctors, teachers, engineers, also played an important part in the development of these countries.
Thus, contemporary flows from India are of two kinds:
· The first is the emigration of highly skilled professionals, workers and students with tertiary and higher educational qualifications migrating to developed countries, particularly to the USA,
UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As discussed, this flow started after Indian
independence and gathered momentum with the emigration of IT professional in the 1990s.
· The second is the flow of unskilled and semi-skilled workers going mostly to the Gulf countries and Malaysia, following the oil boom in the Gulf countries, mainly from Kerala and other south Indian states. Of late, however northern states in India like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have also emerged as the leading states of origin for such migration.

Role of the Diaspora as development partners

  1. Building transnational networks
    The Diasporas provide important links and contact points between home and host societies by building transnational networks which transact not only emotional and familial bonds, but also cultural, social and economic interests. With advances in information technology and cheaper transport services, the Diaspora, as compared to situations prevailing earlier, are able to maintain connections with people and  networks back home more effectively. Such Diaspora associations in host countries impact and influence local businesses, evenpolitical decisions, thereby ensure a friendlier environment and outcomes for the existing and prospective migrants.
  2. Channel remittances, capital and investments Diaspora associations help to channel remittances, capital and investments to benefit not only home
    communities, but also by developing partnerships with host country counterparts, benefiting both. The same can be said of the exchange of skills, cuisines, ideas, knowledge and technology.
  3.  Development-migration paradigm
    With the second-largest overseas population, India has the status as the country that receives amongst the highest remittances, its experience in effectively addressing the problems of poverty, inequality  and unemployment in an unfailingly democratic manner, India can provide the much needed impetus to meaningfully reinforce the symbiotic development-migration paradigm.
  4. Sources of investment, expertise, knowledge and technology
    These ‘Global Indians’ can serve as bridges by providing access to markets, sources of investment, expertise, knowledge and technology; they can shape, by their informed participation, the discourse on migration and development, and help articulate the need for policy coherence in the countries of destination and origin. To capitalize on such a vast base of Indian Diaspora requires not only the home country to establish conditions and institutions for a sustainable, symbiotic and mutually rewarding engagement with the Diaspora-which are central to govt. programmes and activities; but for the Diaspora to project themselves as intrinsically motivated and progressive communities as well.

Institutional Mechanism

  • The Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council (PMGAC)PMGAC serves as a high-level body to draw upon the talent of the best Overseas Indian minds wherever they might reside.
  •  The India Center for Migration
    Earlier called Indian Council of Overseas Employment (ICOE), a not-for-profit society, it serves as a ‘strategic think tank on matters relating to overseas employment markets for Indians and overseas Indian workers.
  • The Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC)
    OIFC is a not-for-profit trust in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), to serve as a one stop shop for economic engagement, investment and business.
  • The India Development Foundation (IDF)
    It is also a not-for-profit trust to serve as a credible single window to facilitate Diaspora philanthropy and lead Overseas Indian philanthropic capital into India’s social development effort.
  •  The Global Indian Network of Knowledge
    Global-INK is an electronic platform to facilitate transfer of knowledge with the objective of leveraging the expertise, skills and experience of Overseas Indians.
  •  Overseas Indian Centres (OIC)
    OIC at the Indian Missions in Washington and Abu Dhabi, to begin with, to serve as field formations on matters relating to Overseas Indians.

Flagship Schemes for Indian Diaspora

  1. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
    Since 2003, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas Indians’ Day) sponsored by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, is being celebrated on 9 January each year in India, to “mark the contribution of
    Overseas Indian community in the development of India”. The day commemorate the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in India from South Africa, and during three-day convention held around the day, a forum for issues concerning the Indian diaspora is held and the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards are given away.
  2. “Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)” scheme
    As of January 2006, The Indian government has introduced the “Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)” scheme to allow a limited form of dual citizenship to Indians, NRIs and PIOs for the first time since independence in 1947. The PIO Card scheme is expected to be phased out in coming years in favour of OCI. It is proposed to merge the PIO card and OCI card scheme and call it Overseas Indian Card Scheme.
  3. Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC)
    A scheme called ‘Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC)’ was launched in the academic year 2006-07. Under the scheme 100 scholarships upto US$ 4000 per annum are granted to PIO and
    NRI students for undergraduate courses in different verticals. The scheme is being implemented by  Educational Consultants India Limited (Ed. CIL), a Government of India Enterprise under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The scheme is open to NRIs / PIOs/ OCIs from 40 countries with substantial Indian Diaspora population. The applications from students who meet the prescribed eligibility criteria are to be evaluated and short listed by a selection committee consisting of officers from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ed.CIL (India) Ltd. and MOIA.
  4. Pravasi Bhartiya Bima Yojana (PBBY)
    The Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana is a compulsory insurance scheme for overseas Indian workers having Emigration Check Required (ECR) passport going to ECR countries.
  5. Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojna
    A pension and life insurance scheme called “Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojna” for the Overseas Indian workers having Emigration Check required passports has been introduced on a pilot basis in Kerala from 1st May, 2012. The objective of the scheme is to encourage and enable such overseas Indian workers to save for old age, save for their return and Resettlement by giving government contribution, and obtain a life insurance cover against natural death.
  6. Swarnpravas Yojna
    The Planning Commission accorded ‘in principle’ approval to the proposed plan Scheme namely ‘Swarnpravas Yojna’ to be launched in the 12th Five year Plan. The scheme aims to facilitate creation of a framework of internationally acceptable standards of training, certification etc. so that Indian youth are able to find employment in the International market. Outlays to be provided to MOIA during the 12th Five Year Plan for the Scheme are decided by the Planning Commission in due course.

 

Right to Information Act, 2005

Right to Information Act, 2005

Origin

The work of a small activist group in Rajasthan MKSS- Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan was an association for the empowerment of workers and farmers started a campaign to secure the right of ordinary people to gain access to information held by government officials. MKSS is a grassroots organization and is a “non-party political formation”. It relies on small formal membership of local people. They are supported by few committed activists from other parts of India. Thus MKSS emphasized that citizens have a right both to know how they are governed and to participate actively in the process of auditing the civil servants and their representatives. They started campaigning at the grassroots level and lead to a larger movement at the state and center level.

The activities of MKSS initially were on livelihood issues, such as the failure of the state government to enforce minimum-wage regulations on drought-relief works, to ensure availability of subsidized food and other essential commodities through the Public Distribution System (PDS), inflated estimates of bills in public works projects, etc, highlighting the role of corruption and mal practices in local authorities. They had no way to cross check the accounts without the official documents and thus access to information became very essential. While the nexus between local politicians, local government officials, and local contractors was well known, it continued to thrive under a pretext of secrecy. Thus the resistance of MKSS was against secrecy. One of the MKSS’s most important innovations has been jan sunwais – or “public hearings” in which all members of administration i.e. government officials , politicians, local villagers, outsiders etc were invited to verify the official documents obtained by MKSS by photocopying and thus the whole community took collective verification or auditing of the official documents1. Thus this exposed of the mechanics of forms of corruption through access to government documents and cross-checking them in public hearings.

Although MKSS was successful in exposing corruption in a number of localities, the public hearings were a relatively rare because of the difficulty in obtaining certified copies of government accounts from reluctant officials. This exposed the transparency of the government officials since they were reluctant to provide official documents and the role of information was very important which can be used was weapon against government accountability2.

Central values and the objectives this policy is built on is

  • Accountability

  • Transparency

  • Corruption

  • Good Governance

  • Participation

  • Human rights

  • Justice

The Act focuses on corruption, accountability and transparency in the system all leading to good governance. The reason of corruption is asymmetry in information and this asymmetry leads to poor public service delivery and corruption in the system of governance and ultimately it leads to ineffective and inefficient service delivery system. This act focuses more on creating a system of accountability and transparency in the administration machinery thus leading to better governance.

Accountability

Accountability – “an obligation to accept responsibilities or to account for ones actions.”3. Accountability is defined as the application and/or responsibility of anyone handling resources, public office, power of administration or any position of trust to report on the way it has been exercised (World Bank Institute) The most important issue of efforts of governments to move from traditional compliance based accountability towards performance based accountability.

Accountability has three main components4:

  • Transparency

  • Responsiveness

  • Compliance

Transparency is introduced as a means of holding public servants accountable and to help fight corruption.

Responsiveness concerns the responsibility of the organization for its acts. It thus shows the result of decision making process.

Compliance is an act or process of complying to a desire, demand, proposal, or regimen or to coercion, and conformity in fulfilling official requirements 5

Therefore accountability means where one party is accountable to another party for any action, process, output or outcome. If the information of accounter is given to a person, who can evaluate it and then judge that person.

But this information given should be

a) Reliable and correct b) understandable c) a complete part of information should be given and not just the part.

Transparency

One of the main aims of Right to Information Act is to create transparency in administration machinery. Transparency is a means of holding public servants accountable and thus fights against corruption. When the transactions of government office i.e. its statements on decision making, muster rolls etc are open to public discussion and scrutiny , then only we can term it as transparent. Thus eliminates opportunity for the public servants to misuse or abuse the public system as they are appointed to serve the public. Transparency concerns the duty to account to those with legitimate interest in organization. It creates fairness and clarity in functions and operations of governance, thus puts a check on officials from exercising their discretionary powers and put a check on malpractices and thus reduces corruption.

Corruption

Corruption is multi-dimensional concept. Dictionary defines it as moral decay and subject of unconditional condemnation. It is rightly said that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”6. Definition of corruption is both legal and economic terms. Legally, corruption is an act against the laid laws and liable for punishment. Economic view indicates that public servants who use public office for private gains and thus behaves like a market driven by demand and supply6.

MKSS demand for regulating the entire system provides a valuable new perspective to fight corruption. Corruption is one of the greatest obstacles to efficient delivery of development resources to the people. The focus of these grassroots people on Right to information, offers a constructive practical approach to fight against corruption which directly affects these people. Many women participated in these struggles and they directly confronted the government officials which helped in bringing dignity to their life and enhance their quality of life and translates into good livelihood of their life. Thus this Right to information has lead to pursuit of change of governance framework and a need for good governance. Corruption has critical ill effects of relationship of poor with state, market and civil & political society6. Ability of poor to achieve market gains is hampered by corruption because of lack of access to good education and healthcare systems, food etc. If the policing of market is not effective then whatever small benefits poorer people get for their productive activities will be very less.

Good governance

Governance is interplay of society, state and administration. It depends on efficient functioning of legislature, executive, judiciary, civil societies, NGO’s etc. The end result of administrative systems is to ensure accountability, transparency, participation, upholding human rights of society, procedural fairness equity, inclusiveness, etc. even though each society and state has different cultures, tradition, economic differences etc. Good governance would include making administration ethical, making each civil servant accountable and each service result oriented, responsive administration, citizen friendly system of administration.

Human Rights

MKSS asked for the information that was denied to people so that all the services delivered by state are implemented and accounted properly. So they attacked the base of the problem, which was one of the basic rights which state should have given long time back. In India, where most of the villagers are illiterate and can’t make much use of information especially about financial transaction and accounts, but MKSS stuck to its stand and demanded for Right to Information7. If even basic procedural rights such as Right to Information are beyond the grasp of ordinary people, they are none the less very important because it concerns their socio-economic, cultural rights which are relevant to immediate needs of poorer sections of society for their sustainable livelihood3. The nature and utility of rights of people are linked to process by which they are obtained and the meaning established in democratic concepts can be transformed through political process. The key point is that, MKSS efforts to use Right to Information as something which can be used even by ordinary people and also in collective manner has made a marked distinction in its importance. Right to Information within Indian constitution provisions relates to Right to life and livelihood. Citizen’s right to know who governs them and how, can also be derived from citizens Right to liberty in article 21 and Right to equality by article 14 of constitution7.

Participatory approach

MKSS work had a distinct characteristic that it worked collectively at the grassroots participation in exercise of rights, even though Right to Information was partially recognized by entire society through public hearing or Jan Sunmais. Thus MKSS targeted the people at bottom of pyramid unlike the many development programmes. If more people participate in decision making process, better will be information sharing and better use of resources and services. Thus it was a bottom up approach. MKSS approach was called “participatory auditing” “participatory monitoring and evaluation”. This highlights the gaps between peoples expressed needs and projects outcomes and its impact on people. Their approach was different in the sense that people had to directly confront with the government officials by demanding access to detailed expenditure records and verifying these collectively and then to demand an explanation from officials for apparent discrepancies7. This has changed the elite’s culture of bureaucracy since people are organized by training and inculcation of new pro-poor values. Therefore people’s knowledge was translated into power and thus exposing the corrupt practices, transparency of bureaucracy. MKSS approach of participatory method is different because people are mobilized, organized to fight against corruption, injustice etc and thus their approach is radical1.

Justice

Justice is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics. Justice concerns itself with the proper ordering of things and people within a society (Wikipedia). Justice is one of the central values of RTI Act so that people can be given right based on fairness, equity etc.

Contradictions in the way in which the policy has been operationalised

Accountability

For this act to be operationalised on the terms mentioned above, accountability and performance measure have to be unambiguously defined, else it is highly probable that RTI Act will not be implemented in true spirit.

Some key issues in the act are8,9

  1. The role and ownership of State Information Commissioner and State Nodal Department are not defined clearly, even though their role is defined in sections 19, 26, 27, 28. Specific responsibilities of State Information Commissioner and State Nodal Department should be made and thus make them accountable for implementation of the RTI Act.

  2. There is inadequate planning at Public Authority level regarding ownership for the implementation and to proactively identify and address constraints so that citizens are provided with the information as requested in totality.

  3. There is inadequate infrastructure and resources at all levels, so that measurement of number of RTI applications, files disposed or rejected on real time basis can’t be achieved. This greatly delays the process and thus hampers accountability.

Convenience of filing requests

  1. Many RTI applications were rejected saying that the applications were not in prescribed format. Officials took advantage of this and rejected many applications and thus many people lost hope in the RTI system

As per sections 4(1)(b) xv- xvi, 6(1) and 5(3), Public Authority should provide information on demand made in application of RTI9.

