In 1990 more than half of our population was below poverty line, the situation that you see today that was more or less the situation across India. After the 1990 opening up of the economy wealth distribution locked up in national assets started and first poverty which was expanding till then wrested and started declining. Reaching to national average of 37% in 2004 the time Manmohan Singh took over as the prime minister of India. By the time he left power in 2014 the poverty levels were at 25.7%. And it was possible to get a more than 10% poverty reduction in just 10 years was due to a period of exemplary growth where the country grew at more than 8% old ( 10.2% new formula) in nett GDP terms and due to a massive wealth decentralization scheme MNREGS where every poor of the country was guaranteed minimum 100 days of employment. It was a brilliant scheme to do direct fund transfer to beneficiary without having to route it through corrupt supply distribution schemes and subsidies but as hard cash which then the beneficiary could spend in any way they thought made their life better. Apart from that governments guarantee of employment also pushed the daily wages in the open market up as private labour market had to compete with the government’s labour demand in terms of pricing. Below poverty line population became a direct beneficiary of this higher pay out and that indirectly fueled a consumption cycle of life improving services like health, housing and education. As a result India’s nett GDP started growing.
Poverty alleviation in the last 3 years has been the slowest this decade. And that was during a time of low global oil prices. There are many explanations to the why Modi’s record has been such poor in employment generation and poverty alleviation. Clandestine botch up of the MNREGS scheme has been a major contributor. Just for the year 2016-17 there are pending payments of Rs 9179 Cr which the government owes to give to people and suppliers where work has already been done. And noteworthy is the fact that no matter how much Modi claims to love Odisha Rs 212Cr of MNREGS bills from Odisha are not being released by Central Government, money which will directly go to poor’s pocket. Apart from that MNREGS which by law is a demand based scheme and not a allocation based scheme, has been covertly converted into a allocation based one. Where Central Government is asking state governments to go slow on work order generation showing the fund position as a guidance to do so, even more interesting is the fact that such official but covert directions are not being issued on government gazette but in whatsapp group by central government called ENCORE. So MNREGS through which our law guarantees every Indian who holds a job card 100 days of employment has been converted into, a guarantee only till a upper limit of about Rs 36K Cr that the government has allocated in the budget. This stipulation has almost halved the MNREGS pay outs in various districts of Odisha. Hence, the number of people who were able to benefit every year from MNREGS scheme and make an attempt to come out of poverty are not getting their right.
As a side effect of this Clandestine pull back of MNREG Scheme has the side effect of supressing the prices in labour markets, there by working as a double whammy. Government is not able to allocate funds to give 100 days of employment and because the demand supply gap is in favor of demand now the nett earning of poor families have gone down. While the whole world is debating the system of minimum earning for every system, India who was a pioneer in this field and had championed the distribution of national wealth among people of the nation has stared going backwards under a regressive government. Inspite of tall claims being made by people who wear 10lkh suits its the congress who have always and will always stand in solidarity with the poor of the nation.