India's economic performance over the past eighteen months, with growth of about 6 per cent, marks a change compared to the decade from 1965 to 1975, when growth was slow.
India's economic performance over the past eighteen months, with growth of about 6 per cent, marks a change compared to the decade from 1965 to 1975, when growth was slow. It is seen by economists as an encouraging picture. But, despite the improvement, half of India's population of 625 million are considered to be as poor as ever. There has been virtually no change in the per capita consumption of food over the past ten years; or in the number unemployed or underemployed. The benefits of the recent economic improvement have so far affected the few.
SYNOPSIS: In the north west state of Rajasthan there is a scheme under way that is aimed at giving the poorest a better standard of living. Six other states have launched the same or similar schemes. Rajasthan is the second largest of India's 22 states. Half of its 23 million people live below India's poverty line.
India's present government, headed by Morarji Desai, has set out to change the pattern of growth. The decision came with the realisation that improved economic performance was touching only small sections, chiefly those better off.
Now, in line with government policy to place more emphasis on rural development, Rajasthan's administration is operating a poverty scheme based on self-help. It has been going since October last year. Known as Antyodaya, the scheme has been tried experimentally over the last few years by voluntary organisations and is now being backed by the state government. It operates this way: the five poorest families in a village are chosen... and they receive cash loans that enable them to buy land, machinery or set up in business for themselves.
With a loan of just over 60 dollars, this man has opened a cobbler's shop. The work brings him a profit of about one dollar a day.
Two hundred and fifty dollars set up a cycle repair shop...bringing the previously unemployed owner over 37 dollars a month.
In another village, a carpentry business was started with a loan of about 375 dollars. It now makes the owner over three dollars a day.
With the help of his wife and daughter, this man earns over a dollar a day weaving baskets from hemp. He received a loan of 60 dollars. It is the kind of small-scale enterprise encouraged by the ruling Janata party policy of rural development.
For this mother of five children, 60 dollars bought a sewing machine. It brings her one dollar a day.
Most money that is loaned goes toward buying land, either adding to what people already have or giving the landless a chance to buy their own. In country areas almost all depend on agriculture for a living.
The interest-free loans are repaid over a period of time. So far, 160 thousand families have benefited from the Antyodaya scheme, helping to improve the living standards of those on the bottom rung of India's long poverty ladder.