digitization-in-indiaWith the highest 10% of the population holding 57% of India’s national income as of 2021, India stands as one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the world. Governments and businesses remain in search of the most effective methods to lift Indians out of poverty. Recent research has explored the benefits of demonetization and digitization in India at the individual and government level.

India has come full swing in embracing the digital age, with Aadhaar – the national biometric digital identity program – covering 99.7% of the nation’s adult population as of December 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has further strengthened the drive to go online, with an increase in sellers on almost all e-commerce platforms. Digitization in India will help the nation make strides in poverty reduction.

Digitization and Improving the Economy

According to McKinsey, “60 million to 65 million [jobs] could be created through the direct impact of productivity-boosting digital applications” by 2025. Furthermore, with more than 10 million businesses brought to a common digital platform through the 2013 Goods and Services Tax Network, digitization is incentivizing businesses to go online, thus, enhancing cooperation and streamlining India’s fragmented and informal marketplace. Outside the commercial world, digitizing sectors such as agriculture, education and health care can create up to $150 billion of incremental economic value by 2025 as it can raise output and save on costs and time.

Digitization and Improving Government Services

Not only can digitization help boost the economy and provide jobs to millions but it can also improve the government services essential to the positive well-being of citizens. To improve urban service deliveries in Andhra Pradesh, the government and World Bank designed AI platforms to monitor municipal services. By using drones and Geographic Information System mapping, the World Bank updated town plans and geo-tagged citizens’ issues with “online visibility” to enhance transparency and hold municipal engineers accountable for resolving issues within a certain time period.

By linking applications for piped water supply to AI, the project also provided new water connections to more than 200,000 homes in 110 municipalities between 2015 and 2019. In this same time period, “revenue from property taxes and water charges more than doubled,” enabling the government to collect sufficient resources for civil projects.

The Downside of Digitization

Despite its promise for socio-economic transformation, digitization has a long way to go in lifting all classes of Indians out of poverty. As access to digital services is still largely reserved for the upper class, those living in poverty remain excluded from the advantages of e-commerce. Therefore, in some ways, digitization may be entrenching poverty instead of reducing it. This problem proves even more serious for Indian women, only about a third of whom have internet access and rely on education as their primary form of social security in 2022.

Hope for the Future

While many Indians are yet to experience the benefits of digitization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India program, launched in 2015, centers around the internet as a utility for all citizens. The program’s goals include “universal digital literacy” and “easy access to a Common Service Centre” for all.

With more efficient government services and more Indians gaining access to the formal marketplace, digitization in India promises a future of reduced poverty.

– Imogen Scott
Photo: Flickr

4 Ways India’s Government Can Improve its EconomyRecently, Bangladesh, once considered one of the world’s poorest countries, has surpassed India in GDP per capita. This news has caused outrage among Indian citizens, but the government will not be able to mimic Bangladesh in creating a more prominent low-wage manufacturing export sector. Instead, India needs reforms that will create higher incomes for everyday workers, who are the backbone and foundation of the country’s economy.

GDP per capita measures the average income earned per person in a country during a given year. In 2019, India’s GDP per capita was $2,104. However, in 2020, this figure dropped to $1,876, placing the country one spot below Bangladesh, which currently has a GDP per capita of $1,887. Unlike India, Bangladesh has experienced consistent economic growth over the past three years.

Indian citizens are demanding that Narendra Modi, the country’s prime minister, enact reforms and policies that will boost GDP per capita by improving wages for India’s working class. Here are four ways that India could potentially boost its GDP per capita.