  1. For filing RTI applications, a citizen has to pay cash and he should be physically presented, but Act doesn’t have any such mention in it. Citizens should submit their RTI application at PIO office which is usually located outside their village and sometimes villagers have to visit 3 or more times to PIO office to submit RTI application so that they have physically delivered their application and also sometimes the relevant officers will not be present.

  2. Inadequate help was provided to applicant of RTI and even attitude of PIO was hostile, but sections 5(3) and 6(1) says otherwise (they should lend at information). Many applicants were dissatisfied with the quality of information provided.9

  1. Accounts and Accountability by Rob Jenkins and Anne Marie Goetz.
  2. Understanding the “Key Issues and Constraints” in implementing the RTI Act, June 2009, PWC

Encouraging accessibility to information is one of the major changes in the management issues among Government employees. For a Government servant, there has been a significant shift from the “Official Secrets Act” mindset to the “Right to Information Act” mindset.8

Absence of Independent Audit system

The MKSS approach in auditing by public hearing any information obtained from RTI Act and thus getting a collective opinion of public is missing in this Act. The absence of a strong review and auditing mechanism can cause some problems in implementation of the Act. Inadequate mechanism for monitoring proactive disclosure, thus has caused in low compliance to Section 4(1) of RTI Act. Officials don’t comply to respond to the RTI application within 30 days and thus causes delay. Even if the response is given, the officials are not held accountable to their misdeeds. Therefore an absence of independent audit system has not been operationalised in the RTI Act.

Public Participation

RTI Act emerged out of public participation. The Act should empower the citizens of India and thus creating awareness among people is necessary. Key issues are

Act mentions that it is the responsibility of Government to spread the awareness of this Act so that citizens can exercise their right as said in section 26(1) A of the Act. But this is not done. Many citizens are not aware of this Act leave alone the usability of the Act.

Also many government officials are not aware of this Act. The appellants were not aware of their rights during the hearing process. Mass awareness campaign of Government of India is missing.

Therefore to increase public knowledge and awareness, the citizens are to be involved in debates and not just few elites so as to increase betterment of the system.

Other issues in operationalisation

Sections 1(3) and 15 provide for initiating process of constituting Information Commission with the immediate effect, but it was not done in many states and thus implementation of Act was delayed from beginning.

Even information required to be displayed by suo moto in every office was missing.

RTI act is available in local language, but the User guide is not available in all the official languages , thus making it impossible for those sections of society who can’t read and write in their local languages Section 26 says that 18 months is the time duration for translation, but government is buying time to translate the Act and the User Guide. When translated it should be ensured that is gives precise meaning as said in original one8.

The Central and State Information commission has only about 10-12 officers who are involved in the implementation of this Act. This has resulted in more centralization, but instead in the participatory approach people were looking for decentralization.

In case if any private company is associated in implementing a part of government projects like in PPP, then there is no provision in the Act to get information about this private company.

Stakeholders

Bureaucracy: Sometimes provides improper, incomplete, incorrect and ambiguous information. Most of PIO & AA consider RTI Act as biggest curse upon them & openly defy knowing well that information furnished by them shall expose illegalities & criminalities committed by their colleagues & theirs. Bureaucracy is taking advantage of certain loop holes in the act.

PIO: Both central and state Governments have a rule which says that public servants have to submit annual declaration of moveable and immoveable properties. RTI was files to request this, but PIO rejected it saying that Account General will have it and document sought for, if given will invade into privacy of officer10.

States Government: Even though RTI Act was passed and the Act also says that all the state governments have to setup State Information Commission within 6 months. 12 States didn’t do it. An appeal from PIO goes to 1st appellate authority and then to State Information Commissioner (SIC). Now if the SIC is not present then the applicant had no choice but to go to court. State government instead of acting according to the rules laid down in the Act is taking opportunity to delay the implementation process.

Central Information Commission (CIC):- It has ruled that all Government officials can refuse to give information, if the application form is not in prescribed format as given by Public Authority. So bureaucracy got loop holes in implementation of RTI Act. But the law only asks public to make written request and both PMO and Department of personnel & Training were involved in drafting this law.

In another case CIC pays compensation for delays as it didn’t give information to RTI applicant for more than 4 months. It acts as a neutral arbiter.

Opposition Party: – Opposition Party Congress in Rajasthan accused BJP that it has taken more than 5 months after deadline to implement RTI Act as it didn’t set up State Information Commission. The opposition party took an opportunity to launch an attack on the ruling party.

Civil Society and NGO’s:- They organized a mass campaign and mass drive to popularize the RTI Act in New Delhi. Many NGO initially didn’t support MKSS activities since they had challenges and problems in transparency in their own accounts. Few NGO’s were substantially funded by Government and they also came under scanner of RTI Act. Many NGO’s were reluctant to show information about of their accounts and other details. Many NGO’s even don’t have PIO. Information about how they get funds and their use it is not clear and many small NGO’s are the main defaulters10.

CBI: – CBI maintains a list of undesirable Contact Men (UCM) and all government officials are warned against these UCM list. RTI was filed by a person who suspected that his name was in the list, but CBI rejected this, citing that section 8(1 g) “Disclosure of info which would endanger life or physical safety of any person”. Thus this person faced a threat by CBI10.

Cabinet: – gave its approval for amending the RTI Act 2005 to exclude file noting’s in few areas except those related to social and development programs, UPSC, other government exams etc. Therefore Cabinet took an opportunity to make amendments to Act.

110 Lok Sabha members did not disclose assets even after eight months of their election to the Lok Sabha as against the mandatory provision to do so in 90 days.

Local People: Around 8000 people in Rajasthan participated in “Drive against Bribe” to get information and Suchana Evum Rozgar Ka Adhikar Abhiyan organized it to train these people in using RTI act and people were taught how to file applications for RTI.

RTI Activists: – Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy of MKSS has played a major role in bringing RTI to citizen so as to empower them. She said that it is “democratic privilege” as citizens could question public servants and fight against corruption.

Anna Hazare found irregularities in the functioning of “Council for Advancement of People’s Action & Rural Tech” (CA-PART) & threatened to go on fast unto death and also return Padmabhushan Award since CA-PART is not able to put in place effective monitoring & evaluation system. Of grants that were allocated to it for the betterment of poor people.

Similarly many well known activists rallied against amendments to exclude file notings and said that it would kill the Act and make Information Commission as a mere advisory bodies as it takes away independence of IC. Section (2) (f), (I), (j) of RTI set out “information” to include ‘opinion & advice’ and according to CIC this covers file notings10.

Murder of RTI activist: Upset by the brutal murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty in Pune on Wednesday, citizens using the Right To Information Act in Mumbai say the authorities need to answer some questions urgently. Recent cases have put a question mark on people’s security. In some cases government officials are even revealing the names of whistle-blowers. Instead of taking action when we bring irregularities to light, they claim there is no irregularity and leak our names. Activist Vihar Dhurve said that as more of the corrupt are exposed, those doing the exposing will be targeted13.

Supreme Court: SC says that RTI doesn’t apply to judges. “A judge speaks through his judgments and he is not answerable to anyone as to why he wrote a judgment in a particular manner,” the Bench said dismissing an appeal filed by one Khanapuram Gandaiah, who had filed for information under Section 6 of RTI Act. The District Judge had rejected his RTI plea. The Bench agreed with the rejection of his plea seeking information about the judgment under the RTI Act and said: “A judge can only speak through his judgments and he cannot be made to go on explaining why he took a particular view in a judgment.”

In another case The Madras High Court ordered TNPSC to give info under RTI Act and said that so long as information sought for under the RTI Act was available with the TNPSC and if it is not exempted under the Act, the Commission is duty bound to provide the information10.

High Court: The Bombay High Court today sought all the information which social activist Satish Shetty — who was killed and had obtained through Right to Information Act. High Court took suo motu notice of Shetty’s murder, which was preceded by attack on social activist Naina Kathpalia’s house in Mumbai. His younger brother Sandeep Shetty has told the Bombay high court that now he too is being threatened by some unknown persons and he didn’t trust the police, and therefore would like to submit the documents directly to the court. Court also questioned the state government on the progress in the investigation10.

STAKE

HOLDER

STAKE HOLDER’s role related to RTI Act 2005 De–facto interest ( Their actual interests) Power of position in relation to RTI Act 2005 Threats and opportunities
Central Government

(legislative and executive)

(Primary Stakeholders)

To bring out formation of RTI Act so as to improve accountability,

transparency and responsiveness in

government functioning (bureaucracy) and thus to check corruption

To control information and use it arbitrarily To make laws and

Rules for the RTI Act

To appoint central

Information commissioners.

The PMO and Ministry of Personnel and Training drafted the law and as stated above, it has taken opportunity to leave some loop holes in RTI Act.
State Government (legislative and executive)

(Primary Stakeholders)

To enforce the Act as laid out by central government To control information and use it arbitrarily To make laws and

Rules for the RTI Act

To appoint state Information commissioners.

Instead of acting according to the rules laid down in the Act is taking opportunity to delay the implementation process.
Local urban bodies

(Primary Stakeholders)

To apply the Act in all the departments Not to provide information or not to provide it as desired Has access to all the information of government departments in local bodies Is taking opportunity to delay the implementation process.
Civil society organizations

and NGOS

(Secondary Stakeholders)

To make this act functional and operative as per their demands and interests.

Creating awareness of the Act for mass participation

To mobilize people and thus negotiate with

authorities

Awareness campaign Have taken opportunity to expose irregularities in bureaucracy.
Common citizen’s

(Primary Stakeholders)

To get information as

and when desired

To get information by filing RTI application so that administration is

Accountable, transparent

Legal right to get

Information under the Act

To go to higher authorities if information is denied

or mislead

Citizens are mainly threatened if they voice against bureaucracy
Media-Press

Secondary Stakeholders

To publish and broadcast success and failures of various stakeholders Sometimes misusing and establishing their nuisance value. Opinion building Popularizing this act through print and electronic medium. They have taken opportunity to advance their own interests.
Political leaders

(Secondary Stakeholders)

To use this act to help citizens To use it in propaganda and for vote politics. To amend and to add or delete certain or whole provisions of the act. They have taken opportunity for vote bank politics
Bureaucracy

(Primary Stakeholders)

To prove their accountability,

transparency

Very less interest in information access Manipulation of

Information to hide their mistakes

Initial and key source of information. Is taking advantage of certain loop holes in the act.
Information

commission

(Primary Stakeholders)

To make this act

working

To make a commanding position over government

Institutions.

To hear second appeals and deliver judgments

To impose fine

To recommend government

It acts as a neutral arbiter.
Courts(High court and Supreme court) (Secondary Stakeholders) To watch the legal interpretation of Act Establish judicial authority above all. To pass judgments in writ jurisdiction. To issue directions even to the information commissions It acts as a neutral arbiter to enforce the law as laid out the RTI Act
International Agencies

(Secondary Stakeholders)

Capacity building.

Complete access to

information

To promote their own agenda. Funding and other

assistance

Have taken opportunity to advance their own demands and of good governance.

Suggestion for improvement11, 12

  1. To ensure co-ordination between the appropriate Government and the Information Commission in discharging the duties mandated under the RTI Act, it is recommended that there should be an RTI Implementation Cell. And this cell should be supported by the Nodal Department for all administrative support.

  2. Due to current low level of implementation of section 4(1) b and delays in providing information, there is a need for capacity building within Public Authority. Suggest having a Public Authority’s RTI cell to proactively address RTI applications. Size of the RTI cell can vary depending on the number of RTI applications received. Some its functions will be to capture no. of application filed, information provided, and appeals at First Appellate Authority, fines imposed by SIC and SIC orders and instruction.

  3. Composition of Information Commissions: As per the Section 12(5) and 15(5), the composition should be such that it should have people with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. To implement these sections in spirit, it is recommended that the people who have worked in Government should be restricted to 50% (if not less) as recommended in the ARC report.

  4. Branding and promotion of RTI as done for many similar pro poor schemes such as MNREGA etc so as to increase public knowledge and awareness and to encourage citizen to involve in public discussions and thus increase transparency. This can be done by designing posters, pamphlets, audio, video message to create awareness and give punch line as done by say Family Planning department.

  5. The filing of RTI application is not convenient. Service Centers can be established to ease the process of RTI filing. Department of Posts (GOI) is already a designated APIO under the Section 5(2) for Central Government. It is suggested that the State Governments also accord the status of APIO to post offices and designate staff to assist citizens in drafting and forwarding the applications or appeals. RTI Call Centers: these have already been implemented in some states such as Bihar, Haryana. This is a convenient channel wherein the RTI application is taken by the call centre and payment of fee is included in the telephone bill. RTI Portal and other e-governance programs can be created so that all the RTI applications can be filed online and thus enables faster delivery of information.

  6. Re-organization of record management system to promote information management. Software applications should be developed so that they are installed in all the offices of government so that real time service can be provided. This application should assist in improving productivity in disposal of cases, drafting of orders and ease administration burden on many officers.

  7. In all Information Commissions at state level, central level and at district level video conferencing infrastructure should be installed so that State/Central Information Commissioners can hear the cases from this office and any person can go to district level instead of going all the way to state and central level to hear his cases. This reduces cost and saves time.

  8. Training should be imparted to all Pas, Appropriate governments and the ICs and by conducting separate training courses for PIOs/FAAs and other officers, a module on RTI should be incorporated all training programmes, considering every government employee is subject to the RTI.

  9. Since each State has its own set of rules while implementing in different departments, there is a need to have uniformity in the rules of all departments of all the states so that RTI applicant can apply using same form format in all the places.

  10. If any RTI applicant is threatened then his complaint must be passed on to police officials and there should be amendments made in Act accordingly.

