With an eye on Lok Sabha polls 2019, political parties have come up offering various sops to the public, especially poor. Amid this, income transfers have become a major deal being offered to help the distressed families in the country. However, income support may not be enough to tackle the burden of poverty in India unless there are enough decent jobs, wrote Harsh Mander, a former member of the National Advisory Council to Sonia Gandhi, in The Indian Express.
Mander suggested to create respectable, well-protected and decently-paid work such as an urban employment guarantee programme to assure employment in extending basic public services for low-income urban settlements and massive expansion of the care economy, in terms of services for children, persons with disabilities and the aged, for whom it’s hard to work.
The need for job creation has also been pointed out by former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan during an interview with Bloomberg recently who said: “The Modi government has not done much on issues like labour flexibility, land acquisitions and others which are now becoming critical for India to grow faster.”
The suggestion hold importance in the light of rising unemployment in the country despite it being among the fastest economies. Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has recorded job loss of 11 million people in 2018. Moreover, a leaked report of NSSO revealed that unemployment in India had hit a 45-year-high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18.
Following the launch of Narendra Modi’s PM KISAN, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has announced to provide assistance of Rs 72,000 to 5 crore poorest families in India annually. The scheme providing Rs 6,000 monthly income assistance will cover the bottom 20 percent of the country’s poor. Although the announcement looks good from a welfare point of view, here are the two concerns raised by Harsh Mander, who is also a human rights worker.
Firstly there are no objective and verifiable criteria to identify the beneficiary accurately. “All poverty lists of governments so far have been ridden with fatal flaws. Even Planning Commission studies have demonstrated that if you are poor, the chances are more that you will not be included in an official list of the poor, than included,” he wrote.
The other point of concern raised by him is regarding the funds. While taxing the rich or cutting their tax holidays and subsidies to fund the programme would be a welcome move, any rationalisation of existing subsidies to poor such as PDS could be disastrous, Mander wrote.