4 Ways India’s Government Can Improve GDP

  1. Increasing income for farmers. In India, 40% of the population works in agriculture and small-scale farming supports many poverty-level communities. However, the Indian government has historically kept prices for agricultural products low in favor of the consumer, despite the lower profits for farmers. The recently introduced 2020 Farm Acts will allow farmers to sell their products to the highest bidder, allowing them to seek higher incomes. When farmers are prospering, they support other sectors of India’s economy through their own consumption. Products like fertilizer, working attire and tools are necessary for farmers, especially as they expand their business. This increase in expenditure directly creates jobs for others.
  1. Through government expenditure and investment in infrastructure. The government controls the amount the nation spends on public matters each year. However, government spending is necessary to increase the overall GDP per capita. This year, incomes have declined for Indian citizens, meaning private consumption has also decreased. By spending money on building and repairing roads and bridges, the government will provide citizens with greater ease and efficiency in their work and create jobs in construction. Furthermore, by using more funds to pay higher salaries, private consumption will once again increase, promoting higher business investment and improving the market for imports and exports. By spending a certain amount of money, the government would benefit from the economic boost created as a result.
  1. Urbanizing India’s rural populations. Urbanization drives economic growth, and because India’s farming population is so prominent, moving some of these farmers to cities would allow them to get jobs in manufacturing. Not only would this increase agricultural productivity by decreasing the number of farmers using the same amount of land, but it would help grow some of India’s medium-sized cities into more prominent urban landscapes. The government can promote migration to city areas by providing incentives to rural populations, including investing in better infrastructure and urban services, such as transportation and water management. In addition, new urban populations would create a resurgence of the housing market and give banks more lending opportunities. Inevitably, more development and urbanization would create new opportunities for international investments and manufacturing exports.
  1. Becoming competitive in high-potential sectors. India has the opportunity to create as much as $1 trillion in economic value by establishing itself as a competitive manufacturer of electronics, chemicals, textiles, auto goods and pharmaceuticals. These sectors accounted for 56% of global trade in 2018, while India only contributed to 1.5% of global exports in these areas. Greater urbanization and an increase in the manufacturing labor force would allow India’s government to make this a reality. Currently, the country’s imports constitute a greater percentage of global trade than its exports. By increasing competitiveness in these sectors, India would not only increase its potential for exports but also decrease its reliance on imports, curbing the amount of money spent by citizens on foreign products.

While the path to economic recovery is not always as straightforward as it seems, India’s government has several means through which it can improve incomes for everyday workers. The government not only has an incentive but an obligation to create a better quality of life for its working class, which is the foundation of India’s economy. Improving India’s GDP per capita would directly benefit the nation and its citizens. Greater opportunities for manufacturing exports, foreign investments and urbanization are all benefits the country would reap from its own investment in its working class.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

The Correlation Between Environmental Instability and Poverty in India Environmental instability in India is a nuanced and multifaceted issue in terms of multiple causes and effects that hinder the search for a solution. India has the second-highest population in the world, second only to China. This makes India particularly susceptible to poverty because there are not enough resources to sufficiently aid each citizen. In fact, roughly 68.8% of India’s population survives on under $2 per day. Notably, women and children are disproportionately affected by this poverty.

Increasing Temperatures Affecting Agriculture

Unfortunately, India also suffers from environmental instability. Poverty and the state of the environment are very closely linked. Although the two issues feel as if they are completely separate, they function in a symbiotic relationship. As the country’s environmental stability decreases, poverty increases, and vice versa. This is because environmental instability hinders local economies and those economies often utilize more affordable forms of energy which then adds to that same environmental instability.

Consequently, the effects of increased temperatures like extreme weather have severely impacted the country’s ability to produce food for itself. Agricultural communities are unable to predict weather patterns, which negatively affects crop yield and commonly puts those people in direct danger. An example being the death of 2,400 people in 2018-2019 due to floods and cyclones.

These unpredictable weather patterns disrupt agriculture and have a long-term impact on the future of farmers in India. Agriculture takes up 16% of India’s GDP and roughly 49% of those employed are within the agriculture industry. This population’s well-being is entirely contingent on environmental stability and they do not have it. Increasing temperature causes difficulty predicting average rainfall, average temperature and average dry day count. These statistics being relatively consistent is paramount to the success rate of agriculture in India. Due to their extreme fluctuation, India’s farmers could lose 15% to 25% of their income, depending on if the area is irrigated or not.

Pollution Affecting India’s Economy

With India’s dependence on the agriculture industry established, it is important to also note the effect that pollution has on this sector of the Indian economy and the poverty that results. Air pollution is something India hasn’t been able to control due to its reliance on fossil fuels and large population. As this pollution has increased, Indian crop yields have been cut in half.

As a result of the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, a buildup of ozone level 3 has occurred. Ozone level 3 is caused by the combustion of nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust and various air pollutants. When this ozone level increases, crops are not able to attain the necessary hours of sunlight to ensure their growth. Crops are also sensitive to the pollutants in the soil. These can arise from a variety of unsafe practices, including chemical use, poor irrigation systems and unhealthy waste management. This lack of consistent crop output puts a heavy strain on the farmers and their families, which leads to poverty in more rural areas.