  11. To ensure better service delivery by authorities and officials, third party audits should be institutionalized to support the Information Commission in carrying out responsibilities under Section 19(8)(a), 25(1), 25(2), 25(3f), 25(3g) and 25(5). Institutionalising regular audits would facilitate the Public Authorities’ compliance with the RTI Act (through the audit findings made available by Information Commission). In this context it is recommended to have a third party audit (at least annually) to support the Information Commissions and RTI Implementation Cell to monitor the performance of Public Authorities and to take appropriate action in case of any deviation. • Moreover, it is also suggested that the SIC website should have a list of all the Public Authorities within the jurisdiction of the Information Commission. The website should have a feature for citizens to report noncompliance (through tick-mark options) for a Public Authority. The reports generated through this application, would be helpful for a Public Authority and the Information Commission to take appropriate actions.

  12. In section 2 of RTI Act should remove the difficulty in ascertaining whether particular NGO should be treated as a public authority or not.

  13. The sections 12 and 15 don’t have any provision about giving current change of the post of Chief Information Commissioner to any Commissioner and thus should be amended.

  14. Section 29 A doesn’t have has power to empower the Commissions to make regulations and thus should be amended.

References

  1. Sowmya , “Right to know right to live”
  2. P Sampat, Nikhil DeY ,“Bare Acts and Collective Explorations ,The MKSS Experience with the Right to Information”,.
  3. Bare Acts and Collective Explorations ,The MKSS Experience with the Right to Information”, P Sampat, Nikhil DeY.
  4. Institute of Social Sciences Implementing Right To Information Act, 2005 in Urban Governance A Case Study of Lucknow Municipal Corporation, Yogeshwar Ram Mishra
  5. (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accountability)

  6. http://oaithesis.eur.nl/ir/repub/asset/7269/Yogeshwar%20Ram%20Mishra%20PPM.pdf

    1. Implementing Right To Information Act, 2005 In Urban Governance: A Case Study of Lucknow Municipal Corporation.
  7. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compliance)

  8. Accounts and Accountability by Rob Jenkins and Anne Marie Goetz.
  9. Understanding the “Key Issues and Constraints” in implementing the RTI Act, June 2009, PWC
  10. RIGHT TO INFORMATION – 2006, Compiled By K. Samu, Human Rights Documentation.
  11. By RTI Assessment & Analysis Group (RaaG) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). October 2009
  12. Beyond Information: Breaching the Wall of State Inaction by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
  1. SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION, Report of the People’s RTI Assessment 2008.
  2. http://www.timesofindia.com/

Approaches to Measuring Urban Poverty

Approaches to Measuring Urban Poverty

Poverty is multidimensional, thus measuring it presents a number of challenges. Beyond low

income, there is low human, social and financial capital. The most common approach to measuring poverty is quantitative, money-metric measures which use income or consumption to assess whether a household can afford to purchase a basic basket of goods at a given point in time. The basket ideally reflects local tastes, and adjusts for spatial price differentials across regions and urban or rural areas in a given country.

Money-metric methods are widely used because they are objective, can be used as the basis for a range of socio-economic variables, and it is possible to adjust for differences between households, and intrahousehold inequalities.

Despite these advantages, money-metric poverty measures have some shortcomings. Survey

designs vary significantly between countries and over time, making comparability difficult. Some use income based measures, other consumption. Decisions about how to value housing, homegrown food, and how to account for household size and composition all affect poverty estimates. If not properly adjusted, monetary measures can underestimate urban poverty because they do not make allowance for the extra cost of urban living (housing, transport, and lack of opportunity to grow ones own food).

Income or consumption measures also do not capture many of the dimensions of poverty. For

example, in the urban context, the urban poor rely heavily on the cash economy thus making them more vulnerable to fluctuations in income, and there are severe environmental and health hazards due to crowded living conditions in urban slums, and no tenure security. Other aspects of poverty, both rural and urban, which are multidimensional relate to access to basic services such as water, sewage, health and education, and a safety net to mitigate hard times.

Measuring urban poverty can be carried out using a number of approaches summarized below.

Regardless of the methodology chosen, the data should ideally be comparable across cities, and allow for disaggregation at the intra-city level. This will capture vast differences between the poor in small towns and mega cities, or between urban slum areas within a given city.

Income or Consumption Measures: Both are based on data that assess whether an individual or

household can afford a basic basket of goods (typically food, housing water, clothing, transport, etc.). Consumption is generally considered to be a better measure than income because incomes tend to fluctuate over time, there are problems of under-reporting (particularly income derived from the private and informal sectors).5 Money metric measures can be adjusted to account for the higher cost of living in urban areas when measuring poverty.

Unsatisfied Basic Needs Index: This approach defines a minimum threshold for several dimensions of poverty classifying those households who do not have access to these basic needs. They include characteristics such as literacy, school attendance, piped water, sewage, adequate housing, overcrowding, and some kind of caloric and protein requirement. If a household is deficient in one of the categories, they are classified as having unsatisfied basic needs.

Asset Indicators: This has been used increasingly with the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), a standardized survey now administered in approximately 50 countries. A range of variables on the ownership of household assets are used to construct an indicator of households socio-economic status. These assets include: a car, refrigerator, television, dwelling characteristics (type of roof, flooring, toilet), and access to basic services including clean water and electricity.

Vulnerability: This approach defines vulnerability as a dynamic concept referring to the risk that a household or individual will experience an episode of income or health poverty over time, and the probability of being exposed to a number of other risks (violence, crime, natural disasters, being pulled out of school). Vulnerability is measured by indicators that make it possible to assess a household’s risk exposure over time through panel data. These indicators include measures of: physical assets, human capital, income diversification, links to networks, participation in the formal safety net, and access to credit markets. This kind of analysis can be quite complex, requiring a specially designed survey.

Participatory methods: This typically relies on qualitative approaches to capture aspects of urban

poverty that may not be identified through pre-coded surveys. Through tools such as focus group

discussions, case studies, and individual open-ended interviews, it is possible to determine the

perceptions of poverty, identify priority needs and concerns, and gain

e. Characteristics, Opportunity, and Constraints

What is the nature of poverty?

While income-based poverty measures provide a fair sense of which part of the

population may have unmet needs and where they are located, these measures fail to capture the

dynamic aspects of poverty, in terms of the cause and extent of deprivation, risk factors, and the

coping strategies employed. This can include analyzing vulnerability, urban-rural linkages, and

perceptions. Qualitative methods are often used for this kind of analysis.

A standard poverty profile for cities

Any profile of urban poverty would be based on a set of core information as described below.

Household surveys/census: In general this would include the following information disaggregated by income group (e.g. quintile): Location (within the city)Household size, structure

Demographics

Education levels

Household expenditure patterns

Housing characteristics (tenure status, physical condition)

Access/quality/affordability to:

infrastructure (water, sewage, energy);

health care;

education;

social services.

Administrative data: This would include data collected by various public agencies, ideally

disaggregated by geographic areas within a city.

Municipal spending by sector, location

Infrastructure (roads, public standpipes, schools, hospitals)

Health and nutritional status

Education outcomes

Crime and violence statistics

Demographic characteristics

Household size

Perception is that poor have a large household size. But this is not true since mean household size of urban poor (5.2 – according to Census of India, 1981) does not differ significantly from that of rest of urban household (5.4).

Household size and income

A research was conducted by National Institute of Urban Affairs. They take a sample of all poor households and BPL household among these poor households. They conclude that, in poorest household the larger households are not significantly poorer than the smaller households whereas in overall sample the larger households are poorer than the smaller households.

Household Consumption

In poor households, the percentage of children (< 15 years) is higher and percentage of labor force (15 -60 years) is lower. Women, children and old people are dominant in poor households.

Incidence of poverty is higher among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Poverty and Literacy levels

Illiteracy among poor is much higher than rest of urban population. A very high dropout rates from school going children. Illiteracy is particularly higher among females of low income and poor people. Girls are not encouraged to study beyond primary level.

Economic characteristics

Urban labor market is divided in formal and informal sectors and poor people are mostly employed in informal section since they don’t have the skills for employment in formal sector. Informal sectors permits easy entry, needs low skills, sometimes self employment is possible. Unemployment is very high among poor people. Even if they are employed they are paid very less and they can’t depend on their family members for income. Children are often made to work so that livelihood of the household is met. Some children are even made to work in houses such as taking care of home, looking after younger children while the parents are outside for work. Thus children who are not sent to school are used in direct or indirect way for the economic well being of household.

Most of the poor people are in informal sector and a self employed since they don’t have skills and generally they don’t have to wait for long time to get employment as they don’t have any source of income. Thus they take up some menial job which is often low paid so that they can just survive.

Work Sector

Poor people are found to work more in tertiary sector (manufacturing services, construction, transport and commerce) than in primary and secondary sector. They are employed in wide range of occupations. The hours of work, Number of days worked in a month also varies widely among the poor and it is not fixed. Longer they work more income they generate. Thus income levels greatly vary depending on occupation, work sector, number of hours, number of days of work , number of years worked in particular occupation. Underemployment, irregular job pattern and low wages are some of the critical economic problems of urban poor.

Housing and access to basic services characteristics

Housing characteristics can be divided into four types

  1. Squatters
  2. Legal occupants
  3. Tenants
  4. Owners

Squatters are very common among poor people. They usually are migrants and come to big city in search of job and since they don’t have money they occupy certain lands which are near their place of work so as to save on the transportation costs. They continue to occupy these lands despite the fear of eviction because of proximity to their work.

There are also tenants among urban poor as they can’t to build their own houses. Some of the tenants are migrants and as they have come recently into urban areas they would not be able to construct their own house. Most of the poor households live in kutcha or semi kutcha or semi pucca houses and few in pucca.

Sometimes the poor people pay bribes to officials and make their homes legal and thus claim their ownership of their house in slums. Many poor people prefer to build their own houses rather than pay rents.

Poverty estimations in India

INTRODUCTION-

The poverty estimates have not only been used for evaluating development efforts, but over time, have found use in the allocation of funds for poverty alleviation programmes among the States. An acceptable and representative quantitative index of poverty is, therefore, necessary.

The definition of poverty line in the Indian context was attempted for the first time in 1962 by a Working Group of eminent Economists and social thinkers after taking into account the recommendations of the Nutrition Advisory Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR, 1958) regarding balanced diet.

OFFICIAL METHODOLOGY OF POVERTY ESTIMATION-

Following the recommendations of the Task Force on Projections of Minimum Needs and Effective Consumption Demand’ (1979), the Planning Commission has been estimating the proportion and number of poor separately for rural and urban India at national and State levels. These estimates have been released from the year 1972-73 onwards, using the full survey data on household consumption expenditure collected by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) at an interval of five years.

The methodology behind these estimates, often termed as the official methodology’ has been outlined in the following sections.

The Basis of Official Estimates

  1. Calorie Norm : The official estimates are based on a calorie norm of 2400 calories per capita per day for rural areas and 2100 calories per capita per day for urban areas. The poverty line for the base year 1973-74 has been taken as the per capita expenditure level at which these calorie norms have been met, on an average, for the country as a whole, as per the NSS household consumption expenditure survey for the corresponding year.
  1. Poverty Line in the Base Year : The Task Force (1979) defined the poverty line as the per capita expenditure level at which the calorie norms were met on the basis of the all- India consumption basket for 1973-74. This was equivalent to Rs.49.09 and Rs.56.64 per capita per

month for rural and urban areas respectively at 1973-74 prices.

  1. Deflators : The poverty line so defined needs updating over time to take care of changes in the price levels. Initially the wholesale price index was used to reflect the price changes.

However, private consumption deflator derived from the National Accounts Statistics (NAS) was recommended for this purpose by a Study Group on “The Concept and Estimation of Poverty Line’, (Perspective Planning Division, Planning Commission, November, 1984).

  1. The Adjustment Procedure for Estimating Poverty Population: In order to arrive at the estimates of the number of poor., Planning Commission has been making adjustment in the National Sample Survey (NSS) data on distribution of households by consumption expenditure levels. Such an adjustment has been felt to be necessary because the aggregate private household consumption expenditure as estimated from the NSS data is different from the aggregate private consumption expenditure estimated in the National Accounts Statistics (NAS).
  2. The poverty population is, thus, estimated by applying the updated poverty line to the corresponding adjusted NSS distribution of households by levels of consumption expenditure. To estimate the incidence of poverty at the State level, all-India poverty lines and the adjustment factors have been used on the State specific NSS distribution of households by levels of consumption expenditure uniformly across the States.

ISSUES IN OFFICIAL METHOD AND CRITICISM BY INDEPENDENT RESEARCHERS-

According to the report of The EXPERTGROUP formed byPlanning Commision , the methodology and computation followed in official estimates of poverty at national and at State levels, has been regarded as inappropriate and even inadequate in giving a representative picture of incidence of poverty in India.

The States have become very sensitive about their respective estimates of poverty. Representations have been received from some of the State Governments. Scholars and academicians have also raised conceptual and methodological issues in this regard. The issues are based mostly on the following points-

  1. The Base-Year Consumption Basket

The poverty line has been anchored in a given calorie norm and the corresponding all-India consumption basket for the year 1973-74. The poverty line needs to be updated overtime for changes in price levels relevant to the consumption of the people around the poverty line.

Updating the poverty line over time can be done in two ways:

(a) The poverty line as estimated for the base year (i.e. 1973-74) can be updated for

changes in prices overtime;

(b) A fresh poverty line can be calculated from the latest available consumer expenditure survey data using the procedure suggested by the Task Force.

In the consumption behaviour due to shift in individual preferences, the two methods of updating the poverty line would give different results. In particular, method (b) would not give results comparable overtime. As per the recommendations of the Task Force 1979, the Planning Commission has been

using method (a). but the method (a) again has problem of having a proper price deflator to match the current prices to the base line prices.

  1. Choice of Price Deflators

It has been argued that the deflator for poverty line should be based on the cost of living of the poor. Construction of such an index requires a detailed information on the consumption basket of the poor and the relevant and appropriate prices. While it may not be impossible to construct such an index, there may be practical difficulties in obtaining reliable information in time and in sufficient details to construct such an index for the year for which poverty is to be estimated. It has been further argued that the assumption of identical price vector for the consumption baskets of people in rural and urban areas is highly questionable. It is observed that the relative price movements of the rural and urban sectors are distinct and are also different from CSO’s consumption deflator.

