Reuters Examines Uneven Economic Growth, Welfare Programs In India

Reuters reports on the recent efforts by India’s government to expand welfare programs throughout the country: “Since helping the Congress party win re-election last year, welfare has fast become the government’s knee-jerk answer to policy dilemmas as it tries to ease food inflation, help growth trickle down to the poor, and win hearts and minds in” the country, the news service writes.

“But these often corruption-ridden and badly-run programs may add to deficit spending and hinder India from following rival China by broadening an economic boom to transform millions of its population from poverty to well-fed middle class consumers,” the news service writes.

The article continues: “Welfare programs can help millions in a country that has a third of the world’s poor … But ridden by graft and often ill-conceived, welfare may have become an easy populist tool that is a second best solution to government reluctance to embrace difficult policies, like freeing up agriculture to markets – that may make deeper inroads.”

The article details the plans for several welfare programs in India, including a draft food bill that would give each poor family 35 kilograms of grains each month and a program aimed at ensuring jobs for villagers 100 days annually. Reuters also highlights how several current welfare schemes in India have failed to achieve target goals, such as efforts to curb food inflation, which the article notes, is “at an 11-year-high.”

India’s economic growth has been uneven across society, according to Reuters. “Malnutrition in India has fallen only six percentage points, to roughly 46 percent, since economic reforms began in 1991. GDP per capita boomed by 50 percent during the same period.” In 2009 – India ranked 65 out of 84 countries in the Global Hunger Index, falling below North Korea and Zimbabwe – the news service adds.

The article includes comments by a U.N. senior official and an aid worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and health and social workers in the country (Scrutton, 4/19).

In related news, Press Trust of India reports that an estimated 42.5 percent of children under five in India are underweight, according to the results of a National Family Health Survey (4/19). Explores Investment In Low-Cost Toilets In India reports on how small loans are being used to promote an increase in the number of toilets in India – a country where according to the news service “[m]ore than half of … [the] population defecates in the open.”

The piece continues: “Microfinance, or small loans that don’t require collateral and are offered largely to women, could spur more low-cost toilets in the country. But some funding agencies warn that only those groups which generate community health awareness and understand toilet construction related to the source of water supply and toilet waste disposal methods should step in. Risks include pollution of already depleting ground water tables and also, in some cases, unused toilets” (Chandrasekaran, 4/18).

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