Poverty is a widespread condition in India. It includes not only economic instability but also social discrimination and exclusion, lack of basic services, such as education, health, water and sanitation, and lack of participation in decision making. In September 2015, the post 2015 UN Development Agenda, comprising of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that address the key concerns of humanity and 169 interlinked Targets will be adopted, replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These ambitious and aspirational SDGs call for significant rethinking in development processes across the world. Building on the MDGs, the SDGs propose to end poverty and deprivation in all forms, leaving no one behind, while making development economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The Government of India has also adopted the principle of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas (“Together with All, Development for All”), and stated that the “first claim on development belongs to the poor”.
Poverty in India:
Poverty is a significant issue in India. The World Bank reviewed and proposed revisions in May 2014, to its poverty calculation methodology and purchasing power parity basis for measuring poverty worldwide, including India. According to this revised methodology, the world had 872.3 million people below the new poverty line, of which 179.6 million people lived in India. In other words, India with 17.5% of total world’s population had 20.6% share of world’s poorest in 2011. Planning Commission of India defined poverty and measured on calorie based both in rural and urban areas. It is defined that below poverty lines (BPL) people consumed 2400 Kcal / day in rural areas and 2100 Kcal/day in urban areas. Suresh Tendulkar Committee recommended BPL as Rs. 27 in rural areas and 33 in urban areas report submitted in 2011-12, but former RBI Governor, C. Rangarajan Committee submitted a report Govt that in the year 2014 that BPL as those spending Rs. 32/- per day in rural areas and Rs. 47/- in urban cities. Majority of the rural poor in India are poor because, lack of assets like land and unemployment. Besides this caste, race, ethnicity, gender are other dimension.
Initiatives for Poverty Eradication:
An important anti-poverty program has focused on generating employment through public works that help develop agricultural infrastructure, productive assets and entrepreneurship-based livelihood opportunities. With the inspiration of free independent India, Govt. of India initiated allocated lion share in the financial budgets to change the socio economic and political areas. Different rural development programmes and schedules were introduced. The Community Development programme (CDP) was introduced on October 2nd 1952. It focuses on self-governance and develops leadership at gross root level. Some other programmes like Intensive Agriculture Areas Development Programme, Drought prone Area Programme (DPAP), Hill Area Development Programme, command Area Development Programme and Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) implemented during 1970 to 1980. National Rural Employment Programme (NREGP), Rural Labor Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) and Jawahar Rojgar Yojana (JRM) are also some of the poverty alleviation programmes. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGP) is flagship programme that implemented in the year 2006. This programme main objective in to provide wage employment 100 days in a Calendar year and also extended 150 days in a year in mandatory.
Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development Goals:
In September 2015, a new set of development goals have been agreed by 193 countries in a special summit at the United Nations (UN). These are called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to end poverty, achieve gender equality and ensure food security in every corner of the globe by 2030. Poverty eradication seems to be one of the main priorities of this grand framework. SDGs have marked the end of development as poverty eradication.
To be more specific the first target of this goal that states: By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere. It also aims to ensure social protection for the poor and vulnerable, increased access to basic services and support people harmed by climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters. Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere implies attention to both completely eliminating extreme poverty while attending to other key socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental dimensions of poverty, and monitoring progress in social protection and inequality.
1.1 By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day
1.2 By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
1.3 Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance
1.5 By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters
There is compelling evidence that India has achieved following the economic reforms initiated in 1991 has led to significant reduction in poverty. Poverty has fallen across all economic, social and religious groups nationally and in all states in the post-reform era. Sustained growth (6.2% from 1993- 94 to 2003-04 and 8.3% from 2004-05 to 2011-12) has created gainful employment and helped raise wages thereby directly empowering the poor. It has also brought the government an increased volume of revenues enabling it to sustain a high level of social spending and, thus, doubling the direct effect of growth on poverty. Several large-scale anti-poverty programmes have been implemented. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, for instance, has generated over 2 billion person-days of employment during 2016-17 alone, largely for the disadvantaged sections of society. Additionally, initiatives have been launched for providing pension and insurance to workers in the unorganised sector, widows and the differently abled. Over 130 million people have accessed life and accident insurance under these programmes.
