The Indian social system is based on a strong social hierarchy in the form of birth castes. Social class, too, is apparent through money power. The poor and their poverty continue to attract and repel alternatively politicians, social scientists, religious groups. Though poverty is a universal phenomenon, it’s expressed through the poverty line which is different in different nations. In India 35.97% people have been estimated to live below the poverty line.
Poverty is a negative but relative term denoting absence or lack of material wealth to fulfill one’s needs.
Poverty tends to be characterized by the denial of rights as well as material insufficiency. It may seem paradoxical that many people do not wish to improve their current condition either due to their lack of awareness of societal policies or religious beliefs or prolonged deprivation conditioning or personal reasons. Here is another attempt to define poverty, keeping psychological and political, economic and cultural factors in view. Poverty is a state of want of subjective and objective means and opportunities to develop and utilize potential of the individual to minimized sense of being left behind. Thus subjective articulation and objective measures are applied onto the persons to be designated as poor. A health condition, to any caste, creed or religion, to any part of the country, may belong to any political affiliation, to any educational background or to any occupation. One thing is, however, universal that poverty divides families, and forces children to work.
The caste system in India is a traditional drag on society since early times. Some castes seem to suffer from a feeling that all human beings are not equal. This superiority complex among some castes has brought a situation in which the untouchables are the poorest among the poor and suffer as bonded labor, child labor and prostitution.
It was only after independence that the government carried out certain legal reforms to abolish untouchability and to reserve seats in schools and colleges for the scheduled and backward communities. The major part of the benefits has, however, been grabbed by a few privileged Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes. The poorest still remain poor.
In recent past, the question of poverty and development has been discussed both at national and international levels. According to a UNDP-HPI Report of 1998, Human Development Index (HDI) measures overall progress in a country in achieving human development and the Human Poverty Index reflects the distribution of progress and measures the backlog of deprivation that still exists. The HPI measures deprivation in the same dimensions of basic human development. The HPI-1 measures poverty in developing countries while HPI-2 measures it in industrial countries. A UNDP report shows components and measurements of human development and poverty.
There are numerous causes of poverty which operate in a vicious circle. These could be divided into two groups broadly: chronic or prolonged and acute or critical. Repeated draught, floods or other natural calamities rendering people in poor health, beggary, prostitution, crime or migrating options. A family may be a victim of chronic poverty on account of the absence of the earning member or fatal illness of any of its members.
Fire, theft, conflict, loss in business, agriculture or job, steep rise in prices of commodities, and underemployment are some of the critical reasons of poverty. Recently the suicides by farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have been attributed to losses in crops.
The Government of India has been aware a sincere about eradicating poverty. Zamindari abolition, stopping the privy purses, land consolidation and land ceilings, abolition of untouchability, provision of subsidies on agricultural inputs, on cottage industries, and food stuffs distributed through fair price shops, reservations for scheduled castes and schedules tribes, women, disabled and many other specific poverty-elimination programmes are all exemplary actions taken by the government.
However, deprivation, exploitation, denial and refusal by few, neglect and social injustice are still prevalent in the roots of society. The term minimization appears better and more practicable than elimination in regard to poverty, because there is no limit to wealth acquisition and it is changeable over a period of time, two approaches could be thought of poverty minimization-community-based as well as individual-based programmes.
Using excising indicators, a selected community, slum, village, block or district may be provided with the infrastructure, including roads, transport, water lines, electricity lines, sanitation facilities, fair price shops, schools, basic health centers, and agricultural and cottage industrial consultancy. People should be nominally for contribution in these programmes of development. It will instill feelings of participation in construction and maintenance of facilities provided three. Community area specific programme should be made environment-friendly.
If the poverty-invaded area has people of different backgrounds, the needs would be different. Hence first of all a needs assessment should be undertaken employing nay suitable technique. The needs of everyone should be related to pay loans, to buy instruments, seeds or fertilizers, to buy animals like buffaloes/cows. The entrants to the programme may require monetary help to repair his house damaged by rain or earthquake. He/she may need financial help to send a baby to the school or may have to marry his grown-up son/daughter.
Generally few conditions may be enforced before helping such individuals and communities. They should follow the norm of two children per family if they are in the reproductive age. The addicts should be advised to seek the treatment. Some help in getting such treatment should be undertaken.