Pollution generally affects impoverished areas much more than it does other areas, with 92% of pollution-related deaths occurring in poverty-ridden countries. This pollution causes illnesses that are often generational, being passed from pregnant mother to child, which in turn creates a physically weaker population that is at a disadvantage in regard to their participation in the local economy.

Additionally, children born in areas with high pollution have limited learning potential. When these children are limited due to pollutants with the capacity to make them ill, they are at an extreme detriment in terms of education and a successful transition into the workforce. As a result, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty created by a lack of education and high paying jobs. The lack of environmental stability in India has a direct impact on the quality of life of the citizens whether it be illness or subsequent poverty.

Solutions to Resolve Environmental Instability in India

While environmental instability continues to be a significant issue in India; fortunately, there are many small efforts that have taken place to relieve this issue. One such example is the compulsory education on the environment within public schooling, which stresses healthier environmental practices within the daily lives of the students. This was passed by a Supreme Court ruling in 2003 and aims to make the public more active participants in the fight for environmental stability. Another solution has been the alteration of transportation to create less harmful emissions.

In 2013, the India-California Air Pollution Mitigation Program was created by the partnership of a Californian Air Resources board and an Indian Energy and Resources Institute. This program has recommended a set of 12 possible mechanisms to reduce air pollution that focuses on the incorporation of the entire system. These mechanisms include replacing kitchen stoves with cleaner alternatives, reevaluating diesel transport to create cleaner options and restricting the burning of fossil fuels. The group predicts that if villagers were given energy-efficient stoves that air pollution would be lessened by a third.

While India’s environmental history has not been the most inspiring, the future is rife with new possibilities and people who are dedicated to fighting for stability within India’s environment.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in India Through SewingOver the last decade, empowering women in poor communities has become a focal point in India. That is because about 50.7 million people live in extreme poverty in India, yet, as of 2019, only 20.7% of women in India are part of the labor force. Moreover, the country has recently seen a drop in its GDP from 6.1% to 5% and is attempting to recover from its uncertain economy. As a result, one solution that many nonprofit organizations and the government have recognized is investing in the population that is living under the poverty line. Specifically, many groups are empowering women in India through sewing.

Today, being able to sew can be an acclaimed vocational skill. Over the past decade or so, embroidery has become an empowering tool for women in India, and a traditional craft. With this understanding, nonprofits have implemented many initiatives in India to empower women and help their families out of poverty.

Sewing the Seeds & Samugam Trust

Sewing the Seeds is a nonprofit organization that partnered with the NGO Samugam Trust to begin a women’s sewing initiative. The plan supports women in impoverished communities by creating economic stability using creativity and the traditional craft of stitching. Bruno Savio and Gayle created Sewing the Seeds to use sewing to empower women in India living in poverty.

Savio’s father opened the Samugam Trust in 1991 to support the educational training of the underprivileged, the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and those who are physically challenged. Bruno Savio has continued his father’s legacy as director of Samugam and partner of Sewing the Seeds. Gayle backpacked across India about 40 years ago. During her journey, she saw an opportunity to empower women in the country through vocational training.

Savio and Gayle recognized that more than 50% of women in India are illiterate, and only 29% of women in India are actively employed. Additionally, those who are employed are paid 46% less than men holding the same positions. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust realize that investing in women is smart economics and essential to reducing poverty. With this in mind, the initiative provides the training, financial assistance, materials and communal space to empower women while preserving local craft traditions.

Samugam Trust has supported the initiative since 2011, with the first collection of products introduced online in 2018. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust have supplied training and machines for 130 women. The importance of this initiative is to empower women in India in a way that is holistic and long term in its support.


Shakti.ism also supported empowering women in India through sewing by launching a sustainable livelihood project. The starting goal is to reach out to 10 tribal and disabled Indian women to provide vocational training. To successfully supply these resources Shakti.ism is partnering with Samugam Trust and Sewing the Seeds to empower impoverished women. Recently, they chose 10 women from diverse backgrounds including disabled mothers.