Further, efforts are underway to universalize access to basic services. In order to achieve the goal of housing for all by 2022, direct financial assistance is being extended to poor households. Nearly 3.21 million houses were constructed last year as part of this initiative in rural areas. Programmes are also being implemented for ensuring access to education, health and nutrition security, with a special focus on vulnerable groups such as women and children. Other priority areas are drinking water and sanitation. Currently, nearly 77.5% of rural habitations are being provided with 40 litres of drinking water per capita on a daily basis. Another 18.9% habitations have been covered partially thus far. Over 63.7% of households in rural areas had access to an improved sanitation facility in 2016-17 as compared to 29.1% in 2005-06. With respect to clean sources of cooking fuel, over 22 million families have been provided with Liquefied Petroleum Gas connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. Between 2005-06 and 2015-16, households having access to clean fuel have increased from 25.5% to 43.8%.
Social work response for poverty eradication:
Social work directly addressed many of the factors associated with poverty at the individual, household, and community levels. It includes
Ø Encouraging and supporting individuals and households to start income-generating activities (IGAs): This activity targeted the underlying problem of lack of employment or under-employment, and the resultant lack of incomes or low incomes. This strategy targeted entire communities and also vulnerable groups like women, youths, the elderly, refugees, and orphans and other vulnerable children. Some of the IGAs introduced and taken up by individuals, households and social groups included animal husbandry of piggery, chicken, goats, as well as starting small-scale businesses.
Ø Support of education at primary and secondary education: This enables children who otherwise would not get an opportunity to live decent lives in the future. This strategy also reduces on the burden of care and expenditures of poor families, thus freeing the limited resources to meet their basic needs.
Ø Resource mobilization and provision: This involved two distinct approaches, namely: remedial approach and the more developmental approach. The former involves giving relief assistance in form of food, accommodation and medical care to some social groups such as refugees. The latter involves some agencies providing grants, improved seeds, and animals. Other agencies encouraged people to save and access microfinance loans for investment in productive ventures.
Ø Brokering role: Social workers play a brokering role by linking people to resources and technical services such as those of extension workers within their communities and outside. Linking farmers to markets makes social workers assume other roles of community organizers and empowerment agents.
Ø Capacity-building: This addresses the underlying problem of limited practical knowledge and skills in production processes, as well as powerlessness. It largely involves training and providing information to entire communities and vulnerable social groups such as farmers, women, orphans and vulnerable children, youths, the elderly and community leaders.
Ø Community organization and counseling: This involves mobilizing people with the same problem or concern to form groups purposely for pooling ideas, resources and power together for problem-solving and development. Groups were perceived a potent force for pulling people out of poverty as they would support each other and get linked to government programmes and non-governmental organisations more easily than if they worked alone.
Ø Promotion of positive attitudes and work ethics among community members: The major technique used was discouraging certain practices such as thriftiness in spending and instead encouraging savings and hard work. In other words, social workers inculcated work ethics in the communities for poverty reduction. They also handle domestic violence, gender inequalities and injustices which disintegrate families – making it difficult for individuals to commit them to production for self-sufficiency.
Ø Prevention and promotion of good health: Social workers largely reported providing education on health issues to communities and specific groups of youths on HIV/ AIDS. Social workers also worked on other preventive health programmes like those for prevention of blindness, water and sanitation as well as HIV control. Social workers sensitised people about existing services and opportunities (such as reproductive health services) and encouraged the people to use the services. Social workers also encourage people to create their own services on a self-help basis. This implies another role of community organisers.
Ø Advocacy and mediation: These are roles that respond to poverty as a function of abuse of rights, marginalisation and exclusion. Social workers mediate to secure resources and opportunities for marginalised groups such as poor women, persons with disability and persons living with HIV/AIDS.
Ø Research and advice on policy: This role was undertaken by social workers working largely in consultancy firms and the research department of parliament. The latter had an edge over advising on policy to members of parliament since they are near each other socially and physically. Less than 10% of the social workers were engaged in this role.
India has, over the past years, directed its development pathway to meet its priorities of employment, economic growth, food, water and energy security, disaster resilience and poverty alleviation. Achieving the SDGs in a country as diverse as India will definitely be a Herculean task, but not unachievable. We need to clearly identify priorities, have locally relevant and people-centric development policies, and build strong partnerships. The government also needs to have a focused plan for tracking and evaluating impact and scaling up successful interventions. The SDGs are a direction and a vision for India to ensure prosperity and growth both social and economic. Social work recognizes its core contribution in addressing social issues from a human rights perspective and targeting vulnerable groups.