“With Covid-19 onslaught, the government has shown tremendous resolve to counter the fallout through socio-economic packages ranging from direct cash transfer to poor and farmers to free food to the needy.”
By Rahul Chhabra
Coronavirus has weakened India’s fight against poverty considerably as the pandemic has sent all socio-economic growth projections for a toss at a time when the country is expected to face the brunt of fast sinking global economy, say experts. Dr Ashok Kumar Jain, principal consultant, NITI Aayog, and his associate, Dr Rajan Kotru, lead strategist, Redefined Sustainable Thinking, Palampur (HP), have cautioned that India will need to recalibrate its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially poverty eradication, deadlines and targets.
Talking to Financial Express, Jain and Kotru said that a major break in industrial, tourism and transport sectors outputs, return of low income daily wagers to their homes with re-employment in near future questionable, skyrocketing healthcare costs, grounding of stock markets, and uncertainty of optimal farm outputs, etc. makes it unlikely that India will be on course to decimate poverty.
India, Jain and Kotru point out, is committed to the SDGs as per the United Nations 2015 agenda – ‘Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. “But the resolve to ‘Leave no one behind’ in the economic growth journey is now going to be hard to implement.”
“India is committed to achieve the 17 SDGs and the 169 associated targets, which comprehensively cover social, economic and environmental dimensions of development,” Kotru said, adding that “there is a clear focus on ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions as it is the first SDG (SDG 1) among all.”
The NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2019 indicate the country’s lower performance on SDG 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger) and 5 (Gender equality) vis-a-vis other SDGs.
“As small and medium enterprises are closed, and even Rabi season’s optimum production is threatened, achieving SDGs will test our economy and resilience to the hilt. The UN will have to revisit the targets under each SDG keeping in mind the Covid crisis,” Jain and Kotru wrote.
According to Jain and Kotru, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally declined from 36% in 1990 to 8.6% in 2018, but the pace of poverty reduction was decelerating as the world struggled to respond to entrenched deprivation, violent conflicts and vulnerabilities to natural disasters.
“Poverty incidence in India declined from 45.3% to 21.9% between 1993 and 2011,” wrote Jain and Kotru. “With Covid-19 onslaught, the government has shown tremendous resolve to counter the fallout through socio-economic packages ranging from direct cash transfer to poor and farmers to free food to the needy.”
The fight against poverty, the experts fear, is going to get tougher as the developed world is less likely to fulfil its committed funding and other obligations to developing and least developed nations for reaching SDGs and “this will surely impact India too”.