India’s development saga vs. BPL: Who are we kidding?


India’s journey towards development is much like the fairy tale of Vikramaditya and Betaal. Destination seems inches away from reach, but the path seems to get rickety by the day. Five years plans came and went, LPG became a topic for group discussion, fiftieth Independence Day was celebrated with pomp and vision 2020 became every Indians dream, thanks to our President APJ Abdul Kalam. Sixty years later, we are still a developing country, now fondly called an emerging economy.

If figures are testimonials of growth, India has more to its kitty than its population of 1.2 billion, as it is the ninth largest in the world by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). But on the flip side, we are ranked 119th in Human Development Index with 41% of the people living below the poverty line.  With a BPL set at Rs.31 in urban areas and Rs.25 in rural areas, Indian Government can hide behind the economic growth rates, but would India be able to justify the BPL cap set.

The definition of people under the poverty line, who are entitled to subsidized food and energy supplies, have varied from time to time, based on the governments, state legislatures and planning commissions. However, it was never been able to fathom the exact level of poverty that actually exists, with more than half a billion people living in horrendous conditions.

Mankind has moved long way ahead from the dreams of “Roti, Kapada aur Makaan” and “Bijli, Sadak aur Pani” has become passé. However, the BPL revised in 2011 is based on a survey conducted in 2002, with respect to a person’s private expenditure on food, education and health. No wonder, the BPL lines are dubbed as starvation lines.

The former U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt rightly said: “The unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power. The plans that build from the bottom up and not from the top down and  that which put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

As we recover from one recession and head into another, let us remember that holistic and sustained development would be the only key to India’s success. It would require consistent and focused effort in socioeconomic development by taking the “common man” up in the economic pyramid. This would happen only with the realization that economic growth is merely a single aspect of the process of economic development and that it has several dimensions including standard of living, human capital, infrastructure development, sustainable environment, social equality, health, literacy, etc.

All said and done, the question remains whether India is set to be a developed country and economic super power by 2020. Ten years from now could be an unrealistic target if economic development has to be achieved in its true sense, but better late than never.

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8 thoughts on “India’s development saga vs. BPL: Who are we kidding?”

  1. Well written Shruthi. Nice to see someone writing about these kinda topics. Keep it going 🙂 Would like to add some of my views.

    Firstly, about the Dream 2020. To be honest and practical, its too Optimistic. We have much bigger and more critical problem to address before we even think of achieving that. Lot of reasons. No. The problems don’t come from our GDP, Per capita income or other complicated stuffs. Our demography is the biggest hurdle. Look at our parents’ generation. 8 out of 10 couples had more than 8 children, no matter what their income level or lifestyle was. No way they could have given great education to all of them. That generation of 7 or 8 siblings on an average dominating our society is slowly coming to an end. And our generation of at max 2 or 3 siblings is taking over. The society norm about the number of children could even go down in the next generation. And the quality of education of every individual could improve and only then our Human Power becomes more productive. Yeah. There will be illiteracy, poverty and unemployment even then, but the situation is gonna be much better than wat it is now. These things can’t be addressed by 5 year plans, 5 day plans or overnight revolutions. As per my logic, our population should considerably Stabilise if not decrease over the next few decades. And the percentage of Poor people also should decrease with that.

    Secondly, The BPL thing of 32 bucks. Don’t read too much into it. Whatever be the official figure, the actual situation isn’t gonna be much different. And not many understand it’s more of a backward calculation than nothing else. They have to release an official BPL figure of people BPL as less than 40%. It means that 40% of our population is living with less than 32 bucks income per day. Its a fact. We may blame it on the government and the policies. But the ugly truth is that no one can be blamed. We gotta live with it.

    And I don’t have to talk about corruption and our politicians. Trust me. They can’t really do much in a country like India. The country and the system is too huge that there will be a lot of leaks and loopholes. Just look at the way elections happen in our country. The kind of people who enter politics and the kind of people who attend party meetings and the majority of the public who go and vote. Hard to believe the incentives people get to vote for someone. Colour TV, Briyani, Eggs and liquor in a decently developed state like TN. We are a fool if we expect those politicians to change the fate of our country just like that.

    And we are a price taker and not a market maker in the most essential global commodity, fuel. And that fact along with our geography and demography will keep the inflation numbers very unstable. And that means we will continue having a Negative Net Interest Rate. (I don’t want to talk too much finance here 😀 ) No country with Negative interest rate can be a developed country.

    So, the bottomline is that there needs to be a lot of Grassroot repair work and some factors need to fix itself with time before we target the Dream of India 2020 in 2040 or 2050 🙂

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  2. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Though this is one of the most overused and cliched statements, this still continues to be a fact. As per yesterday’s report in The Hindu about farm suicides, its very distressing and painful to know that more than 250 thousand farmers have ended their lives due to unsustainable conditions and huge debts. The government needs to be supporting them in every possible way. Though we are in the process of establishing ourselves as an industrialized economy from an agrarian economy, the switch is at a very heavy cost.
    Well, coming to the main question under consideration here.. India super power by 2020? Well, quite a far fetched thought nevertheless, possible…
    Channelized vision, realistic short term goals and reduction of corruption at least to a small extent can spark the change. The Indian Defense has a mighty big part to play in the transition as well.

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  3. Good thought….well written with facts and numbers….malnutrition, infant mortality, life of rural poor can also be addressed….Overalll a good reading material.

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