Indian Government and International organizations such as United Nations, World Bank have remained committed to eradicate poverty and to reduce inequality both from humanitarian approach and economic growth perspective. A reflection on the achievements of MDGs indicate that the number of people living in extreme poverty across the world dropped by more than half – from 1.9 billion in 1990, to 836 million in 2015 and India reduced the poverty rates to half from the 1990 levels. Nonetheless, India had 270 million extremely poor people in 2012 (United Nations 2015). Similarly, India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people (United Nations 2015). Importantly, a large section of population remains close to the poverty line. The success of MDGs has remained unequal and uneven with poverty concentrated in economically backward states, rural India and the marginalized ‘other’ which includes religious minorities, women, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes leading to social, economic and political inequality within the country.
As reported by United Nations, a significant majority of households in developing countries— more than 75 per cent of the population—are living today in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s. Income inequality cannot be addressed if the structural inequalities that lead to differential / unequal opportunities are not addressed from the primary and grassroots level. Increasing inequality and disparity not only promote sluggish economic growth but also slow human capital growth with lack of education, health and well- being. It contributes to increased crime rates, political and social instability leading to 7 deterioration of individual’s lives which may further contribute to unequal capacity building and outcomes adding to increase in poverty rates. India’s Gini coefficient 1was reasonably high at 33.9 in 2013.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda for 2015 – 2030 is highlighted as “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity...They are integrated, indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.” The People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership model closely links Goal 1 – ‘No poverty’ and Goal 10 – ‘Reduced inequality’ and underlines a strong rationale of the development of whole societies. Inequalities are not inevitable.
The rise in urbanization and migration rate, agricultural crises and associated complexities in the rural economy are likely to change the pattern of poverty and inequality in India, among other factors. They are likely to influence the effectiveness of traditional measures to attain the development goals. Broadening policy areas beyond extreme poverty & hunger to other basic needs such as safe housing, sanitation, healthcare facilities, financial inclusion and social protections, provisions for equal opportunity for all sections of population would yield more sustainable results to the poverty and inequality eradication efforts.
The sub-themes for discussions and papers related to this track include: