Counting the poor

Counting the poor

The best way to assess the poor (Who count as India’s poor?, Mint, 2 October) is to entrust survey and identification work to village panchayats. Panchayat members know who the poor are in their villages. The other option is to engage non-governmental organizations along with panchayats to carry out surveys. Such work should never be entrusted to government officers. Otherwise, such surveys will turn into a play of money and the whims of officials who have little knowledge about poor persons who live in villages.

Sebastian Devasia

I am not familiar with Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom’s work (A Nobel story in south India, Mint, 14 October), but surely you are not suggesting that Wall Street can be compared with Kottapalle, Andhra Pradesh?

It is one thing to have individuals pool together their resources and share the ensuing benefits in the context of an irrigation project. For in a village setting, individuals are likely to know each other, thus enabling violators to be identified and inculpated, especially if everyone’s resource endowments are similar. The task of administering justice can probably be entrusted to the village headman. Individuals might even share some common environmental goals relating to water management, further preventing predatory behaviour.

On the other hand, the hedonist behaviour witnessed on Wall Street, typified by the voracious pursuit of short-term profit, necessitates strict government oversight. Otherwise, small investors will be left continually at the mercy of large ones.

Vishva Bindlish

It is known that our farming community has no alternative except to borrow money from moneylenders in rural areas despite the huge interest charged by them (Leave the moneylenders alone, Mint, 12 October). This practice is thoroughly entrenched in rural areas as public sector banks are of little help in meeting credit needs. This can be attributed to apprehension in the minds of bankers about the prospects of recovering the loan. A harsh documentation process, coupled with delays in decision making, forces marginal farmers to look for other avenues.

The very purposes of establishing public banks are defeated thanks to their stringent lending norms, as stipulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The so-called relationship banking is presently skewed in favour of urban customers. The setting up of the present committee to check moneylenders is not something new; on earlier occasions too, the government had set up many committees. But no permanent solution has been found till date. Hence, hapless farmers have no alternative but to borrow money at exorbitant interest rates.

The buzzword “financial inclusion" has come into prominence in the country very recently. The indirect objective of setting up grameen banks has been financial inclusion, but no thought has been given to this important aspect even after 60 years of independence. Had it been evolved and put into practice long back, this problem would not have arisen. Instead of squeezing moneylenders, it is time the government mandated streamlining of lending practices to offer permanent help to farmers.

K.N.V.S. Subrahmanyam


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