Time is Running Out on Poverty

by June 30, 2018 0 comments

Time is Running Out on PovertyAlthough not really a ‘good news’, India doesn’t top the list of countries with the largest number if world’s poor. Will this last?

Even as India took solace from the fact that it is getting to grips with overcoming the extreme poverty prevalent in the country with a major study showing we are no longer the nation with the maximum number of citizens living in abject conditions, came the depressing projection from the World Bank that the economy would take a major hit due to global warming over the next three decades. The bad news first. A World Bank report published earlier this week made rather scathing and very scary observations on the catastrophic impact of climate change that is set to impose an enormous cost, not just ecological but economic, on the country. Indian policy makers, those of whom still read, naturally, need to go through report very, very carefully. This is not a Green think-tank or an airy-fairy NGO out of touch with the real world but a venerable Bretton Woods institution that definitely understands the bottom line. The report paints a grim economic scenario for India, predicting that extreme weather conditions, rising temperatures, wonky monsoons and other manifestations of climate changes could lead to a 2.8 per cent fall in the Gross Domestic Product growth of the country by 2050. That’s nearly a percentage point down each decade over the next three if everything else is going swimmingly well, and there is no guarantee of that happening. The World Bank has, as its wont, put a number to the damage: $1.1 trillion will be wiped out from the economy. Additionally, it has been projected that climate change will accentuate poverty and inequality leading to a decline in living standards for almost half the Indian population. Some of the most threatened climatic hotspots have been identified in most populous Indian States including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

Contrast this with a recent Brookings Institute study, which suggested that finally, after almost five decades, India has given up the dubious distinction of being home to the largest number of the poorest human beings in the world. Nigeria, apparently, now holds that position as poverty levels in India have registered a sharp decline in recent years. The report also predicted that by 2022, less than three percent of Indians would be living in poverty and that “poverty could completely be eliminated by 2030”. These are headline-grabbing prognosis and show, at the very least, that poverty is not an intractable problem if there is political will and economic sagacity at play. But all the gains could be wiped out by the damage climate change is likely to cause, leaving us back at square one. So, where are the new ideas, the fresh thinking that will get us out of this up-and-down pattern?

The threat of climate change/global warming is a clear and present danger to our economic well-being and prosperity. Frequent droughts accompanied by erratic rainfall have led to a situation in India where most States have become water-scarce, thereby affecting normal life apart from taking a heavy toll on the agriculture sector. Rising temperatures too have wreaked havoc as the country now witnesses searing summers and unusually warm winters. Heat waves are becoming increasingly common. In conditions like these, it will be impossible to even feed a projected population of 1.7 billion by 2050, forget pulling the last man out of dehumanising poverty. Time is running out.

Writer: Pioneer

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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