Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: Poverty to Empowerment


Author: Indira Dutta
Publisher: Allied Publishers Pvt Ltd
Pages: 149
Price: Rs 485

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Monday, November 21, 2011 at 12:49:18 PM 
  
When the Planning Commission pegged the poverty in India’s urban areas at Rs 32 per capita per day, it drew flak from several quarters, including members of the civil society and social activists who termed it as a “cruel joke”. That India’s millions still live in a state of abject poverty, in spite of being ‘part’ of the second-fastest growing economy in the world, is a well-known fact. But to determine how poor the poor really are and what can be done to make them less poor, is something that has baffled even some of the world’s best economists.  

In her book, Poverty to Empowerment, academician Indira Dutta takes you through the various causes of poverty in India, how it has been measured over the years and the steps various successive governments have taken to alleviate poverty. She analyses various growth theories of spatial planning which have been propounded by various economists and scholars from time to time. Dutta has devoted many pages in the book to the objectives of various poverty alleviation programmes that have been initiated by the Indian government such as Drought Prone Areas Programme, Integrated Rural Development Programme, National Rural Employment Programme, Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Bharat Nirman and even Aadhar

The author does well to establish the link between Hinduism and poverty and gender and poverty and describe the convergence of urban and rural poverty. In order to break the monotony of text, she has included tables of quantitative data to make it easier for the reader to comprehend, correlate and conclude. However, it is her generalised conclusion, “India has faced deep rooted social and economic inequities for centuries. We cannot blindly follow the capitalistic model of economic growth that puts reliance on market forces. The actors of development — state, market and civil society, all have to work together to bring a synergetic solution to developmental problem,” that comes as a disappointment.

If you're looking for stories about the wretchedness of India’s poor, which will tug at your heart-strings, this book is not for you. It is only a step towards understanding why poverty in India hasn’t substantially gone down with its increase in economic growth. While Dutta tries hard to make a complex subject simple, she tends to oversimplify in many cases and risks being superficial. She also presumes that the reader would be familiar with the theories of scholars such as Water Christaller, Johann Heinrich von Thünen, F Perroux, J R Boudeville and Auguste Lösch, and does not explain their backgrounds when she cites them. If you do not know much about economics, it can put you off, that is, if you are not already done in by the poor editing. 

However, if you’re a student of economics or someone who wants to know the simple facts about the complex issue called poverty, Poverty to Empowerment may well work for you. 

1 comment:

Ramesh Narendrarai Desai said...

Poverty can only go in stages, gradually. The poor would tell you the obstacles in their path. Helping them to overcome them rather than our own notions about poverty eradication will work better in my view.