by Andrew Redpath, Executive Director at Jeevika Trust
We know what you’re thinking… We’ve faced this question many times before and yet still the question remains. Why, when there is such distressing poverty in other parts of the globe, why should we spare the time to think about poverty in India, a country who seems to be getting more and more affluent every day? India may have more billionaires than the UK and an international aid budget of its own, but this means nothing when hundreds of millions of people in rural India are still suffering, out of sight and out of mind.
India’s space programs, billionaire-count and overseas aid programs have been widely cited as supporting the UK government (DFID’s) recent new aid strategy curtailing aid to India, China and Brazil, for which it has been heavily criticised. This especially against the background of war and cataclysmic political upheavals and displacements in the Middle East with their huge human impact, which have grabbed all the headlines through 2017, while political chaos in parts of Africa has re-raised uncertainties and conflicts whose apparent solutions seem to be less convincing than they were. UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact which scrutinises UK aid blames the government for poor communications of its new aid strategy.
The first thing to remember about India, after more than 70 years of self-rule, is the sheer human scale – approx. ONE IN SEVEN of the planet’s total population,, and over 70% of India’s population, live in one of India’s 600,000 villages, which have been systematically ignored by central government planning since independence, while the delicate issue of the caste structure has not been squarely faced. The Indian government’s 2015 survey of 300 million households titled the ‘Socioeconomic & Caste Census’ (SECC) provides more useful data for defining poverty impact in the villages, including that 51% of households surveyed still earn money from manual labour, but there was no better clarity on caste. The new Aid strategy included substantial cut-backs on central welfare programs, matched by delegation to state government level in return for a greater share of the tax pool: this has led to uncertainty, inconsistency and states having to restructure their budgets. The Guardian earlier this year comments that the SECC report ‘presents a stark picture of widespread rural poverty and deprivation’.
So there is no doubt about India’s ever-present need for help to deal with this picture; and of the four main countries concerned – Brazil, China, India and South Africa, it is India which needs it most because, though comparable with China in terms of its scale of poverty, but differs because of its democratic system and the traditionally close UK/India cultural and economic ties which China does not have. So there’s still an overwhelming case for UK treating India as special – and it has done so: compared with about £10 million p.a. of development aid to China, India received some £283 million of DFID development aid during the years 2011 until 2015.
The question is HOW & TO WHOM that development aid should be delivered. Jeevika, after raising funding for over 40 years for village India, knows the ropes well: since our Schumacher Institute for Appropriate Technology in Lucknow closed its doors in 2005 due to urban encroachment, we have built a system of Indian NGO partners each with its own ‘constituency’ of 50 to 100 villages in Odisha (Orissa) and Tamil Nadu. We work closely with these partners, through our UK team and our partner Coordinator in Bangalore, to identify village-based livelihood projects which meet researched local needs, especially involving women’s empowerment and the sharing of appropriate village training: Jeevika then secures project funding which it transfers directly to the Indian partner concerned, and whose application we monitor and report on to the funder. So unlike much ‘government to government’ aid we are directly responsible for the raising and application of funds, and this can be verified by visiting our website.
And THIS is why we can claim that Jeevika is especially deserving of your support! Our team here is largely voluntary – including myself as CEO after a career in international business. And THIS is why we need every penny we can get to support what we see as our ‘irreducible’ cost of a 1-roomed office and other necessary costs to keep our ‘show on the road’.
So please, as we approach the festive season, do consider donating to Jeevika Trust to help us continue the valuable work we are doing in rural India. You support is much appreciated.