Vice President Md. Hamid Ansari has said that though poverty rates in the country have declined substantially, several challenges remain to be addressed.
“It was assessed a few years back that poverty rates in the country have declined substantially from 54.9 per cent in 1973-04 to 27.5 per cent in 2004-05 as measured by the National Sample Survey (NSS). This has improved further in the past decade. Despite it, three challenges remain,” Ansari said, delivering the 2015 Indira Gandhi Memorial Lecture of the Asiatic Society on national integration here.
Elaborating on the challenges, he said historical fault lines along gender, caste and religious boundaries remain persistent besides, global forces widening the disparities between big cities and villages and between more advanced states and those mired in economic doldrums.
“Despite some noteworthy achievements, public institutions in most parts of the country have failed in delivering basic services,” he stated.
Stating that it is a rare honour to deliver the speech titled “Cohesion, fragility and the challenge of our times”, Ansari further said the ingredients that would help promote equality remain undelivered in many cases and unevenly distributed in others.
Referring to Bhimrao Ambedkar’s speech on “Conditions Precedent for the Successful Working of Democracy”, Ansari said some of the conditions in his list of requirements might be in “short supply” today.
“These fissures raise questions. While democratic mobilisation has produced an intense struggle for power, it has not delivered millions of citizens from abject dictates of poverty,” he said.
“Our quest today is to assess the balance between factors of cohesion and fragility in the polity and in the process to gauge the achievements and shortcomings on each of these counts – particularly on institutions, integration, empowerment and identity – and gauge their impact on social cohesion in whose absence inclusive development would be impeded, even distorted. We would overlook at our own peril Ambedkar’s caution about ‘a life of contradictions’,” he said.