In order to accommodate both the points discussed above a suggestion has been made that taking the commodity group indices available from Consumer Price Index of agricultural laborers(CPIAL) for rural areas and the consumption pattern of the people around the rural poverty line at the national level for 1973-74 as weights, a special index may be constructed for updating the Rural poverty line. Similarly, for urban areas a special index of consumer prices may be constructed using the sub-group indices of industrial workers weighted by the consumption pattern of the population group around the urban poverty line. A simple average of this index and the CPI for urban non-manual employees for the urban areas can be used to update the urban poverty line. The Expert Group favors the use of this option in its report.

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  1. Estimation of Poverty at State Level

The Planning Commission’s methodology to estimate State level poverty implicitly makes the following assumptions:

(i) Age-sex and occupation distribution of population in the States follows the all- India pattern. Hence, calorie requirements per capita are the same in different States.

(ii) The price structure of the consumption baskets and price trends across the States are identical.

It has been pointed out that there are important inter- State differences in terms of

Population structures, activity status, climatic and topographical considerations, and so on, which would need to be reflected in calorie requirements. Accordingly, normative calorie requirements would differ from State to State.

The consumption basket of the poor also differs significantly across the States. It is inherent in the poverty line concept that non – food expenditures such as clothing, housing and fuel are not normatively estimated. The food habits will depend on local availabilities as well as on cultural and consumer preferences reflected in differing choices between vegetarian and non- vegetarian food items, between fine and coarse food grains and in the greater or smaller use of milk and

milk products.

Ideally the inter-State differences in population structure, activity composition, climate and topographical price structures and their trends over time should be reflected in the State –specific poverty lines. On practical consideration, the Planning Commission had adopted the all- India calorie norms and used a common deflator for all the States for estimating the incidence of poverty. A number of States were of the view that given the current methodology, Planning

Commission grossly underestimated their poverty status. There is therefore a need to streamline the methodology in this respect. In this context, it has been argued that there should be States specific poverty lines reflecting the State -specific price differentials of the relevant consumption basket and that the national poverty line should be a weighted average of these ‘State-specific poverty lines to ensure consistency.

If the concern is to ensure comparability across states as well as over-time we need to adopt the same consumption basket for all the States. For this the obvious candidate is the all- India basket. In making such inter-State comparisons in any given year, we have to take into account the fact that prices of different commodities in different States are not the same in any given year nor are the changes in prices similar over the years.

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4. Differences in NSS and NAS Estimates of Consumption Expenditure-

The practice in the Planning Commission has been to raise the expenditure levels reported by the NSS across all expenditure classes by a factor equal to the ratio of the total private consumption as obtained from NAS and the total as estimated from NSS. This factor is applied uniformly to all expenditure classes. Poverty is then estimated from this adjusted distribution of population by expenditure classes. Since the NAS estimates of per capita private consumption are generally higher, this procedure gives a lower estimate of the incidence of poverty than the estimate derived without adjusting the NSS data.

5.Special Problems of Hill Areas-people in the hilly areas have to have a higher daily calorific intake even for performing the normal activities related to their work and living. Besides, due to climatic conditions, the average resident has to incur heavier expenditure on clothing, food and energy for cooking and heating needs, compared to his counterparts in the plains.

6.Inequality and poverty are, of course, distinct concepts but there is a close causal relationship between the two. Given the level of development and the level of per capita income/consumption expenditure, a less unequal distribution would result in lower incidence of poverty. A practical way of looking at the inequality issue would be to look at the share of lower deciles in the aggregate income/consumption expenditure. But this method of poverty estimation doesn’t depict anything about the inequality status.

Other cricisms-

S.Guhan , senior fellow at MADRAS INSTITUTE OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES also agrees that Standardisation of calorie norms and the consumption basket have been found to be necessary to enable aggregation of State-wise estimates and comparisons across States at each point of estimation. However, he simultaneously emphasizes the need of taking in account of State- level normative calorie requirements and State- level differences in consumption baskets.

On this basis, the separate set of State- level estimates could be based on all-India calorie norms , State-level consumption baskets in the base year, and State- level price indices and deflators relatable to the respective base year consumption baskets at the State level.

Utsa Patnaik in the article “neoliberalism and rural poverty in india” in economic and political weekly, criticizes the official methodology heavily pointing out the fact that not only is the level of absolute poverty in

India high, there has also been an adverse impact of neoliberal policies on poverty.

And yet, the poverty estimates by the Planning Commission and many

individual academics, both using a method that renders irrelevant the question of a nutrition norm, show low levels as well as decline in poverty over the 1990s and beyond. According to the article both comparisons over time of the all-India and state-level estimates of poverty as well as any comparison at a point in time of poverty levels across states, obtained by the official method, are invalid.

This measure using a nutrition norm is an absolute measure of poverty as distinct from the relative measures used in many advanced countries – such as considering all those to be poor,who have less than half the average per head income in the economy [Anand 1983, 1997; Subramanian 1997]. With a relative measure of poverty, rise in inequality will imply rise in poverty. The absolute poverty measure adopted in India however requires stronger conditions for poverty to show a rise. Increase in the inequality of income and of expenditure could be quite consistent with poverty so defined, showing a decline. Only an absolute decline in expenditure for substantial sections of the population (not offset by rise for other sections), would lead to average poverty rising.

Using a direct poverty estimation route of inspecting and

calculating from current National Sample Survey data the percentage of persons not able to satisfy the nutrition norm in calories, the author finds that in 1999-2000 nearly half of the rural population who are actually poor have been excluded from the set of the officially poor. For 2004-05, while the official estimate of rural poverty is 28.3 per cent, the author’s direct estimate of persons below the poverty line is 87 per cent. There is clear evidence of a large and growing divergence over time between the direct estimates of poverty and the official indirect estimates.

CONCLUSION-

The official method though being used for long in estimation of poverty in India, has many methodological and computational flaws in it which have been criticized by different scholars ,academicians and independent researchers over the period of time. The major criticism revolve around the adoption of uniform calorie norms and fixed consumption basket, base year price differentials and uniformity of deflators across the States and the practice of adjusting the NSS distribution.

Also the limitations of the poverty line approach like its absolute and reductionist nature, insensitiveness to mobility, effects of geographic, cultural and occupational manners etc have established it as an invalid method.

There is a need to revise the official method to have a closer to real estimate of the poverty so that the allocation of resources to those who are in need and efforts towards equality among different strata could be made more effective.

As suggested by the Expert Group ,three important improvements can be : (a) the abandonment of the NSS-NAS adjustment procedure (b) initial estimation of poverty State-wise and its aggregation for deriving all-India estimates (c) adoption of price indices and deflators that are related to consumption around the poverty line .

Along with this there is a need to take into account taking in account of State- level normative calorie requirements and State- level differences in consumption baskets.

Kudumbashree: A poverty alleviation program in Kerala

In 1987, Government of India and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the sponsored the Urban Basic Services (UBS) program for those living in slums. Then this UBS program was expanded to the urban poor who were living in low-income neighborhoods and was named Urban Basic Services for the Poor (UBSP). The fundamental principle of UBSP was community participation and then identifies needs, planning, prioritizing, implementing, monitoring, and feedback of these poor people. A three-tiered community structure was instituted, so as to empower the poor especially the women. Then later on, in the early 1990’s Kerala took up this UBSP so as to empower women. This lead to two models on pilot basics.

  1. Alleppey Urban Model: Alappuzha Community Based Nutrition Program (CBNP)

  2. Malappuram Rural Model

Alleppey Urban Model: Alappuzha Community Based Nutrition Program (CBNP)

UNICEF and the Alleppey Municipal UBSP initiated a community-based nutrition program (CBNP) in Alleppey in 19911. It was done on pilot basics only related to nutrition of poor people are to be addressed by this model. It was targeted to increase the nutritional level of children of age 0- 5 years old where the nutritional level is measured by weight-for-age and also improve the nutritional status of women ages 15- 45 years old where the nutritional level is measured by weight and height. Firstly, the agenda of this program was set and then they did a survey to identify the key causes of malnutrition among children and women. This was done in about 5,728 households living in 7 of 36 wards of Alleppey town and then they decided to shortlist nine risk factors and all those families with four or more of the following risk factors were classified as below the poverty line (BPL). These factors are:

  • kutcha (mud) house

  • no access to safe drinking water

  • family getting only two meals a day or less,

  • presence of children below age 5

  • alcoholic or drug addict

  • scheduled caste or scheduled tribe family

  • no access to sanitary latrine

  • illiterate adult

  • Not more than one earning family member.

Even though it identifies these 9 criteria to identify the BPL families, but there are some issues in these criteria. The meaningful poverty assessment should be based on sound conceptual foundations. We should have comprehensive framework for measuring poverty. We should clearly identify poor from non poor, find the depth of poverty, we should be able to make meaningful aggregation about the magnitude of poverty in any particular region. Any four criteria out of nine in the KDS index means that all criteria are treated as independent and equally important. They however are not independent and equally important (OOMMEN). So there should be some way of giving weights to these criteria. There were few other issues also.

UNICEF’s had a Triple A approach, and this was used to address the above issues and thus a package of interventions were identified such as income-generation schemes for unemployed women, shelter upgrading, enrollment of illiterate adults in the Total Literacy Programs and children in education programs of government of India, integrated child development services (ICDS) etc. As the implementation of this went, different stakeholders identified some deficiency in the existing government structures and thus community-level administrative/delivery system was suggested for better implementation. Thus the system of the Community Development Society (CDS) emerged with a unique set of bylaws.

CDS Structure

Firstly, poor families were identified and then they were organized into neighborhood groups (NHGs) by a community organizer who is an employee of the municipality. Each NHG consisted of 20-45 BPL families. Each NHG member elected a five-member committee called the neighborhood groups committee (NHGC). Then these NHGs were federated at ward level as area development societies (ADS). The ADSs were then federated at the municipal level as CDSs.

CDS Key Strategic Activities

  • Participatory planning and implementation

  • Thrift, credit

  • Micro enterprise

  • Convergence

  • Maternal and Child health

  • Poverty reduction

These are explained in detailed in Kudumbashree section

Malappuram Rural Model

Malappuram district is one of the 90 most underdeveloped districts in India. It has the highest fertility rate, the highest infant mortality rate, lowest per capita income of Rs 1,257, literacy rate is 88.6 %, and unemployment rate is high. By 1994, with UNICEF, the CDS approach was extended to the entire district. Malappuram CDS is the largest women’s NGO in Asia. Swarnajayanthi Grama Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) program was to be implemented by The Rural Development Department of Kerala and issued guidelines to utilize the CDS system to implement the in the rural areas. In 1995, the CDS approach expanded to all rural areas of Malappuram.

CDS Key Strategic Activities

  • Participatory planning and implementation

  • Thrift, credit, Micro enterprise

  • Convergence

  • Maternal and Child health

  • Poverty reduction

Kudumbashree

The success of the CDS model in urban Alappuzha and in rural Malappuram led the government of Kerala to scale up the strategy to the whole of the state in 1998 under the name Kudumbashree, Kudumbashree means prosperity of the family, is the name of the women oriented and community based4. After 73rd & 74th constitutional amendments which strengthened panchayat and ULBs, Kudumbashree was launched in April 1998 for   poverty eradication and women empowerment within 10 years. Therefore it created the Poverty Eradication Mission under the Department of Local Self-Government. About 19 line departments were associated with Kudumbashree. In 2004, there are about 114,844 NHGs covering urban, rural, and tribal areas of Kerala, with 1,049 CDSs at the LGB level.

Formerly primarily an urban initiative, Kudumbashree CBOs have expanded to all rural areas. The principal goal of Kudumbashree is poverty alleviation through empowerment of women similar to those of previous two models.

Kudumbashree Mission focuses on:

  • Training for Change

  • Education

  • Share and Care

  • Community Health Care

  • Environmental Sanitation

  • The Poor Women’s Bank, and

  • Community Financial Management

The following key approaches of CBNP continue in the scaled-up Kudumbashree:

  • using a transparent nine-point index to identify the poor,

  • development of women’s micro-enterprises, and thrift and credit societies

  • Participatory planning and implementation of antipoverty and social welfare programs

  • Convergence of various government programmes and resources at the community-based organisation level

  • efforts to involve the CDS structure in local level anti-poverty planning;

Indeed, it has been widely hailed and rewarded for its innovativeness and unprecedented reach. While micro-credit is one among the many strategies initiated in the Kudumbashree strategy, it has been gaining in importance and visibility within the programme.

Increasing leadership and cooperation of LGBs and an emphasis on women’s active participation in grama sabhas meetings in rural areas and block meetings in urban areas are some important activities of Kudumbashree. The vision of nurturing an innovative environment within CDS/ADS/NHG levels has continued from previously stated pilot projects to Kudumbashree.

The following are the community structures suggested for the rural side:

  • Kudumbashree Ayalkoottam (NHG)

  • Kudumbashree Ward Samithy (ADS)

  • Kudumbashree Panchayat Samithy (CDS)

Organization structure

NHG – neighborhood group

NHG committee of 5 elected members

20-45 BPL families

ADS -Area Development Society general body

Elected ADS governing body

Ward-level advisory committee presided over by municipal ward councilors

CDS (community development societies) general body

Elected CDS governing body

CDS advisory committee presided over by municipal chairman with municipal commissioner as a co-convener

Government, district

Administration

Supporting organizations such as NABARD Donors such as UNICEF

Scaling Up Process

In 1995, the Alleppey and Malappuram Model, which are previously described are scaled up to all urban areas under the leadership of Urban Poverty Alleviation cell( UPA). In 1997, people’s campaign for decentralization for planning was demanded. In 1997, there was fiscal decentralization with 30% to 40% of state funds disbursed to local governments.

Dimensions of scaling up

Kudumbashree adopted a replication stratergy to scale to entire state using the three tier CDS as adopted by Alleppey and Malappuram Model and thus it was replicated in 14 districts initially.

