Poverty Tops One Opinion Poll in India

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The Week-Hansa Research Survey poll was reported in the July 14, 2013 issue of The Week. The survey asked the public for their opinions on the most important issues in India.

It found that 21% indicated that improving the conditions of the poor was the most crucial issue (The Week-Hansa Research Survey calls 21% as Uplift of the poor, The Week, July 14, 2013, 53.); 17% stated the need to improve basic facilities such as drinking water, electricity, and roads; 13% stated rising prices; 11% mentioned law and order; 11% said unemployment; 10% noted corruption; 10% specified economic progress; 4% expressed government stability; and the remaining 3% indicated the need for water for irrigation.

When the responses of four categories, namely the conditions of the poor, rising prices, unemployment, and economic progress, are added together, 55% indicate that the economy is bad. Furthermore, they say poverty is the issue, not the corruption or law and order or government stability.

Almost all prime ministers have initiated poverty-reduction programs. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose election slogan in 1971 was garibi hato (eradicate poverty), funded several programs to help the poor and administered them with the help of local governments. Others too implemented programs such as JRY (Jawahar Rojgar Yojana) in 1989, JGSY (Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana) in 1999, SGRY (Sampoorna Grammen Rojgar Yojana) in 2001, and MGNREG (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in 2005.

Unfortunately, after spending crores (karors) of tax payers’ rupees over the years on poverty programs, the government has no significant good news to show. Moreover, what is heartbreaking is that today, after 66 years of independence and 14 prime ministers, one-third of the world’s poor live in our nation. The states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, UP, MP, Rajasthan, and Orissa, in that order, lead the way in sheltering our destitute.

Many nations have been successful in reducing or eradicating poverty; so states the economic history and so know our poor. Back in 2004, the poverty issue ousted Prime Minister Vajpayee after eight years in power. His slogan was “India Shining”; however, the poor did not think India was shining for them and voted him out. In this year’s upcoming 2014 election, again the poor may defeat current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Congress party, as he leads his ten-year old UPA government.

Interestingly, the same survey further asked the public which party was best for political stability, betterment of the poor, preventing corruption, controlling rising prices, economic progress, law and order, employment opportunities, and communal harmony. After averaging the results, 37% thought the NDA; 28% thought the UPA; and 14% thought both parties were equally good. However, one in five voters or 21% responded that neither the Janata-led nor the Congress-led party was good. No one has an absolute majority.

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