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Eradicating poverty: From apocalypse to neogenesis

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In a world bereft of reason and devoid of any sense of order, the rich can get richer and the poor can die a tragic, miserable death. So, who cares? It happens all the time. Any attempt to bring redemption, in a bleak and hopeless landscape of the poor, will have to be truly heroic with a major sense of purpose and commitment.

Singers, songwriters, musicians, crusaders, revolutionaries and missionaries have created images, ideas, concepts and theories that decry the malaise of poverty from time to time. Bob Dylan, the American folk/pop singer, who also won the Nobel Prize, created a treasure trove of ideas, songs, and references to economic ideas while hitting out at poverty, hunger, disease and death.

John Lennon, the famous English music legend, sought to start a new campaign for the poor. His iconic song, “Imagine”, is the inspiration for a world free of poverty. His vision for a world free from hunger and poverty led to international forces which came together to ensure that every child has the right to sustainable nutrition/food.

The Rolling Stones, the English rock band from London, took a hard view of poverty and classism. Its members spoke about a society where people are abandoned to rot; they fall prey to crime, poverty, disease and death.

Efforts to eradicate poverty have to be streamlined and manipulated so that people don’t get trapped in the socio-political stranglehold, and then one has to negotiate their rapid absorption into the economic ethos. On the face of it, efforts to combat poverty must seem like a cry in the wilderness, but with a more rational and scientific approach, one can achieve results with the means of sustained economic growth, based on income and consumption.

Amartya Sen, the noted Nobel Laureate’s capability deprivation approach for poverty measurement, however, defines poverty as not merely a matter of actual income but an inability to acquire certain minimum capabilities (Sen 1976).

Contemplating this dissimilarity between individual’s incomes and their inabilities is significant since the conversion of actual incomes into actual capabilities differs with social settings and individual beliefs. Development projects and poverty alleviation programmes all over the world are predominantly aimed at reducing poverty of the poor and vulnerable communities through various participatory and community-demand-driven approaches. Economic growth is one of the principal instruments for poverty alleviation and for pulling the poor out of poverty through productive employment. (Bhagwati and Panagariya 2012: Ambarkhane 2013).

According to Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya (2012), economic growth generates revenues required for expanding poverty alleviation programmes while enabling the government to spend on basic necessities of the poor including healthcare, education and housing. Poverty alleviation strategies may be categorized into four types: community organisations based micro-financing, capability and social security, market-based and good governance.

Micro-finance aims at lifting the poor out of poverty. It is a predominant poverty alleviation strategy that has spread rapidly and widely over the last few decades and is currently operational across several developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Many researchers and policymakers believe that access to microfinance in developing countries empowers the poor (especially women), supports income-generating activities, encourages entrepreneurship and reduces vulnerability. But although economic growth is important for enhancing the living conditions of the poor, it does not necessarily help the poor exclusively, favouring the non-poor and privileged sections of society instead.

Amartya Sen highlights social exclusion and capability deprivation as reasons for poverty. Social inclusion of vulnerable communities through the removal of social barriers is as significant as financial inclusion in poverty reduction strategies. Social security is a set of public actions designed to reduce levels of vulnerability, risk and deprivation (World Bank 2001). It also calls for gender parity by fostering equal opportunities for both men and women.

The World Bank Report 1990 endorsed a poverty alleviation strategy that combines enhanced economic growth with provisions of basic social services creating financial and social safety nets for the poor. Social insurance schemes and social assistance payments act as tools for poverty alleviation.

In rural areas, agriculture and allied farm activities have been the focus of poverty alleviation strategies. Multi-sectoral micro-enterprises can enhance productivity and profitability through value chains and market systems. These are seen as important for income generation of the rural poor.

Nevertheless, over the past few decades, good governance has taken the top slot in the development agenda for poverty alleviation. Good governance has become a prerequisite for developing countries for them to receive financial aid from multinational donor agencies.

By creating this fabric of infrastructure, we can effectively address the exclusions of these communities, eliminate their poverty, and bring them into the mainstream economic and social systems. As we light this lamp of possibility, we can happily stride towards a ‘miracle’ moment in the lives of the hapless and the hopeless. Like a neogenesis, a new dawn.

By Pramod K. Singh and Poonam Jain

About the authors:

Prof. Pramod K. Singh is a senior professor of the social sciences at the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) and Poonam Jain is a freelance writer

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