Qualitative scaling up

  1. Replication:- A successful program of Alleppey and Malappuram Model were replicated in all district in kerala.

  2. Nurture:- A well-staffed and well-funded agency of Kudumbashree is CDS system

  3. Integration:- into the existing government structures and systems after it was illustrated that Alleppey and Malappuram Models had potential. It was CBO that was integrated into LGB, but CBS structures are not integrated into LBG as they are not envisioned as government structures.

Functional scaling up

  1. There was no horizontal scaling i.e. unrelated new activities or programs were not added , but rather there was a vertical scale up i.e. activities related to same chain of activities as original are added to existing ones such as emphasis in chronic diseases, destitution identification etc.

  2. Political Scaling up:- NHS/ADS/CDS are recognized by Government of Kerala and they can influence policy reform to better the existing system. They can also have capacity to organize social movements such as women fighting against domestic violence. Since this is politicized it is easy for the members in NHG to bring up there issues at panchayat, district or state level can they can reach out to parties in power at these various levels. There are empirical evidences to show that many women are participating in elections and few have won at panchayat level.

Organisation scale up

  1. Financial viability: CDS are funded by various means such as government,, self financing by NHG members, through sub contracting etc thereby increasing financial viability.

  2. Institutional diversification: basically government is the main partner, but there are other who are also supporting. They are banks, universities, different organizations, other departments in government, different individual actors etc

Decentralization

People’s Plan campaign was launched by left Democratic Front in 1996 and thus in 1997 state government devoted 35%- 40% i.e. about 1 billion rupees of states annual outlay funds to LGB. Many functions related to basic needs such as employment, income generating activities in agriculture and so on were also devolved. The main objective was to avoid the already existing cumbersome bureaucratic system, but rather to create a new participatory model of local self governance. Therefore policy makers felt the need to integrate LGB activities with Kudumbashree CDS system and thus NHG was looked upon as potential mechanism for ensuring sustained participation. Since grama sabha were too large and had many limitations, the decision to link CDS structures to LGB accelerated the pace of scaling up process.

Key achievements of Kudumbashree

1. Thrift and Credit Societies (TCS) – at the NHG Kudumbashree promotes Thrift and Credit Societies to facilitate the poor to save and improve their access to credit. A member can borrow up to four times her savings. It was done in almost all of the NHG’s. Since women got credit more women participated in NHG’s. But still there are some problems with effective linkages with the banks since credit is only equal to or slightly higher than the thrift amounts. CDSs are experiencing problems in linking with commercial banks. But in many places there are rapid strides that are being made in linking more NHGs to the commercial banks through NABARD.

The amount of each loan and the priority of disbursement are decided by the NHG members. The interest income from thrift is generally used for relending. In Kudumbashree, the interest rate is high (about 2% per month). This discourages credit for consumption and ensures that the loans are for productive income-generation activities. In Alleppey, 88 percent of the TCS loans extended were for income-generating activities (Oommen 1999).

2. Microenterprise

One of the highlighting features of Kudumbashree is that, Kudumbashree staff working with many other government departments such as NABARD actively identifies financially viable opportunities for the poor and promotes them aggressively. In 2004, there were about 14,125 viable microenterprises in urban areas and 47,000 microenterprises in rural areas.

Since the women were given credit and training lead to empowerment of women and as a result there were some innovative microenterprise activities such as catering services, courier services, coconut delicacies, ethnic delicacies, lease-land farming, and computer data entry services which were historically never done by women in Kerala. Kerashree is a well-known coconut oil brand in Kerala, produced by Kudumbashree CBOs.

3. Convergence

K

CDS under LGB

Sanitation,

Water supply

Integrated Child Development Program

Healthcare

Antipoverty programs

Housing

Literacy programs

udumbashree has been effective in collaboration and co-ordination with other departments and agencies which are working for poverty alleviation and many other schemes. Some of them were Spices Board, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, the Khadi and Village Industries Board, Schedule Tribe department, the Social Welfare Department, and the Industries Department.

4. Participatory planning and implementation

Kudumbashree involves grassroots, bottom-up planning, and implementation of various programs. This component is strengthened by efforts to increase the leadership of LGBs without compromising the autonomy and decision making power of the CDS.

5. Lease Land Farming

When paddy cultivation became a non-lucrative affair, farmers of the state deserted paddy fields. Kudumbashree found this as an opportunity. Neighbourhood Groups of the mission were given encouragement to start paddy cultivation. Many groups have identified the immense potential of lease land farming. Lease land farming is beneficial both to the landless poor women of Kudumbashree Neighborhood

6 . Human Resource Development

To achieve human development, Kudumbashree provides a variety of training for capacity building of CBOs functionaries. This includes general training for CBO functionaries, training for newly elected CBO members, skill development and entrepreneurial training for enterprise development etc

7. Balasabha

Balasabhas are grass roots level groups of the children of BPL families. This program organises the children of the poor families of the State into Balasabhas as a part of its holistic approach to wipe out poverty. It main objectives are to provide a healthy growth and development of children and to provide an atmosphere for informal learning.

8. Arogya Swayam Sahaya Sangham

Kudumbashree is encouraging the NHG’s to manage minor ailments as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and to promote health by changing risky behaviors. Kudumbashree is training NHG health volunteers.

Other programs are

  • Micro Housing/ Bhavanashree

  • Destitute Identification , Rehabilitation and Monitoring Programme/Ashraya

  • The S3 programme

  • Solid Waste Management /Clean Keral Business

  • Special Employment Programme for the Educated Youth

  • Special School for the Disabled Children/Buds

  • Self Employment Programme under SJSRY

  • GRQ Project.

Kudumbashree’s Impact

An antipoverty survey that was conducted in 1998 by the state government could perhaps serve as a baseline for evaluation of Kudumbashree. Impact evaluation can be done at three levels, consistent with the overall objectives of Kudumbashree.

  1. poverty alleviation in terms of income, assets, and human development

  2. participation (and its quality)

  3. empowerment of women

  • NHG have given women a social security safety net and this they have greater bonding among the women. In times of crisis, these women don’t feel left out and thus this has resulted in reduction of feeling of vulnerability, e.g., women contribute to the treatment of sick members of NHG households.

  • In many active NHGs, women are willing to put forth their demands and they are now confident and capable of articulating their demands. Therefore women choices, concerns are heard at NHG level and then they are taken forward in ADG and municipal level plans.

  • There has been an increase in the awareness of various programs of the government and thus more women are participating in these programs and thus have resulted in improved access to these programs

  • Considerable savings are being generated due to TCS, which provide credit both for both consumption and productive purposes.

  • Due to linkages with banks such as NABARD, these people are now able to get credit and thus they are able to start micro enterprises and thus they are able to generate revenue and by savings they are able to improve their economic strengths. NHG members are undertaking both group and individual microenterprises.

  • In many instances the women have led social movements say against domestic violence, illicit liquor and due to politicisation of these groups they are been heard al district and also at state level.

Impact of Micro-enterprises

There are four pathways through which women experience change through micro-enterprises, as follows:

  • Material change in access to and control over material resources, in level of income, and in satisfaction of basic needs

  • Changes in level of knowledge, skills, and awareness of wider environment

  • Perceptual change in individual’s perception of own individuality, interests, and value and in the perceptions by others of individual’s contributions and worth

  • Relational changes in contractual agreements, in bargaining power, and in ability to resist exploitation.

Lessons offered / Critical factors in scaling up/ replicability in other parts of India

  • Positive experiences of the pilots– The Alleppey and Malappuram experiences are the most important factor in the conception and scaling-up of Kudumbashree. The replication of CDS followed the models implemented in Alleppey and Malappuram.

  • Replicability in both urban and rural settings – Though it was initially targeted to be urban project but later it was replicated in underdeveloped districts such as Malappuram which was a rural setting. Therefore this model can be applied in both rural and urban settings.

Government ownership

Kudumbashree actively involved both state and local governing bodies in its formulation of policies related to Kudumbashree. Government recognized the potential of the two pilot models and then it was scaled up to entire Kerala. The district collectors in Alleppey and Malappuram were involved in the policy formulation and drafting for Kudumbashree. Kudumbashree is an interdepartmental initiative, which makes it conducive for a multi sectoral response to poverty alleviation. Therefore the state government role was very essential for interdepartmental level co-ordination. Other institutional arrangements such as partnerships with the central government and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), continue to play a role in an expanded response to poverty alleviation through CDS.

Some unique features of Kerala – Kerala stands apart from other states of India in the following ways.

    • Politicians in Kerala generally do not fear empowered groups.

    • Though Kerala is highly politicized, to get progressive ideas on top of the agenda of political leaders is relatively easy, due to the history of social and labor movements.

    • Kerala generally has an absence of extreme inequalities.

    • The caste system is practically nonexistent, removing one barrier to collective action.

    • Higher literacy rates make communication and training easier.

    • The status of women is better than in other states. Resistance to formation of women’s groups was small, even in Malappuram, a predominantly Islamic district.

    • The unique sociopolitical context of Kerala, coupled with leadership of a few motivated and innovative officials, was key in both the decentralization and scaling-up processes.

Constraining Factors

Two factors initially constrained the scaling-up process.

  • Whether to include all women in the or only women who are below poverty line?

  • More focus was given on micro enterprises and other economic well being of women and maternal and child health and nutrition issues

The government initially wanted to include all women. But there were some issues of including all women because then government would need more resources to handle this entire Kudumbashree project. Negotiations between various stakeholders delayed scaling up by over a year. Many LGBs resisted strengthening of the CBOs, which were perceived as a threat to authority. This still continues to be a problem in some locations.

There are also some debates and discussions on shrinking focus on maternal and child health and nutrition issues and an increasing preoccupation with microenterprise initiatives. Mandatory group formation coupled with rapid expansion compromised the quality of training, posing a threat to sustainability of collective action. The current community development and action plans lack a wider, long-term development perspective. As CDS structures are affiliated to LGBs, they may be as weak or as strong as the LGB itself and the CDS structures are vulnerable to political interference. The NHG volunteers perceive themselves as working for the government, expecting remuneration. Due to institutionalization of CDS, it has started acting like a bureaucracy and it is evident in some places, but not all. Proper training at LGB, CDS, ADS and NHG level should be given so that they are aware of the de-facto power i.e. the positional power so that they act according to the structure defined in the Kudumbshree program. LGB members feel threatened and feel that CDS structures have occupied their space and authority. Therefore high quality and periodic training is necessary. Training and mobilizing women, capacity building and sustained collective action is very necessary. Gopalan, Bhupathy, and Raja (1995) and Oommen(2004) observed that when CBNP was expanded from seven to all 36 wards of Alleppey municipality, the quality of training was compromised and this may repeat in KBS.

Other Key constraints

  1. There are no explicit exit strategies. There is an implicit assumption that once Kudumbashree facilitates the capacity building of CDS structures, the CDSs will be ready to take over. It should analyze the feasibility of such a handover and started making explicit plans for such transformation.

  2. Since KBS, have a 10 year mission, dismantling it in 2008 would have caused problems for getting additional funds for CBO’s. But in 2008-09, the SJSRY Action Plans were integrated with the development plans of the ULB. SJSRY is an ongoing centrally sponsored anti-poverty programme. It is shared 75:25 basis by both Central and State Government of Kerala. The Special Livelihood Projects of Kudumbashree have been implemented under the aegis of SJSRY. Under the SJSRY, so far we have developed 27661 micro enterprises of which 1818 units are group enterprises (each group with minimum 10 women) and 25843 are individual enterprises. (kudumbashree.org: Website).

  3. Conflict with NGO’s – There are many NGO’s who have organized people into SHG and they were mostly formed before KBS and similarly many other political parties, Rural Development department formed SHG as the concept of SHG is very old in Kerala. Now all the SHGs have to be integrated with KBS to avoid duplication and ensure universal coverage of all BPL women. Therefore now if there was an understanding that no new groups would be formed and existing groups would be integrated in KBS, then scaling up process would be smooth else it would be difficult. But NGOs feel that KBS poses an unfair competition and feel that government is taking control and have restricted their growth. However, federating NGO to LGB is allowed, but still there are some tensions (Suneetha Kadiyala: 2004).

  4. Formation of groups (NHG) was compulsory and in some cases KBS and state planning board wanted to scale up at great pace. In 1998, in Thiruvananthapuram district, where community mobilization for collective action was especially challenging, some officials offered incentive of Rs 5,000 per NHG formed. In a few days, many groups were formed. But after the money was disbursed among the members, they abandoned the NHGs.

  5. LGB consider CDS system as sub-ordinate system and some issues are there in smooth co-ordination.

  6. Gram Sabha’s have their meeting in morning hours and usually women are busy in household activities and its cause problems to women.

  7. Men may resist women’s participation

  8. Women may lack long term vision due to illiteracy, inadequate awareness etc and this may lead to ineffective leadership at NHG and thus training is very essential. Therefore women should be trained to identify problems of all women in NHG and thus they have to be trained to identify problems of all women in NHG and thus it should be reflected in genuine planning at ADS and then at CDS level so that their concerns and immediate critical problems of poverty are addressed and thus they are reflected in poverty alleviation program.

  9. Child health and nutrition- The other activities such as pulse and polio programs, but it is a one day activity and doesn’t require much planning, decision making and use of NHG resources. KBS strategy document mentions much on thrift and credit operations and it is reflected in annual reports. Therefore the essence of previous two models described and CBNP programs have taken a back seat. The focus on these activities is perhaps due to the high unemployment rate among educated women, particular to Kerala. Also, these activities yield visible return in a relatively short period, so it is easy to organize women around this issue and to please those looking for impact. However, microenterprise/credit by itself will not necessarily lead to poverty alleviation, improvement in human development indicators, and the empowerment of women. That would require a consciously multipronged approach.

  10. A declining spirit of volunteerism is already evident. As the program expanded to the entire state, the Kudumbashree CBOs see this a government program and, therefore, feel entitled to remuneration. Many volunteers in Alleppey and Kollam complained about the work and lack of monetary compensation. Interestingly, they were not willing to give up their position after a two-year term.