Shakti.ism continuously raises money to cover instruction fees, supplies, daily stipends for trainees and administrative costs such as quality control. Most products are crafted from repurposed saris (a traditional Indian woman’s dress) and are to be sold online. Shakti.ism is empowering women in India as a way to support families living in underprivileged rural areas of India, as well as decrease the wage disparity while increasing the trainees’ self-confidence and skills.

Usha Silai School

Included in the community-based initiative is Usha Silai (sewing) School. This initiative has reportedly set up over 15,000 sewing schools across India with the support of the Digital Empowerment Foundation NGO and Sikana. To further their reach and enhance their programs, Usha and Sikana co-created a video program to train illiterate women. The enhanced program has increased the initiative’s outreach while providing skills to gain a livelihood to women in rural India.

The Digital Empowerment Foundation supplies technological information for rural citizens to use to their advantage. For example, they supply internet-dependent tools that can provide access to training and create socioeconomic equality. Specifically, they provide internet and digital tools in rural community centers that partner with Usha Silai School.

Community-based initiatives that provide sewing empowerment for women in poverty have been essential for the growth of rural India. Sewing has become a highly desired vocational skill and is a powerful tool for those living in poverty. Recognizing the long term impact of vocational training, NGOs provide this solution-based approach across India to bring self-confidence and skills to women.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

As COVID-19 continues to spread in India, the government issued, nationwide lockdown remains in place. That being said, India, like many other nations around the world, had to switch their students to online school. The high poverty rates in India have made the transition difficult for some. The upper and middle-class citizens have the resources to effectively make the transition. However, those living in, or close to the poverty line, find it difficult to make the switch. Only about a third of the nation has access to the online school curriculum. Most poor communities don’t have access to computers, tablets, or even smartphones. Because of this, children and teenagers in these communities can’t get the materials they need in order to continue their education. To allow their children to keep up with academics, families had to purchase expensive technology, which they do not know how to use. Because of the lockdown, most families don’t have a stable source of income, thus purchasing expensive products becomes difficult. Families can find the transition even more difficult to manage because they have trouble communicating with their children’s schools and teachers.

What Are Poor Communities Doing to Support Education?  

As India switches to online school, poorer communities are trying their best to stay in touch with schools and teachers in order to support the education of their children. Many families are allowing children to use the only smartphone they have in the house so that the children can continue to learn online. With only one phone in the house, getting a quality education becomes difficult, especially if the family has more than one child. Families that do not have smartphones have been going to neighbors’ houses and asking to use their phones, in order to keep their children in school. 

While families are managing education through the use of smartphones, their children are not getting the same quality of education as they were in person. Many children have complained about experiencing stressed eyes, while others have complained that, while they are getting their work done, they are not learning.

What Are Schools and Teachers Doing? 

Schools and teachers are trying their best to help support the children during their transition to online school. Many institutions are developing online apps and allowing students to use them for free. However, despite the apps being free, without access to service, it becomes difficult for students to use them. Many families in India lack proper electricity and internet services, which prevent them from attending their learning sessions. To address barriers like this, a school in New Delhi distributed phones to students who came from poorer communities, so that they could access daily lessons. 

Many schools are also starting WhatsApp chat groups so that students can stay up to date and get their work done with all the help they need. Teachers are also sharing lessons through WhatsApp so that children who can’t make it to the online session can learn from those. Yet, with poor Internet and restrictions on the number of people allowed to congregate in a group, it is hard for students to access their daily lessons. Many students and families are not familiar with how to use the apps and other online resources, thus they can’t join the digital learning sessions. 

What is the Government Doing? 

In order to assist students in poorer communities, the Indian government has taken several steps to ensure that the transition to online learning does not negatively impact the education of students throughout the nation. Due to the increase in students attending colleges, the Indian government has decided that students can get online degrees. Typically, upper and upper-middle-class citizens have the money to attend college; however, this will allow students from poor communities to stay at home and assist the family, while also working towards a degree. That being said, it can be difficult for these citizens to get a degree through a phone. 

The government is also keeping the public updated about the initiatives ministers are taking in order to support the students. The initiatives include online courses for teachers to help them provide a better learning experience as well as non-technology courses to support students who don’t have instant access to technological equipment. The Indian government has also taken other initiatives in order to strengthen the online education system to make sure the quality of education stays up to date without affecting the costs.

