60% Indians don't agree with PM on feeding the hungry
Contrary to what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh believes on the issue of distributing food to the poor, over 60 percent Indians want the government to help the hugry with free foodgrains, an opinion poll released on Tuesday has found.
"More than six out of 10 feel that the government should distribute free food to prevent abject poverty,” said Whypoll, an opinion poll commissioned by the UN millennium campaign (UNMC) and based on responses from 5000 Indian citizens.
The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday in a meeting with newspaper editors that an order by the Supreme Court to distribute free foodgrain to the poor was not practical.
"How are you going to give free food to such a large segment of the population,” Singh is quoted as telling the editors. His government was, however, committed to ensuring that food was available to the poor at an affordable price, the PM said.
The apex court had directed the government on August 31 to distribute foodgrains for free to the poor.
The Whypoll survey showed that the government has not done enough to overcome poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “One-third of those surveyed say that that poverty is underestimated in India and 71.9 percent respondents want government to spend much more on alleviating poverty,” the poll titled ‘what urban India thinks and feels about poverty’ says.
However, majority of urban Indians also feel that poverty is going to stay in India for long. “Sixty three percent of urban Indians believe that poverty, slums and urban squalor are going to be here even after 20-25 years from now,” the study is based on responses from about 5000 people in 38 cities.
Two-thirds of respondents also said that poverty has brought down the image of India which is home to the world’s largest number of poor people living in a single country.
“Two-third of people also blamed economic growth for the increased divide between the rich and the poor.”
Hindol Sengupta of Whypoll told Governance Now, “The liberalisation of the country after 1991 has not helped the poor, which is why country remains at a poor 134th position on the Human Development Index (HDI) and has fallen behind in terms of Gini coefficient.” (The Gini coefficient is a measure of the inequality of income distribution, a value of 0 expressing total equality and a value of 1 maximal inequality.)
“Just increasing gross domestic product (GDP) of country does not lift the poor out of the poverty,” Sengupta added.
About 39 percent of respondents felt that poverty is the most critical problem and can’t be solved easily. “There is need for additional finances and there is a need for political will and action ,” Moutushi Sengupta, director-programme & advocacy, Oxfam, which is one of the sponsor of the poll, told Governance Now.
One-third of the Indian think they have a role to play in alleviating poverty, but are unable to do anything significant, the poll found.