  11. Political parties and their leaders are aware of the vast potential of the NHGs to mobilize people and they try to take political mileage from NHG

Overcoming Institutional Barriers

  1. Poverty Eradication Mission gave more freedom to Kudumbashree (KBS) board in staff recruitment. KBS thus recruited professionals who were highly motivated and those willing to work in a team in multi sectors.

  2. The leadership of KBS was highly motivated such as T.K. Jose, I.A.S., Executive Director-Kudumbashree and many others. T.K Jose was instrumental in team building, empowering and motivating the staff.

  3. Officers encourage staff to be innovative, flexible, learn from practical experiences of people. And then to adopt policies accordingly to their needs. The performance based reviews and monitoring in many places were done. There was adequate staff interaction, sharing of information, good practices from various places so that it can be adopted in other places. Therefore both formal and informal training were critical in strengthening KBS.

  4. Kerala has a coalition government for last 3 decades and some portfolios are distributed along party lines and also these results in departmentalism in bureaucracy who wants the bureaucrats of their preferred choice. But KBS unique features of vertical scaling up and initially 19 departments were linked and officers were integrated to co-ordinate with different departments and thus enabled multi sectoral work. KBS discourages bureaucratic attitudes.

  5. KBS, CBO’s are embedded in a permanent institutional framework-LGB’s, which have substantial funds due to tax collection at state level and also allocation of money from the center in some programs. 10% of local plan outlay of local plans is set apart for projects that benefit women. Thrift and credit operations and microenterprises activities make NHG’s self-reliant as evident in many places ( Oommen)

Graduation of BPL to APL

The traditional 9-point criteria have been modified and no longer serve as a bench mark for any measure of poverty. The wide and somewhat open ended modification of the 9-point criteria in recent years to include women-headed households, presence of widow, divorcee, abandoned and challenged person, chronically ill member in the family and so on are also imprecise ascriptions which open wide the gate to non-poor categories. No NHG admitted to having an APL woman among its members, perhaps because moving to APL means losing their benefits as NHG members.

  1. Suneetha Kadiyala’, “SCALING UP KUDUMBASHREE.COLLECTIVE ACTION FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT” last accessed on 28-.9-1010 at www.iiav.nl/epublications//2004/Scaling_up_Kudumbashree.pdf.

  2. M. A. OOMMEN’ “MICRO FINANCE AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION: THE CASE OF KERALA’S KUDUMBASHREE”, ” last accessed on 28-.9-1010 at www.csesindia.org/admin/modules/cms/docs/publication/17.pdf

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudumbashree_Mission_(Kerala)

  4. Mission statement : http://www.kudumbashree.org/?q=memorandum.

  5. Suneetha Kadiyala’ “ Scaling Up Kudumbashree.Collective Action for Poverty Alleviation and Women.s Empowerment”,

  6. last accessed on 28-.9-1010 at http://www.ifpri.org/publication/scaling-kudumbashree-collective-action-poverty-alleviation-and-womens-empowerment-0.

  7. Dr V P RAGHAVAN’ SOCIAL ACTION, GENDER EQUITY AND EMPOWERMENT: THE CASE OF KUDUMBASHREE PROJECTS IN KERALA last accessed on 28-.9-1010 at http://www.igidr.ac.in/~money/mfc_10/V%20P%20Raghavan_submission_48.pdf

  8. http://www.kudumbashree.org/?q=sj

Poverty and its dimensions

Poverty in general represents the inability of the person to meet their basic needs for physical survival and well being. Poverty is a condition of life so characterised by mal nutrition, illiteracy, disease, high infant mortality and low life expectancy which are below any reasonable definition of human decency.1

Poverty is both relative and absolute. Relative poverty refers to a state where some people have more goods and services than others. A poor person has income below a certain level called poverty level. Thus it does not necessarily mean that those who are below such an income level suffer from deprivation of basic needs. On other hand, absolute suffer from insufficiency of basic needs of life2. Poverty is multidimensional, and has various characteristics and thus it presents a number of challenges to measure it.

A poor kid was a school drop put after the primary school since her family did not have money. There are no jobs in the village and people often migrate to city in search of jobs. They usually come to city where their relatives live. Initially they have temporary houses made up of wood, twigs etc which have no water, no toilets and other services. Children grow up in such a pathetic condition. Initially they built nothing permanent since government could pull it down. As years pass by and as and when they get money they build such that each wall is turned separately into concrete walls from mud. While doing these they don’t have to pay interests therefore no overhead and accounting. It is a story of despair, desperation .Nothing is easy going for the urban poor as it seems to be from outside. Business for street vendors is tough and income is not constant. They live in dangerous, hazardous places such as hills, water pipelines, nallas, etc, dumping grounds etc. Squatter community was busier than legal community which was right next to it. It had more life. Buildings looked haphazard from outside with loose concrete, bricks. Squatter community was a beehive of human habitations, concrete prison cells. One room is all rooms, living, dining, bedroom etc, People started investing in homes after they were sure that demolition would not occur and they built their homes with materials that were available locally in slums and nearby places. This is how squatter community develops and thus city grows organically. People in squatters believe that problems of squatters can be solved by squatters themselves and not by any third party.

The squatter communities used to steal electricity, water from government, but instead if the government recognised them as potential customers who are in millions and thus government could make profits and also improve the squatter livelihood in the process. Similarly television, cable, internet business and other such business can boom in these places and thus can create employment in slums itself. Banks could have encouraged them to do some savings, provide loans and credit cards etc. The poor people prefer to have all amenities near or inside the slums instead of going to city and they can also afford it as they earn and also they don’t pay taxes.

Composition and characteristics of urban poor

Four basic questions are

  • Who are poor?

  • How did they become poor?

  • What do they do?

  • How they live?

To answers these questions let us look at the different characteristics of poor.

The different dimensions of poverty are

  • Economic

  • Socio-psychological

  • Cultural

  • Access to basic services

  • Socio-economic i.e. demographic (housing )

  • Political

  • Physical and ecological conditions of living in a particular area and Spatial


Poverty

Economic characteristics

Urban labour market is divided in formal and informal sectors and poor people are mostly employed in informal section since they don’t have the skills and educational qualifications for employment in formal sector. Informal sectors permits easy entry, needs low skills, sometimes self employment is possible. Unemployment is very high among poor people. Even if they are employed they are paid very less and they can’t depend on their family members for income. Children are often made to work so that livelihood of the household is met. Some children are even made to work in houses such as taking care of home ( security), looking after younger children while the parents are outside for work. Thus children who are not sent to school are used in direct or indirect way for the economic well being of household.

Most of the poor people are in informal sector and a self employed since they don’t have skills and generally they don’t have to wait for long time to get employment as they don’t have any source of income. Thus they take up some menial job which is often low paid so that they can just survive.

Work Sector

Poor people are found to work more in tertiary sector (manufacturing services, construction, transport and commerce) than in primary and secondary sector3. They are employed in wide range of occupations. The hours of work, Number of days worked in a month also varies widely among the poor and it is not fixed. Longer they work more income they generate. Thus income levels greatly vary depending on occupation, work sector, number of hours, number of days of work, number of years worked in particular occupation. Underemployment, irregular job pattern and low wages are some of the critical economic problems of urban poor.

Socio-psychological

Deprivation of basic needs produce ill effects on the development and functioning of humans. If the individual suffers from deprivation of basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, housing, water, sanitation and security, that person becomes the target of psychological imbalances which may remain dormant and create deep-rooted feeling of powerlessness. This powerlessness leads to hopelessness, fatalism or apathy and in extreme cases results in psycho pathetic condition 4. They are bound to stress full situation and shocks and the ability to absorb shocks varies and thus they become emotionally unstable. Anxiety, aggression, depression are common among poor people.

Culture

Culture also shapes poverty. Family structure, interpersonal relations, time orientation, value system and spending patter as a part of culture of the poor people define poverty. As most of the slums in city are located in the fringes of elite people and they often subdue themselves that they cannot achieve the status of larger society. Thus this leads to creation of their own perception, a different kind of life style which helps them to cope up with their fellow slum mates and thus to a situation of hopelessness. This leads to low level of aspiration which further degrades their situation and thus leads to more poverty 5. Because of high unemployment, low wages for labourers also lead to low aspiration among the poor. This thus leads to sub culture of the poor5.

When this sub culture of poverty comes into existence, it perpetuates itself from generation to generation because of its effect on the children. This leads to change in the attitudes of nature of individual, then the family, nature of slum community and also nature of larger society.

Lack of effective participation and integration of poor in major institutions of larger society can cause alienation leading to the development of sub culture of poverty. It is thus much more difficult to eliminate this sub culture of poverty than poverty itself.

Physical and ecological conditions of living in a particular area

As the population is growing, the pressure on natural resources is increasing and also the environment. Uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources and population growth disturb the environment equilibrium and create conditions in which human basic needs can’t be satisfied and thus leading to poverty. The cultivable land per person decreases as the population grows. With vast number of people migrating and the need for better survival conditions demands, the pressure of population growth on the resources has lead to enormous levels of poverty.

Demographic Characteristics

Poor people have large household size that non- poor. However, there are large variations in their mean household size which depend upon the socio-cultural and economic factors in each region. Urban Poor are mostly migrants from rural areas. But recent studies have shown that migrants are often better off than non migrants6.

Household size

Perception is that poor have a large household size. But this is not true since mean household size of urban poor (5.2 – according to Census of India, 1981) does not differ significantly from that of rest of urban household (5.4) 6.

Household size and income

A research was conducted by National Institute of Urban Affairs. They take a sample of all poor households and BPL household among these poor households. They conclude that, in poorest household the larger households are not significantly poorer than the smaller households whereas in overall sample the larger households are poorer than the smaller households.

Household Composition

In poor households, the percentage of children (< 15 years) is higher and percentage of labour force (15 -60 years) is lower. Women, children and old people are dominant in poor households. Incidence of poverty is higher among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes 6.

6. “Profile of Urban Poor: An Investigation into their Demographic, Economic and Shelter Characteristics”, 1989, National Institute of Urban Affairs.

Poverty and Literacy levels

Illiteracy among poor is much higher than rest of urban population. A very high dropout rates from school going children. Illiteracy is particularly higher among females of low income and poor people. Girls are not encouraged to study beyond primary level.

Housing and access to basic services characteristics

Housing characteristics can be divided into four types7

  1. Squatters

  2. Legal occupants

  3. Tenants

  4. Owners

Squatters are very common among poor people. They usually are migrants and come to big city in search of job and since they don’t have money they occupy certain lands which are near their place of work so as to save on the transportation costs. They continue to occupy these lands despite the fear of eviction because of proximity to their work. There are also tenants among urban poor as they can’t to build their own houses. Some of the tenants are migrants and as they have come recently into urban areas they would not be able to construct their own house. Most of the poor households live in kutcha or semi kutcha or semi pucca houses and few in pucca. Sometimes the poor people pay bribes to officials and make their homes legal and thus claim their ownership of their house in slums. Many poor people prefer to build their own houses rather than pay rents.

Household Assets

Assets such as land, house, gold, stocks, bonds, vehicles, household items are the indicators of standard of living. They act as a backup in times of dire conditions. Assets sometimes give future returns and make life convenient. Assets are formed when excess of income over consumption is converted into these assets for some future gains.

Spatial Dimension of Urban poverty

The incidence of urban poverty varies from state to state and also among different size classes of cities. Even within a city, the percentage of people living below the poverty line and in slums varies depending upon whether the slums or squatter settlements are recent origin or very old of about 25 to 30 years or whether slums are on public lands or private lands or whether any improvement work has been carried out in slum areas by public agencies.

Measurement of Poverty: Frameworks for measuring poverty

Poverty is multidimensional, and has various characteristics and thus it presents a number of challenges to measure it. Right now poverty measuring is quantitative and expenditure on consumption per capita is used by Planning Commission to measure poverty in India.

There are various approaches to study of poverty

Economic: This provides for useful explanation of poverty. The level of poverty and its magnitude can be clearly measured in economic terms. In this type of analysis, poor are those who do not have a defined level of income which is required for the fulfilling of basic requirements. The criterion to draw this poverty line is the expenditure on consumption. Therefore minimum nutrition intake for normal health is necessary.

The definition of poverty line in the Indian context was attempted for the first time in 1962 by a Working Group of eminent Economists and social thinkers after taking into account the recommendations of the Nutrition Advisory Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR, 1958) regarding balanced diet. It suggested a model of calorie intake of 2100 or 2400 calories per capita in urban and rural respectively.

The major criticism revolve around the adoption of uniform calorie norms and fixed consumption basket, base year price differentials and uniformity of deflators across the States and the practice of adjusting the NSS distribution. Also the limitations of the poverty line approach like its absolute and reductionist nature, insensitiveness to mobility, effects of geographic, cultural and occupational manners etc have established it as an invalid method. Income levels generally fluctuate and there are problems of under-reporting and people who are in informal sector usually don’t report correct numbers.

Income or consumption measures also do not capture multiple dimensions of poverty which are stated previously. Urban poor are dependent on cash economy thus making them more vulnerable to fluctuations in income and there are severe environmental issues and health hazards due to crowded living conditions in urban slums and no tenure security and access to basic services such as water, sewage, health and education, and a safety net to mitigate hard times and vulnerability to withstand shocks.

Unsatisfied Basic Needs Index 8: This approach defines minimum criteria for various dimensions of poverty and thus classifying those households who don’t have access to basic set of needs and services. These include characteristics such as drinking water which is piped to their homes, caloric and protein requirement of their food consumption, toilets, sewage, toilets, adequate housing, overcrowding, literacy, school attendance. If a household is deficient in one of the categories, they are classified as having unsatisfied basic needs.

Asset Indicators8: This is used to measure the demographic characteristics. Assets can be classified as tangible (stores, resources) and intangible claims for material, moral or practical support, opportunity to access resources)

The ownership of assets such as land, house and dwelling characteristics (type of roof, flooring, and walls), gold, stocks, bonds, vehicles, refrigerator, television, household items is used to construct an indicator of household’s socio-economic status. Presence of services and access to basic services including clean water and electricity is also used as an indicator and thus these assets need not be owned by them but rather they have control over them. Thus, these resources include a broad range of financial, human, social, physical, natural and political capital.

