Sorry state of affairs
A recent World Bank report titled – “The State of Social Safety Net 2015” – estimates that 773 million people (which constitutes 55 per cent of world’s poor population) are in acute need of social safety coverage. In the light of this report, the pertinent question which arises is whether India’s social sector schemes have helped its poor to gain social safety assurance. Huge growth in terms of GDP achieved in the past decade had provided enough space for the government to come out with large scale social sector schemes for the benefit of poor at large.Recently released report “The State of Social Security Net” estimates that nearly 55 percent of poor are yet to be covered by these social security nets.
The Economic Survey of 2014-15 of India shows that the situation in India is comparable to the world’s standards.Some of the revelations from the economic survey are as follows:Leakages in the form of PDS rice, wheat and kerosene at 15%, 54% and more than 40% respectively.Subsidies on electricity, fertilizers is largely benefiting the richer sections than the poorer ones.Cash transfer system is still in a nascent stage where only a few states like AP, TN set good examples. This potential is untapped. Programs like Bolsa Familia in Brazil and Prospera in Mexico shows us the future path way.However, on the other hand the above mentioned programs along with MGNREGA, Health insurance, Self Help Group movements have gained prominence and supported rural poor at large even in less developed states like Bihar, MP.
These are visible in the reduced poor percentage in the past 2 decades.Innovation in the public delivery in the form of JAM trinity and digital India may result in narrowing down the leakages there by creating more fiscal space for the government in better targeting and initiation of more such programs. The present ruling dispensation would do well to consider the other key findings on the report. Only one-third of the poor are covered by any type of social safety net globally.Social safety net programs include cash and in-kind transfers targeted to poor and vulnerable households, with the goal of protecting families from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters, and other crises; ensuring that children grow up healthy, well-fed, and can stay in school and learn; empowering women and girls; and creating jobs.More than 1.9 billion people in 136 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs.The combined spending on social safety nets amounted to about US$329 billion between 2010 and 2014.The world’s five largest social safety net programs are all in middle-income countries and reach over 526 million.In low-income and lower-middle-income countries, social safety nets cover only 25 percent of the poor, compared to 64 percent in upper-middle-income countries.Social safety nets help achieve visible impacts in reducing poverty.