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Poverty in India-II: Policies and Programmes

V. M. Dandekar and Nilakantha Rath
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 6, No. 2 (Jan. 9, 1971), pp. 106-146
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4381515
Page Count: 41
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Poverty in India-II: Policies and Programmes
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Abstract

At the root of the prevailing inequalities in income is the inequitable distribution of the means of production. The communist solution to the problem is to socialise all means of production and ensure a socially equitable distribution of income. If this is ruled out, as it seems to have been ruled out, the other alternative is to distribute equitably the means of production themselves. A major means of production in the Indian economy is land. Therefore, a suggested remedy to the problem of poverty is to redistribute available land among all those who depend upon it. But there is not enough land to redistribute so that every one may employ himself on his land and earn a minimum desirable living. It also does not appear to be a solution which can be maintained in the face of economic forces operating in an economy in which the means of production are privately owned. Lastly, if the solution is perforce maintained over a period, it may lead Indian agriculture into conditions of stagnation. The other means of production are those employed in other than agricultural production, which we may call industrial capital. This too is in short supply and is very unequally distributed. Therefore, a suggested remedy to the problem of unemployment is to adopt a labour-intensive technology which with the available amount of capital will provide employment to all. Unfortunately, the khadi programme of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission provides ample evidence that it is not a feasible solution. Hence, if an equitable distribution of the means of production is not feasible or desirable, the problem of poverty and unemployment revolves on the question whether the vast numbers of persons with no means of production of their own can at all be put to productive work so that they may contribute to the national product and earn a share in it. The Planning Commission has dismissed this entire question on the ground that no precise estimates of unemployment or under-employment are available or can indeed be made meaningfully. But if a major reason for rural poverty is unemployment or underemployment, additional employment worth Rs 800 crores to Rs 1,000 crores annually will be needed to lift everybody, except the poorest 10 per cent, above the poverty line. This is the measure of unemployment and under-employment in the country. No greater precision is needed if anybody wants to do anything about it. This is the burden of poverty and the richer sections must bear it. A 15 per cent cut in the consumer expenditure of the richest 5 per cent and a 7.5 per cent cut in the consumer expenditure of the 5 per cent rich below them is all that is needed. The burden is not great if the rich will see the reason. It is essential that they agree to bear it if a solution to the problem of poverty is to be found within the framework of private property. [This study was prepared by the Indian School of Political Economy, Poona, under a contract from the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation has recently released a number of studies prepared by its own research staff bearing on the most pressing issues which face India as it moves into the decade of the 1970s. Poverty is undoubtedly the most serious among them. But, on this, the Foundation decided that an effective study could be done only by an Indian scholar and entrusted it to the Indian School of Political Economy. We are publishing the entire study in two instalments. The first instalment appeared in the last issue.]

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