Vulnerability 9: It is basically the insecurity of individual in face of changing social, ecological, economic and political environments accompanied by shocks, other risks such as violence, crime, natural disasters, being pulled out of school etc. The extent of vulnerability relates both to the level of external threats to a household’s, individual’s or community’s welfare and to their resilience resisting and recovering from these external threats (UNDP, 1997). Vulnerability is measured by indicators such that we will have concrete data of assess a household’s risk exposure over time. These indicators include measures of participation in the formal safety net, income diversification, physical assets, human capital, links to networks, and access to credit markets. It also examines the sensitivity of their livelihoods to these factors. This kind of analysis can be quite complex and impossible to measure using simple quantitative tools and thus requires a specially designed survey. Therefore we can classify vulnerability into tangible and intangible assets: labor, human capital, productive assets, household relations and social capital. The measurement of tangible assets can be got. Thus over the years this kind of framework can be modified to get good measure of poverty levels among the people.

Policies, Institutions, Processes and Participatory methods9

The Policies, Institutions, Processes cover a broad range of social, political, economic and environmental factors that determine peoples choices and so help to shape livelihoods and institutions will are involved in shaping the polices related to poor

Policies, Institutions, Processes and Participatory methods- laws, policies,

Trends Shocks Security

Vulnerability Context

Capital Assets Livelihood assets Financial, social human, Physical, natural assets

What are the implications of this framework for redressal of poverty?

Vulnerability:

Different livelihood strategies have to be employed in the context of

Social context of cities

Urban neighborhoods contain a diversity of household types and people of varying social background. Social diversity is likely to create tensions and the need for different livelihood strategies. They rely on strong networks of solidarity between groups and individuals. In urban cities a lot of segregation happens and people often look for communities of similar kind based on say caste, language, region etc and thus trust and collaboration between people is enhanced. Therefore strong social networks based on trust, collaboration and solidarity amongst communities and households is developed and this forms a social capital which acts as a bulwark against shocks and stresses 10. But some households suffer from high levels of social fragmentation but in most cases a there is a strong solidarity between communities and thus the vulnerability has to be measured differently in different social context.

The urban economy

Due to globalization most of the urban market is based on global markets and therefore goods are relatively higher costs unlike their rural counterparts who may rely more heavily on agriculture or have access to free or common property resources. Most of the urban poor are employed in informal sector and they are low paid and have insecure job conditions. Those in informal employment don’t have labor rights. They are therefore susceptible to sudden changes such as unemployment, dangers working conditions, long hours of work, poor pay and insanitary or unsafe conditions.

Another source of vulnerability is the linkages between the cities to the global economy. Urban economies depend on the wider global economic system and are affected by national and international macro policy. Thus urban poor are vulnerable to urban economy.

Environment and health

Urban poor are mostly concentrated in high densities areas. These areas are frequently located on polluted land close to some industries or waste dumps sites, water pipes and water courses are contaminated, or on hillsides and river plains which are susceptible to landslides and flooding. Most of the urban poor working in informal sectors are vulnerable to accidents in the workplace and the health hazards associated with unsafe working environments such as lack of clean water and sanitation and water, air and noise pollution. Many urban poor people particularly women spend lots of hours in securing drinking water and other activities.

Legal dimension

The relationship of the urban poor to systems of city governance usually depends on their legal status. Most of the settlements of urban poor are termed as illegal and they are vulnerable to demolition of their homes by the government as they occupy public property owned by state or on lands where there is dispute between two parties.

Poor try to find extra legal option to find housing near their occupation. Housing illegality leads to all other illegality such as water, electricity, sanitation, toilets, health care etc.

Some groups, defined along lines such as gender, occupation, caste or ethnicity, may be particularly vulnerable to specific shocks and stresses.

Gender dimension

Women form a majority among the poor and are over-represented amongst the poorest. Gender differences within the incidence of poverty in urban areas are more intense than those in the rural areas.

Tools for assessing vulnerability11

  1. Events and trends that cause stress or sudden changes in trends. Method used can be key informants and external agents who are in constant touch with the urban poor such as NGO’s , activist etc

  2. Major occurrence of shocks such as industry closure, earthquakes, major economic reforms, group conflicts. Method used can be exact timeless of occurrence.

  3. Access to livelihood activities throughout the year (seasonal production activities such as construction, processing of rural produce or migration for agricultural work). Methods used can be Seasonal diagrams, sample surveys

  4. Trends such as population density, rainfall, temperatures, producer and consumer etc. Methods used can be demographic information, meteorological, price levels.

Policies, Institutions, Processes and Participatory methods

All the activities that are followed in this framework in micro level have to be supported in macro level i.e. at policy and implementation level so that urban poor is not denied the access to basic services. One area of policy that has the potential for building the security of poor households’ livelihoods is that of pro-poor policy and India has introduced many pro-poor programs and many are in implementation phase. Due to structural adjustments, the incidence of poverty is most probably likely to increase. Few examples are factors such as the loss of public sector employment and subsidized public goods and services.

Participatory methods are indicators of Cultural institutions such as rigid caste system, which has strongly influenced access to employment opportunity, education, access to tap water and other services.

Some of the innovative techniques that can be used for this framework are12

  • wealth ranking – assigning households to well-being categories

  • Venn diagrams – diagrammatic representation of key institutional interactions.

  • social maps – maps locating key social features

  • resource maps – maps identifying resources

  • transect walks – land-use maps based on walking through particular areas

  • seasonal calendars – graphical depiction of seasonal events or trends

Capability approach

The simplest ways to approach multi dimensional view of poverty is to define poverty as non- fulfillment of any kind of human right. But anything and everything can’t be used to measure poverty by this approach. E.g. Say if any political opponent has denied a person to speak freely, that it would not qualify it as lack of human right even though the deprivation of human right has happened and thus makes it impractical to measure in this broader sense . The reason for implausible is that when viewed as a social problem and in the context of policy making, the concept of poverty has been closely linked to command over economic resources 13.

In our day to day life we use the word “poor” in a very loose sense. One who comes in car is rich and one who comes in auto rickshaw as poor or a “poor chap” who just missed a lottery by narrow margin. However when poor is discussed as a social problem, the concept has to restricted to well established link with deprivation by economic constraints. Therefore the Amartya Sen’s Capability approach14 provides a concept of poverty that satisfies both these requirements and thus replaces a uni-dimensional approach to measure poverty by only income or economic dimension. Therefore this approach includes most human right that are concerned with humans person’s right to certain fundamental freedom such as freedom from hunger, disease, malnutrition, adequate housing, clothing, illiteracy etc and thus goodness of the social structures be measured in terms of flourishing of human freedoms. Thus this freedom leads to well being of human being.

In a very crude sense, well-being can be thought of as the quality of a person’s being or living, and living itself can be seen as consisting of a set of interrelated “functioning’s”– the activities that a person can do or be. The level of well-being thus depends on the level of those functioning’s, i.e. how well a person can do or be the things that the person has reasons to value. Functionings are what individuals may value doing or being. This includes basic functionings such as literacy and avoiding preventable diseases, as well as more developed activities such as taking part in community life and enjoying social self-respect. A person’s ‘capability set’ refers to the bundle of all the functionings from which a person has the freedom to choose.

Therefore it represents a person’s freedom or opportunities to achieve well being. Poor persons have very less opportunities to pursue their well- being. Poverty seen from this dimension can be seen as low levels of capability or Sen put it as “the failure of basic capabilities to reach certain minimally acceptable levels”.

First, not all kinds of failure of capability would count as poverty. Since poverty denotes an extreme form of deprivation, only those capability failures would count as poverty that is deemed to be basic in some order of priority. Since many different communities have different type of social order , so therefore they will have different order of priority and a different basket of things that would qualify as “basic capabilities” and thus is relative. But there will be certain capabilities that would be common to all such as having adequate housing, nutrition, clothing etc.

Second, now when poverty is defined as a failure to meet a range of basic capabilities, it becomes a multidimensional concept and therefore lack of adequate income as the only dimension becomes redundant, but rather is one of the dimension of measuring poverty and also an important one because it plays an important role in measuring the command over economic resources. Income dimension distinguishes the phenomenon of poverty from a low level to high level of well-being in general. This distinction is important because while poverty implies a low level of well-being, not every case of a low level of well-being can be regarded as poverty. For example, while the absence of the capability to live a healthy life is certainly a case of a low level of well-being, but in case of ill-health caused by a genetic disorder which is hereditary, will not in itself be recognized as poverty. But ill-health caused by lack of access to basic health-care resources will be. Therefore the command over economic resources plays an important role in determining the low level of well-being.

Therefore inadequate command over access to communally owned and managed resources and also over resources that are made available through formal and informal networks of mutual support can be deemed as poverty14.

The recognition that poverty has an irreducible economic dimension does not necessarily imply the primacy of economic factors that are responsible for the cause of poverty. E.g. when a person is discriminated based on caste, class, gender and if the society denies that person access to basic services such as health care and thus it is clearly a case of capability failure that should count as poverty. Here the primary cause if the socio-cultural, political-legal frameworks that may an important role and lack of command over resources plays merely a mediating role. However, the existence of this mediating role is crucial factor in distinguishing poverty from a low level of well-being in general.

Another important factor is capacity of any individual. Everyone does not have the same capacity to convert resources into capabilities. For instance, people with different biological characteristics may require different intake of food and health care services in order to acquire the same degree of freedom to live a healthy life. Similarly, people living in different cultural environments have different style of clothing to achieve certain minimal acceptable level in society. Therefore fundamental concern of person’s capabilities is an important factor to measure poverty.

Education

The objective of education for all must be intended to enhance the capabilities and enlarging choices and thus by building self-image and self worth, which in turn help individuals to be less vulnerable to the variations within a given context. For disadvantaged groups, education is a means of fighting poverty and also reducing the vulnerability in long run16.

Thus enhancing the capability of an individual requires increasing the “ability” needed to escape poverty and also to prevent them from falling into poverty. Poor people have not given jobs in formal sector since they don’t have any educational qualifications or degree certificates from any formal education system. This dimension of education adds to the vulnerability of poor because for employment many employers ask for formal degree certificates and not the person’s ability to do a particular job. This thus even further deprives poor people from getting a basic income for survival and thus forces them into menial work.

But the capability approach stresses on the “life skills” needed for a person, which stresses not only for psychomotor or practical skills, but also on psychosocial abilities such as life skills, that will enable a person to learn and use knowledge, to develop reasoning and analytical strengths, to manage emotions and to live with and relate to others. Therefore life skills is used to bridge the gap between the practical knowhow and the ability to do things regularly and thus break the cycle of poverty with the development of critical reasoning, building potential through social capital, understanding the consequences of behavior, feel responsible and have the ability to solve problems and taking decision that don’t compromise future generations.17

With the help of questionnaire and other quantitative and qualitative methods with closed questions or multiple choice questions or open ended questions regarding specific knowledge/facts about Decision-making and Problem Solving, Critical thinking, Self awareness, self esteem and self confidence , Negotiating/ refusing, Communicating, Cooperating, working together as a team we can measure the Life skills by this capability approach.

This is a story about a girl Kalaivani; who was working in a small shop “Giri Trading” outside a temple. An NRI who is well educated, rich underestimates a Genius Kalaivani, who was poor and had studied until 9th class. NRI accepted his ignorance about the wisdom about spirituality. She was devotion to duty and was totally involvement in her work. She had great ethics. She had done self learning about all the books (just to tool for marketing in the shop) so that she could give her customers the information and details of all the books in shop. Finally NRI was dumbstruck by her knowledge and wisdom about spirituality about human life. The story raises critical questions as to who is poor. My dimension to poverty is that of spiritual .My understanding on poverty is that, one who is morally, ethically, culturally; spiritually poor is the real poor person18.

Habitat Professional should understand the grass root problems of people. They should know how to tackle a particular situation of squatter community in such a way that the squatter view point is taken into consideration. The solution of poor people can be given by a poor person who has experienced poverty. Habitat Professionals are greatly criticized that they are good only at discussing theory, models, discussion papers etc, but they lack in practicalities. They should involve urban poor in policy making.

References

1, 2 “Dimensions of Urban Poverty: A Situational Analysis”, 1988, National Institute of Urban Affairs

3. “Profile of Urban Poor: An Investigation into their Demographic, Economic and Shelter Characteristics”, 1989, National Institute of Urban Affairs.

4, 5 “Dimensions of Urban Poverty: A Situational Analysis”, 1988, National Institute of Urban Affairs

7. “Profile of Urban Poor: An Investigation into their Demographic, Economic and Shelter Characteristics”, 1989, National Institute of Urban Affairs.

8 .Analyzing Urban Poverty” by J Baker and N Schuler last accessed on 07- 09-2010 on http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTURBANPOVERTY/Resources/analyzingurbanpoverty.pdf

9.” Sustainable Livelihood approaches in urban Area: General lesions and illustration from Indian Cities”

J Farrington – 2002, last accessed on 07- 09-2010 on www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/2009.pdf

10.” Sustainable Livelihood approaches in urban Area: General lesions and illustration from Indian Cities”

J Farrington – 2002, last accessed on 07- 09-2010 on www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/2009.pdf

11. 12. ” Sustainable Livelihood approaches in urban Area: General lesions and illustration from Indian Cities”

J Farrington – 2002, last accessed on 07- 09-2010 on www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/2009.pdf

14.Human Rights and Poverty Reduction, A Conceptual Framework” last accessed on 09-09-2010 on “www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/PovertyReductionen.

