Published: HT Jaipur Live, September 12, 2005

By George Cheriyan

In 2005, poverty reduction is dominating the global policymaking agenda as never before. From September 14-16, world leaders will meet in New York at a UN World Summit to assess the five-year progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which was declared in September 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium. Review of the efforts, to free the poor people from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, is high on the agenda of the summit. The MDGs include pledges to halve extreme poverty, reduce child deaths by two-thirds, and achieve universal primary education by 2015.

Status of World Poverty
Various reports on the world poverty shows that over 1 billion people still live on less than $1 a day with nearly half the world’s population (2.8 billion) living on less than $2 a day. 800 million people go to bed hungry every day. One third of deaths, some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day, are due to poverty-related causes. Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases – that’s over 30,000 per day and one every 3 seconds.

About 621 million people in Asia and the Pacific lived on less than $1 a day in 2003, according to new estimates from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Out of that about 327 million people lived in India. Hence reducing poverty remains a central challenge facing the country, and certainly its most important development challenge. The ADB report also presents poverty projections for Asia, based on different scenarios of economic growth and distribution. In a least favorable scenario, the number of people living in extreme poverty would be 347 million in Asia in 2015. Again the concentration would be in South Asia with 274 million.

Poverty in Rajasthan
Out of the 56 million (2001) population in Rajasthan, about 15 million, which comes to about 27 percent, are below the UN Poverty Level, though the controversial official BPL data shows much lesser (14%). Rajasthan’s health indicators, especially of women and children, are amongst the lowest in the country, reflecting poverty. The reports of starvation deaths and low nutritional status of Saharia tribes is alarming as the whole region, is reeling under extreme poverty.

However Rajasthan Human Development Report (2002) says that the rate of decline of poverty in the state has been faster than that of the country as a whole. Thus, the report argues that the state is well placed to meet the challenge of reducing income poverty by 50 percent by 2015. We have to wait and see whether this challenge will be met.

Compact to end Poverty
Human Development Report (HDR-2005) entitled ‘Millennium Development Goals: A Compact among Nations to end Human Poverty’ focuses on MDGs. Released one week prior to the crucial UN summit, the report shows that while there has been substantial overall progress globally, many individual countries are actually falling further behind.

The Report calls for swift and dramatic changes in global aid, trade and security policies to fulfill the promises made by the international community through the millennium declaration.

Changes in economic performance influence poverty estimates. Tens of millions of people are living on the edge of poverty and remain vulnerable to the vagaries of natural calamities and other factors over which they have little or no control. Rapid poverty reduction requires not only high rates of economic growth, but also that the benefits of this growth be distributed more equitably.

Let us take all serious efforts and join camapigns to remind our own leaders and the world leaders, meeting at the UN Summit in New York, that the world is still watching and waiting for them to take tough decisions needed to stop the deaths of the 30,000 children a day killed by extreme poverty and to make poverty really history.