A United Nations report on Wednesday asked the government to increase focus on rights-based programmes — like the job guarantee and food security schemes — to eradicate poverty while praising PM Narendra Modi’s financial inclusion scheme, the Jan Dhan Yojana.
The UN report on India and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comes at a time when the central government has cut the budget for social sector schemes and initiated a proposal to downsize the ambit of the National Food Security Act.
The government cut social sector spending by about 30% in the supplementary budget and allocation for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is the lowest in the last five years.
Saying that over 270 million Indians were poor despite high economic growth years, the report recommended three immediate tasks for India: widening the implementation of NREGA and the food security Act in poor states along with greater attention to rural development, universalisation of Jan Dhan Yojana, and a continued emphasis on increasing both growth and social spending.
The report also highlighted that though India was on track to reduce poverty by half based on the level in 2000, India was still home to one-fourth of the world’s poor and over one-third of underweight children.
“India should join the pledge to end hunger by 2025. Hunger responds sluggishly to growth and required complementary interventions in several areas,” the report said, adding that it will not be possible to achieve the proposed Sustainable Development Goals that replace the MDGs this year without India’s efforts.
India has made great progress on the MGDs but “being home to one-sixth of the world’s population, the world is not going to achieve the SDGs if India does not,” said Shamshad Akhtar, UN Under-Secretary-General.