July 08, 2020
New Delhi: One of the greatest challenge which humanity faces today is of eradicating various forms of poverty in many countries. There has been a significant reduction in global poverty from 1.9 billion people who lived below poverty line in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. These numbers show that progress has been made by bringing down the numbers but that does not indicate complete eradication of poverty. A large section of the population is still struggling to get access to basic human needs. Even if the rates are declining, it is still estimated that 6% of the world’s population will be suffering from this issue. Asian countries have shown rapid development in recent years and are still efficiently working towards tackling poverty but the progress they have achieved is uneven which could be seen in terms of gender and in terms of accessibility. Women have been subjected to less exposure, there's a discrimination in access to education, property, job opportunities and are more likely to suffer due to poverty compared to men. are highly preferred when it comes to job opportunities.
The people under rural sector have been provided access to financial services under the “Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna” which focusses on providing insurance, banking, pensions and credit to the ones in need. Improvisation of social security provisions enables “direct benefit transfer.” The universalization of health care system under “Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna” was strengthened and further aims to provide health facilities ensuring “inclusivity” and “equity”. National Social Assistance Programme is aimed to focus on the disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of society which includes widows, senior citizens, differently-abled people, and it also facilitates access to life insurance, pension of workers and also personal accident insurance. The “economically” disadvantaged have also been assured housing along with financial assistance.
Many other welfare initiatives have been launched by the government such as the Saubhagya scheme, which aims to provide electricity to households. Also, the government is working on various projects in order to protect property and people from natural disasters under National Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009 which lays emphasis on mitigation, prevention and a prepared approach towards relief strategies.
In India, unemployment is a major reason behind poverty. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is one of the schemes initiated towards improving living standards in rural areas and other “productive assets” such as in agriculture productivity, access to better markets and creation of rural infrastruture. Women from STs, SCs and other tribal communities have greatly benefited from this scheme.
But the current situation of COVID-19 has created a crisis-like situation for many. During the declaration of complete lockdown, there was an underestimation of the “mass exodus” of the migrant population as well the Niti Aayog report which states that the size of the Indian informal workforce is at 85%. The lockdown resulted in loss of income for a major chunk of the work-force, who were forced to move to their home states due to difficulty in surviving in major towns beacuse of economic hardships. The urban areas which were a source of “social security” for the rural poor are now being seen as places where its impossible to make a living in current circumstances. Millions of daily wage workers in the informal sector have been massively struck by the above concerns. This is also the reason behind the adverse effects on the physical, mental well-being and security of the poor Indian population. COVID-19 outbreak has showcased how the poor are often poorly represented during the policy-making decisions. For India ito achieve its SDG goals and ensuring noone is left behind, poverty eradication and inclusive development should sit at the apex of its national efforts.
Courage, strength and collaboration between the regular citizenry like the medical professionals, scientists and researchers has proved to be difficult in combating the pandemic we are facing. It is important that our governments take quick and robust decisions and implement the required and effective policies. This preferentially requires “overcoming the resistance of entrenched institutions and mindsets” which is an extensive challenge in itself.
(Tamanna Kavdia is an intern with OneWorld Foundation India.)
 United Nations, “End Of Poverty In All Its Forms Everywhere”, Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/ (Accessed June 29,2020)
Niti Aayog,”SDG India & Dashboard 2019-20” ,https://niti.gov.in/sites/default/files/SDG-India-Index-2.0_27-Dec.pdf (Accessed June 29,2020)
 UNDP ,https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/post-2015/sdg-overview/goal-1.html, UNDP India (Accessed June 29,2020)
Niti Aayog, “ SDG’s & Dashboard 2019-2020” ,https://niti.gov.in/sites/default/files/SDG-India-Index-2.0_27-Dec.pdf (Accessed June 29,2020)
 Nilanjan Ghosh, How COVID Will Affect Sustainability And The UNSDG’s, April 1.2020 https://www.dailyo.in/variety/covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-un-sustainable-development-goals-sdg-health-climate-change-inequality/story/1/32643.html, (Accessed June 29,2020)