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Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Duncan Green, Head of Research for Oxfam GB, blogged a couple of days ago (on blog action day, which had poverty as a theme) about a success story, a country really making poverty history.

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Submitted by J. George on
The poverty data can and must be ignored. This is the lesson from the erstwhile PRSP intervention of the World Bank. The current World Bank flavour, District Poverty Intervention Programme (DPIP) also suggests the same bold inference. The flawed enthusiasm for poverty data by Vinod Thomas (Times of India 17 October) hence is misplaced and motivated. The commemoration theme of 2008’s International Day (17 October) for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP), we must recall, is ‘human rights and dignity of people living in poverty’. Any nitpicking about the numbers and methodology of estimating poverty, certainly, lowers the dignity of people living in poverty. For some FMCG firms, selling in particular soaps, these numbers signify a successful revenue generating business plan. We must indeed, STAND UP and TAKE ACTION every day of the year. Each day must mark measures and actions in order to empower and support people. We can do it by hair-splitting available information on the extent of access to three primary elements, viz., essential public services; power and participation and income as well as assets. From the poor people’s perspective such quibbles will greatly serve the livelihood and food security concerns of at least 836 million ‘aam adami’ estimated by the National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector (NCEUS). Cavil over numbers, in comparison, will merely serve the livelihood security of a handful of number crunchers. At the recent UN meet fears were expressed about funds shortfall to successfully meet 2015 deadline for the 8 Millennium Development Goals. The current financial crisis sweeping the world is certain to heighten worries of donor agencies and the poor alike. Besides, paradox of increasing capital flow from south to north has already led to new belt tightening procedures in the development financing approaches. Market failures and abdication by the state of her leadership in the public service deliver domain is the intimidating backdrop. Amartya Sen using his persuasive ‘capabilities’ discourse has been persistently cajoling the Indian leadership to undertake radical measures to eradicate poverty. The West Bengal Governor firmly recommended that ‘Land cannot be treated as a dematerialised share certificate’ to ‘swing in tune with the Sensex’ as many poor people eke out their livelihood in dignity using diminutive ‘capability’ and ‘functioning’s on it. The deprivation index based new approach of the Planning Commission may appear promising provided explicit measures to factor in access to education, healthcare and other basic services emerge in the public domain. We know that even the half measure outlay-outcome attempt by the state can bring relief to the poor. The key challenge therefore is to figure out transformation pathways for public service delivery functions and functionaries? The bureaucracy and members of the local bodies will be necessary evils in any strategic measure attempting to engage with worrisome issue on poverty eradication. Their partnership in pelf must give way to progress for poverty eradication. Concentration on three entities - ‘competent authority’, front level functionary and their standard operating protocol - become imminent. A partnership with sensitive civil society grassroots bodies has enabled the ‘competent authority’ to transform the public services delivery mechanism. The authority specific SEA – service efforts and achievements – can be mapped to clearly correct a number of ‘learning disabilities’. The knowledge and ITES platforms can be cautiously utilised as well. The functionary strength deficit has been mounting since 1995. The norms for these cadre level public servants are based on the 1951-55 vintage community development block days. At these dated norms the current deficit may range upto 40-50 per cent in most of the states. The concerted drive towards ‘outsourcing’ and ‘rightsizing’ have, albeit, worsened the situation. The poor equity and efficiency observed in the public service delivery is fully explicable by the dearth of LOADS, namely, leadership, ownership, accountability, decentralisation and sustainability. Herein lies the raison d’être for poor service delivery protocol. Absence of LOADS, for example, explain why many high income growth states have high incidence of manipulation in the poverty reduction programmes; social regression far surpasses economic growth, implementation is mired in corruption, etc. Besides increasing vulnerabilities in the society, the ‘growth bottomline’ scenario amid market failure episodes and ‘growth fixation’ have imparted a new uncertainty spin to the delivery of the basic services. These vacillations need to be now taken gravely because ‘aam adami’ will decide livelihood and food security issues of many people except the babudom and the number cruncher. This handful should not be allowed to tread on the dignity of people living in poverty.

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