16 EDUCATION AND THE CAPABILITIES APPROACH: Life skills education as a bridge to human Capabilties “Katia Radja, A M Hoffman and P Bakhshi, last accessed on 10-09-2010 “http://ethique.perso.neuf.fr/Hoffmann_Radja_Bakhshi.pdf

17” EDUCATION AND THE CAPABILITIES APPROACH: Life skills education as a bridge to human Capabilities”, Katia Radja, A M Hoffman and P Bakhshi, last accessed on 10-09-2010 “http://ethique.perso.neuf.fr/Hoffmann_Radja_Bakhshi.pdf

18 Last accessed on 10 -09-2010 http://www.thegoldenage.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65:gems-of-india-an-inspirational-story&catid=36:articles-from-web&Itemid=27

Other references

Dimensions of Urban Poverty: A Situational Analysis”, 1988, National Institute of Urban Affairs

  1. Profile of Urban Poor: An Investigation into their Demographic, Economic and Shelter Characteristics”, 1989, National Institute of Urban Affairs.

  2. Human Rights and Poverty Reduction, A Conceptual Framework

www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/PovertyReductionen.

  1. EDUCATION AND THE CAPABILITIES APPROACH: Life skills education as a bridge to human Capabilties “ Katia Radja, A M Hoffman and P Bakhshi

http://ethique.perso.neuf.fr/Hoffmann_Radja_Bakhshi.pdf

  1. Kalaivani story http://www.thegoldenage.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65:gems-of-india-an-inspirational-story&catid=36:articles-from-web&Itemid=27

The different dimensions of poverty

Poverty in general represents the inability of the person to meet their basic needs for physical survival and well being.

A condition of life so characterised by mal nutrition, illiteracy, disease , high infant mortality and low life expectancy are below any reasonable definition of human decency.

Poverty is both relative and absolute. Relative poverty refers to a state where some people have more goods and services than others. A poor person has income below a certain level called povert level. Thus it does not necessarily mean that those who are below such an income level suffer from deprivation of basic needs.

On other hand, absolute suffer from insufficiency of basic needs of life.

Poverty major causes

The different dimension sof poverty are

  • minimum consumption or income level is defined
  • Socio-psychological
  • Cultural
  • Political
  • Socio-economic i.e. housing , urban services
  • Physical and ecological conditions of living in a particular area

Physical and ecological conditions of living in a particular area

As the population is growing, the pressure on natural resources is increasing and also the environment. Uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources and population growth disturb the environment equilibrium and create conditions in which human basic needs cant be satisfied and thus leading to poverty. The cultivable land per person decreases as the population grows. With vast number of people migrating and the need for better survival conditions demands , the pressure of population growth on the resources , rendered poor through years of colonial exploitation has lead to enormous levels of poverty.

Socio-psychological

Deprivation of basic needs produce multifarious effecrs on the development and functioning of humans. If the individual suffers from deprivation of basic needs of food, shelter , clothing , housing, water , sanitation and security, that person becomes the target of psychological imbalances which may remain dormant and create deep-rooted feeling of powerlessness. This powerlessness leads to hopelessness , fatalism or apathy and in extreme cases results in psycho pathetic condition. They are bound to to stress full situation and shocks and the ability to absorb shocks varies and thus they become emotionally unstable. Anxiety, aggression, depression are common among poor people.

Culture

Culture also shapes poverty. family structure, interpersonal relations , time orientation , value system and spending patter as a part of culture of the poor people define poverty. As most of the slums in city are located in the fringes of elite people and they often subdue themselves that they cannot achieve the status of larger society. Thus this leads to creation of their own perception , a different kinf of life style which helps them to cope up with their fellow slum mates and thus to a situation of hopelessness. This leads to low level of aspiration which further degrades their situation and thus leads to more poverty. Because of high unemployment , low wages for labourers also lead to low aspiration among the poor. This thus leads to sub culture of the poor. When this sub culture of poverty comes into existence , it perpetuates itself from generation to generation because of its effect on the children. This leads to change in the attitudes of nature of individual, then the family, nature of slum community and also nature of larger society

Lack of effective participation and integration of poor in major institutions of larger society can cause alienation leading to the development of sub culture of poverty. It is thus much more difficult to eliminate this sub culture of poverty than poverty itself.

Measurement of Poverty

There are various approaches to study of poverty

Economic: This provides for useful explanation of poverty. The level of poverty and its magnitude can be clearly measured in economic terms. In this type of analysis, poor are those who do not have a defined level of income which is required for the fulfilling of basic requirements. The criterion to draw this poverty line is the expenditure on consumption. Therefore minimum nutrition intake for normal health . the critics have contended that this is a measure of absolute poverty. It ignores very vital and significant indicators of quality of life. If we consider the minimum nutritional requirements in terms of balanced diet and also other basic needs, such as clothing , shelter , urban services, the minimum income required to meet these needs is much higher than suggested by this model of calorie intake of 2100 or 24oo calories per capita in urban and rural respectively.

Spatial Dimension of Urban poverty

The incidence of urban poverty varies from state to state and also among different size classes of cities. Even within a city, the percentage of people living below the poverty line and in slums varies depending upon whether the slums or squatter settlements are recent origin or very old of about 25 to 30 years or whether slums are on public lands or private lands or whether any improvement work has been carried out in slum areas by public agencies.

Composition and characteristics of urban poor

Three basic questions are

  • Who are poor?
  • What do they do?
  • How they live?

Demographic Characteristics

Poor people have large household size that non- poor. However, there are large variations in their mean household size which depend upon the socio-cultural and economic factors in each region.

Urban Poor are mostly are mostly migrants from rural areas. But recent studies have shown that migrants are often better off than non migrants.

Famine Policies and Factory Acts

Famine policies:

What is the topic all about?

The topics talks about various famines that struck India during the British rule, what were the policies adopted by the rulers and their impact.

What were the major famines during the British rule?

Famine had been a recurrent feature of life in the Indian sub-continental countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and reached its numerically deadliest peak in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The major famines during the British Rule are as follows:

Year Name of Famine Regions affected
1769-70 Great Bengal Famine Bihar, Northern and Central Bengal
1783- 84 Chalisa Famine Delhi, Western Oudh, Eastern Punjab region, Rajputana and Kashmir
1791-92 Doji Bara Famine Hyderabad, Southern Maratha Colony, Deccan, Gujarat and Marwar
1876-78 Great Famine of 1876- 78 Madras and Bombay
1943-44 Bengal Famine of 1943 Bengal

What were the causes of these famines?

Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on climate: a favorable southwest summer monsoon is critical in securing water for irrigating crops. Droughts, combined with policy failures, have periodically led to major Indian famines

The 1883 Indian Famine Codes, transportation improvements, and changes following independence have been identified as furthering famine relief.

The famines were a product both of uneven rainfall and British economic and administrative policies.

Colonial polices implicated include

  • rack-renting,
  • levies for war,
  • free trade policies,
  • the expansion of export agriculture, and
  • neglect of agricultural investment

Indian exports of opium, rice, wheat, indigo, jute, and cotton were a key component of the economy of the British Empire, generating vital foreign currency, primarily from China, and stabilising low prices in the British grain market.

Export crops displaced millions of acres that could have been used for domestic subsistence, and increased the vulnerability of Indians to food crises.

Scholarly opinions:

  • Florence Nightingale pointed out that the famines in British India were not caused by the lack of food in a particular geographical area. They were instead caused by inadequate transportation of food, which in turn was caused due to an absence of a political and social structure

  • Amartya Sen implies that the famines in the British era were due to a lack of a serious effort on the part of the British government to prevent famines.

What was the impact of these famines?

  • In India, traditionally, agricultural labourers and rural artisans have been the primary victims of famines. In the worst famines, cultivators have also been susceptible.

  • Millions of people died or were displaced.

  • These famines were typically followed by various infectious diseases such as bubonic plague and influenza, which attacked and killed a population already weakened by starvation.

What was the British response?

In the beginning the colonial rulers did not accept the responsibility of these famines though the process of the emergence of famines had started with the establishment of British rule in Bengal but for almost 100 years the British rulers never tried to understand the causes of these famines and did not formulate any policy to check the recurrence of these famines.

When a serious famine struck Delhi – Agra region in 1860-61 the government appointed Col Baird Committee to investigate the causes of famine but this committee performed no function and did not put forward any significant recommendation. As a result, the basic factors and forces responsible for the famine remained intact.

In 1866 a great famine struck many parts of India but its impact was felt in Orissa. The Government appointed George Campbell Commission to investigate the causes of famine and to recommend measures to prevent recurrences in future.

The Committee held government system responsible for creating the famine like conditions and suggested that the government during famine times must organize the relief measures. The committee also recommended that steps should be taken for employment generation immediately so that the impact of famine could be mitigated.

The recommendations of Campbell committee were not given much attention and consequently a serious famine reoccurred in many parts of country including Punjab, UP and Madras in 1876. Its maximum impact was felt in Madras Presidency. The government appointed another commission in 1880. The Commission recommended

1. A famine code should be formulated.

2. Irrigation facilities should be developed.

3. Collection of land revenue should be suspended immediately during famines and land revenue should be remitted.

4. Data should be collected about the conditions of Indian peasantry and agriculture.

5. A famine fund should be set up.

In accordance with the recommendation of Strachey Commission a famine fund with amount Rs 1 crore was set up and famine code was also formulated in 1883.This code has 4 parts.

  • The first part of the code dealt with the government measures during the normal times.

  • The second part dealt with relief campaign.

  • The third part dealt with the duties of officials during relief measures.

  • The fourth part dealt with the division of famine-affected areas.

In spite of the formulation of famine policy and its implementation a number of famines struck India repeatedly. A severe famine occurred in 1896-97 and another famine occurred in 1899-1900.The government of Lord Curzon appointed Anthony McDonald Committee in 1900 to suggest measures to counter the famine effectively.

The Committee recommended the famine code should be revised, transportation facilities should be improved, and irrigation network should be developed. A famine commissioner should be appointed and the government should take moral responsibility of the welfare of people during famine times. In accordance with these recommendations steps were taken to improve irrigation to increase the agricultural production.

In 1942-43 a severe famine struck the Bengal region. The government appointed John Woodhad Committee. The Committee recommended that all Indian Food Council should be set up. The department of food and agriculture should be merged and steps should be taken to increase agriculture production.

Conclusion:

Though British government initiated number of steps but these steps failed to improve the condition of Indian masses in any way.

Since the Bengal famine of 1943, there has been a declining number of famines which have had limited effects and have been of short durations. Amartya Sen attributes this trend of decline or disappearance of famines after independence to a democratic system of governance and a free press—not to increased food production. Later famine threats of 1984, 1988 and 1998 were successfully contained by the Indian government and there has been no major famine in India since 1943.

Factory Acts:

What is this topic all about?

This topic talks about various factory acts passed during British Rule.

What is the objective of the Factories Act?

The object of the Factories Act is to regulate the conditions of work in manufacturing establishments coming within the definition of the term “factory” as used in the Act.

What are its various manifestations in India?

The first Act, in India, relating to the subject was passed in 1881. This was followed by new Acts in 1891, 1911, 1922, 1934 and 1948. The Act of 1948 is more comprehensive than the previous Acts. It contains detailed provisions regarding the health, safety and welfare of workers inside factories, the hours of work, the minimum age of workers, leave with pay etc. The Act has been amended several times.

The Act is based on the .provisions of the Factories Act of Great Britain passed in 1937.

What were the various Factory Acts passed during British Rule?

A committee was appointed in 1875 to inquire into the conditions of factory work in the country. The committee had favored some kind of legal restrictions in the form of factory laws.

First Factory Act 1881

  • To improve the labour conditions,
  • India’s Viceroy : Lord Ripon

Following this act, a Factory Commission was appointed in 1885.

Factories Act, 1891

  • India’s Viceroy : Lord Lansdowne

Royal Commission on Labor was appointed in 1892. The result of these enactments was the limitation on the factory working hours. This was an answer of the Government to the pathetic conditions of the workers in the factory, wherein, only when a laborer exhausted, new laborer was to take his/her place.

What is the Factory Act, 1948?

Purpose and Object:

Factories Act, 1948 has been enacted to regulate the working conditions in factories and to ensure provision of the basic minimum requirements for safety, health and welfare of the workers as well as to regulate the working hours, leave, holidays, employment of children, women, etc.

Applicability:

It extends to whole of India

Also, applies to factories as defined under the Act.

Difference between Green Box subsidies and Blue Box subsidies

Difference between Green Box subsidies and Blue Box subsidies

In WTO terminology, subsidies in general are identified by “Boxes”with different colours:

  • green (permitted subsidies)

  • amber (slow down — i.e. subsidies to be reduced),

  • red (forbidden subsidies)

But the Agreement on Agriculture AoA is an international treaty of WTO and has the following boxes:

  • Amber (de-minimis)

  • Green

  • Blue (for subsidies that are tied to programs that limit production)

  • S&D (exemptions for developing countries)

There are three categories of support measures that are not subject to reduction under the Agreement, and support within specified de-minimis level is allowed.

  1. Measures which have a minimum impact on trade i.e. Green Box criteria

Ex: Government of India assistance on general services like

  1. research, pest and disease control, training, extension, and advisory services;

  2. public stock holding for food security purposes;

  3. domestic food aid; and

  4. direct payment to producers like governmental financial participation in income insurance and safety nets, relief from natural disasters, and payments under environmental assistance programmes.

  1. Developing country measures otherwise subject to reduction i.e. S&D Box criteria Examples

  1. investment subsidies which are generally available to agriculture in developing countries; and

  2. agricultural input services generally available to low income and resource poor producers in developing countries.

  1. Direct payments under production limiting programme i.e. Blue Box criteria

These are relevant from the developed countries point of view only.

  1. Green Box

  1. Green subsidy is allowed in terms of support example: MSP or Subsidies

  2. Measures with minimal impact on trade can be used freely

  3. They include government services such as research, disease control, infrastructure and food security.

  4. They also include payments made directly to farmers that do not stimulate production, such as certain forms of direct income support, assistance to help farmers restructure agriculture, and direct payments under environmental and regional assistance programmes.

  1. Blue Box

  • Subsidy is also permitted

  • Cover certain direct payments to farmers where the farmers are required to limit production called “blue box” measures.

  • Covers certain government assistance programmes to encourage agricultural and rural development in developing countries

  • Also covers other support on a small scale (“de minimis”) when compared with the total value of the product or products supported (5% or less=developed countries &10% or less=developing countries).

Sources:

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