22% of the population in India lives below poverty line. That accounts to one in every 5 persons in India being poor. Poverty is not merely an economic status of a person but represents an abject failure of our developmental efforts as a nation towards guaranteeing certain basic necessities to its citizens.
Between 2012-2013, global reduction in extreme poverty was driven mainly by Asia – notably China and India. In India, nearly 80% of those who are extremely poor live in rural areas and thus eradicating poverty remains at the core of India’s national priorities.
Poverty is beyond just lack of income. It manifests itself in diminished social status, lack of livelihood opportunities, no access to education and above all, lack of right to live a free and fulfilled life. Due to its serious nature, eradication of poverty tops the list of Sustainable Development Goals.
Sustainable Development Goal #1
What Are Causes of Poverty?
Poverty affects those sections of society which have been denied or deprived of the right to live a life of dignity due to two main reasons – Social Exclusion and Economic Exclusion
The concept of social exclusion involves a remarkably wide range of social and economic problems. It is much graver than just living in poverty and a definite violation of basic human rights. Social exclusion (or marginalisation) is a social disadvantage and relegation to the fringe of society, a social phenomenon by which the minority or sub-group is systematically excluded. – Rajan. K Panda
Culturally biased systems trigger inequality by afflicting disadvantaged groups, and preventing them from entering the mainstream. Social status of rural women, individuals from lower castes, people with disabilities, certain religious minorities and victims of social stigma precludes them from availing basic necessities and sources of livelihood thus leading to poverty.
Economic exclusion is a burning cause of inequality in India. Social exclusion further aggravates this, thus preventing marginalized groups from seeking fruitful economic opportunities for their socio-economic development.
The marginal households (with holdings less than 1 hectare), which account for as many as 72 percent of the rural households own very little – about 17 percent of the land. At the other end, there are those with large holdings (of more than 10 hectares) who are about 1 per cent of the rural households. But they have under their ownership as much as 14 per cent of the area. – Source
Assets in rural areas like – land, cattle, shares and properties are highly unequally disturbed in India. Unequal asset distribution, where a major chunk of income generating assets is concentrated with the few privileged people, prevents the socially excluded class from generating a stable income out of it.
Skewed laws of inheritance, high unemployment due to lack of growth in industry, increasing costs of professional education and job-oriented training, inflation, tax evasion, corruption coupled with crony capitalism and regressive tax structure further widen the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Achieving Sustainable Development Goal #1 – No Poverty
Eradicating poverty is a collective goal of many sub goals. It is an incremental and stepwise process that involves addressing problems at two main sub – levels. Goal 1.4, touches upon these immediate action points accurately.
By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in
particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights
to economic resources, as well as access to basic services,
ownership and control over land and other forms of
property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new
technology and financial services, including micro finance
Let’s break this down to analyse and look at some of the social enterprises that are already working towards achieving these goals.
- Access To Basic Necessities – Poverty is directly proportional to access to basic necessities. Lack of basic necessities like food, clothing, water, health and hygiene, education prevents the excluded community from growing in life. Social enterprises and initiatives like Samagra, Simpa Networks, Vat Vrikshya, Thinksharp Foundation, LeapForWord, and iKure are making concerted efforts to increase access to basic necessities like water, energy, health care, and education in rural areas.
- Creating Livelihood Opportunities – Agriculture is the primary occupation in Rural Areas. Creating sustainable livelihood opportunities in agriculture and other ancillary sectors can greatly help rural communities to improve their economic conditions. Self-help groups, backed by micro-finance institutions, and startup incubators, empower people especially women from the BOP by encouraging them to become self-employed through small-scale entrepreneurship. Take for example Share Microfin. It offers income-generating loans to women from under-served communities thus enabling productive micro-enterprises. Social enterprises like eKutir, KrishiStar and Oorja solutions are actively working towards creating micro-entrepreneurs in rural areas.
Poverty is a gargantuan problem and whether we can achieve SDG#1 before 2030 remains to be seen. However, the role of social entrepreneurs in the areas of access to basic necessities and creation of livelihood opportunities can certainly help our country take great strides towards the ideal goal of ‘No Poverty’.