India@75 : Analysis and suggestions – UPSC GS2

India @ Independence:
  • India started its journey as a new born nation with deep wounds of Partition. Independent India’s population was roughly 340 million, with more than 70 percent are extremely poor, and only 12 percent are literate.
  • Winston Churchill had famously warned: “If Independence is granted to India, power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters, all Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw…. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India”.
  • But Jawaharlal Nehru said in the Constituent Assembly on August 14, 1947, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom… The service of India means, the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity”.
Situation of India’s poverty since Independence:
  • From more than 70 percent poor in 1947, the head-count ratio (HCR) of poverty in India dropped to 21.9 per cent in 2011, as per the erstwhile Planning Commission’s estimates based on the Tendulkar poverty line.
  • The drop in HCR during 2004-11 was almost three times faster than during 1993 to 2004, and much faster than during the socialist era of 1947-91.
  • But many Leftists disputed the poverty line, and the government had to set up a committee under C Rangarajan, which estimated HCR poverty at 29.5 percent in 2011.
  • But there are no official estimates of poverty after 2011, but the World Bank estimated India’s HCR to be between 8.1 and 11.3 per cent in 2017, as per the international definition of per capita income of $1.9 per day (at 2011 PPP). Using the same definition, the World Poverty Clock estimates India’s poverty at just 6 per cent in 2021.
Situation of India’s literacy since Independence:
  • The overall literacy rates going up from 12 percent in 1947 to about 77 percent now. (with Kerala at the top and Bihar at the bottom).
  • But the quality of education for large sections of the poor remains poor. Year after year, Pratham’s ASER reports indicate that a large number of children in the eighth grade do not fulfil the learning requirements of the fifth or sixth grades.
Situation of India’s food security since Independence:
  • There has been tremendous success in this respect, with the country moving from a “ship to mouth” situation in the mid-1960s to become the largest exporter of rice (17.7 MMT) in 2020-21, amounting to 38.5 percent of the global rice trade.
  • This has been achieved through the use of modern technology, improved seeds, irrigation, fertilisers, and, of course, the right incentives for farmers.
  • India’s public grain management system of procurement, stocking and distributing is, perhaps, the biggest food programme in the world.
  • But it is also an expensive, inefficient and corrupt system, and is crying for reforms. This is one of the reason for high malnutrition amongst children.
Suggestions to improve India’s situation in Poverty, literacy and food security:
If India had invested in better quality education for the masses, especially for the girl child, the results would have been much better.
  • Without quality education, their incomes remain low and many remain stuck in the poverty trap. The pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide between rural and urban school children. The government has to work on improving the quality of education in India.
  • India’s food productivity came at the cost of groundwater depletion. Future policies need to focus on greater sustainability.
  • Rational policy of gradually moving towards cash transfers to targeted beneficiaries, limiting grain stocks, can easily save Rs 50,000 crore every year from the food subsidy bill.
  • This can be achieved without sacrificing the objectives of supporting the vulnerable population as well as giving a fair deal to farmers. This rationalisation of food policy needs to come up high in priority, with changed policy instruments

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