Daily Answer Writing
30 October 2021

Q. “Poverty Alleviation programs in India remain mere showpieces until and unless they are backed up by political will.” Discuss with reference to the performance of the major poverty alleviation program in India. (250 words)

  • Previously asked in UPSC CSE(M) 2017 GS 2
  • Source: The Hindu - Page 1/Front - No money left in MGNREGA coffers;
  • GS 2: Poverty and Hunger


Approach Answer:

Introduction: Poverty is a generic term used to indicate a lower than minimum basic level of consumption. It is measured through level of income, consumption, illiteracy level,  lack of general resistance due to malnutrition, lack of access to healthcare, lack of job opportunities, lack of access to safe drinking water & sanitation. Since it is a multi-dimensional issue, it cannot be treated just by solving the problem of lower income.


Major Poverty alleviation Programs and strategies:

  1. Employment Generation based:
    • Self-Employment:
      • PM Rozgar Yojana(PMRY), a 1993 scheme launched  for educated unemployed youth.  It provides a loan up to ₹10 Lakh to help in setting small business & industries.
      • PM Employment Generation Programme(PREGP), a 1995 scheme launched for setting up new self-employment ventures/projects/micro enterprises every year.
      • Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana(SGSY) , a 1999 scheme, launched in rural areas, bringing poor families above the poverty line by organising them into SHGs through a mix of bank credit & government subsidy.
      • Mudra Scheme, Star-up India, Skill India,  USTAAD
    • Wage employment:
      • NREGA: Launched in 2005, stated to provide a "Right to work". It provides 100 days of assured employment every year to rural household; It is the largest & most ambitious social security & public works programme in the world". The World Development report 2014, termed it as a "stellar example of rural development".
        • One-third of jobs reserved for women.
        • 90% of the funding is done by the centre.
        • Employment provided within 5km of an applicant's residence. If he is not provided employment in 15 days s/he will be entitled to a daily unemployment allowance.
      • National Food for work Programme(NFWP), 2004: In 150 most backward districts. Open to all rural poor who needed of wage employment & desire for manual skilled work. 100% Centrally sponsored scheme & food-grains are provided free of cost to the states. Once NREGA was in force NFWP was subsumed within programme.
  1. Nutrition enhancement based:
    • For example: National Food Security Act, 2013 and Antyodaya Anna Yojana(AAY) are a few examples.
    • Recently government launced PM Garib Kalyan Yojana
  1. Social Security based services:
    • Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana(PMGY) -2000: Additional central assistance is given to states for basic services such as primary health, primary education , rural shelter, rural drinking water & rural electrification.
    • Ayushman Bharat: Health insurance of up to ₹5L is provided to 10Crore of poorest families in India.
    • Education: Ex: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
    • Others - such as PM Ujjwalla Yojana etc.


Challenges faced in their implementation:

  • Inclusion and exclusion errors: errors in the identification of beneficiaries means that the schemes do not reach a portion of the targeted communities.
  • Governance Issue: Rampant corruption, Extortion by `Agents & Middlemen’,  loose Systems & Weak Integrity  and weak Civil Society.
  • Inadequate allocation:  For example, recently the budget allocated to the MGNREGA through National Employment Guarantee Fund had run dry. Such occurrences lead to delayed payments to the employees who later chose not to work in MGREGS which leads to failure of the mission.
  • leakages in the system: For example leakage in the PDS system which had improved from 54%(2004) to 34%(2011) are still a cause of worry.
  • Bureaucratic costs: The multiplicity of the schemes makes the cost of each scheme rise.
  • Lack of awareness: Often beneficiaries are unaware of their entitlements.
  • Lack of audits: For example under Ayushman Bharat, the private sector hospitals conduct unwarranted procedures, which could be reduced if adequate number of audits are conducted.
  • Lack of Funds: There have been a reduced allocation to these schemes, and greater tendency is towards direct benefit transfer.


Way ahead:

  • Digitalization of records: The application of Jan-Dhan-Aadhar Mobile(Jan Trinity) makes the process more transparent, reducing the leakage as well as inclusion and exclusion errors.
  • Frequent audits: to take a view on the functioning of the each scheme and search for errors and mismanagement by both the public as well as private partners.
  • Bureaucratic effort: to improve the individual short-comings of the schemes.
  • Intelligent models to calculate demand for the schemes: In schemes like MGNREGA, in the years when there is stress in the economy, the demand is more. There should be models that predict this demand.
  • Greater funding: So that schemes do not stall just for the want of funds.


Conclusion: All this requires more initiatives by the government. The direct benefit transfer(DBT) is a an easy alibi for reduced allocation to these schemes. However, these scheme serve several specific purposes of reducing the distance from the market, controlling inflation, creating new supply chains etc. DBT or any other method cannot serve all these purposes.


Therefore, there has be a political will to continue these schemes and improve them in the current format. This improvement would take a huge amount of bureaucratic effort and would be more difficult a solution. However it would be more effective in reducing poverty of all natures.

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