While these initiatives have done a lot to support students from poorer communities in their transition to online school, a lot more can be done. The government is requesting organizations to develop computers that students can temporarily borrow. The Indian government is also planning to provide 5G services in areas with poor quality internet service, which will allow students in those places to get the quality education they need. With the proper policies and initiatives in place, students coming from a poor community may not only get a proper education but also use that education to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 

 – Krishna Panchal
Photo: Pixabay

mental illness and poverty in India
There is a web of denial that people weave around the issue of mental health in India. Most families and communities refuse to see mental health as a serious concern. Adding on to the stigma, there is also a lack of physicians available to treat mental illnesses and those affected often go unchecked. While mental health can affect individuals of all income levels, there is a significant link between mental health and poverty in India.

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Poverty

Specifically, there is a cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India. A case-control study conducted in Delhi from November 2011 to June 2012 found that the intensity of multidimensional poverty increases for persons with severe mental illnesses (PSMI) compared to the rest of the population.

As people receive diagnoses of mental illness, their work performance and social status decrease. Without much treatment available, these individuals continue to suffer in silence, slowly falling back from their jobs, families and friends. These individuals lose employment, which means they have a lack of income, ending up without a support system and resulting in poverty. In particular, women with severe mental illness (SMI) or those who are a part of the lower castes (Untouchables or Shudras) suffering from SMI are more likely to face multidimensional poverty. Because society often looks down on women and individuals of the lower caste system, they are the least likely to receive treatment or assistance when they receive a diagnosis of mental illnesses.

On the other side of this relationship, poverty, which many describe as a lack of employment and income, aggravates mental illness. When individuals do not have the necessities for survival, mental disorders such as depression or anxiety can develop and intensify. Without treatment, these disorders build up, eventually leading medical professionals to diagnose individuals with SMIs. Out of those in poverty, women, individuals of the lower castes and individuals with SMIs suffer the most, as they have the hardest time finding work or receiving external help.

In short, untreated mental illnesses can lead to or further exacerbate poverty, but unchecked poverty can cause mental illnesses as well, creating this link between mental health and poverty. In an attempt to fix the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India, the government, doctors and businesses have taken action which aims to increase treatment and guarantee more rights to persons with mental illnesses.

Past Government Actions

In 2016, the Parliament in India passed the Mental Health Care Bill. This law replaced the older Act which stigmatized mental health and prevented people from receiving treatment. The new legislation provides state health care facilities, claiming that anyone with mental illness in India has a right to good quality, affordable health care. Individuals with mental health now have a guarantee of informed consent, the power to make decisions, the right to live in a community and the right to confidentiality.

The hope is that the act will help people from all levels of income because if an individual cannot afford care, the government must provide treatment. Even in rural or urban areas, mental health care is a requirement and the government is working to build access to such facilities. Anyone who violates or infringes on the rights of those with mental illnesses is punishable by law. The government is hoping that by taking legal action for individuals with mental illnesses, society will slowly stigmatize the issue less, increasing overall acceptance.

Individuals and Organizations Taking On Mental Health

As the issue of mental health persists, doctors in India have attempted to integrate their services of mental health within the primary health care system. Since 1999, trained medical officers have had an obligation to diagnose and treat mental disorders during their general primary care routines. Furthermore, district-level mental health teams have increased outreach clinical services. The results have shown that if people receive treatment in primary health care facilities, the number of successful health outcomes increases. In the future, doctors are looking to expand services into more rural areas, hoping to offer more affordable care to those in severe poverty because there is such a significant link between mental health and poverty.

Alongside medical professionals, businesses are using the shortage of mental health care treatments in India to expand their consumer outreach; these companies rely on technology to bring together a global community of psychologists, life coaches and psychiatrists to help individuals through their journey. Using AI, companies like Wysa can use empathetic and anonymous conversations to understand the roots of people’s problems. Companies, such as Trustcircle, rely on clinically validated tests to allow individuals to determine their depression, anxiety or stress levels, enabling them to understand when to seek help. These companies are all providing free or drastically low-costing help, giving people feasible access to the treatment they need. The hope is that with quicker and cheaper access to treatment, people can address mental health on a wider scale.

Further Action Necessary

Despite the increasing support for mental health, there is a great deal of change that needs to take place. Currently, only 10% of patients suffering from mental illnesses receive treatment in India; while all patients do have the right to treatment, the shortage of money and psychiatrists hinders the accessibility. India spends as little as 0.06% of its budget on mental health, and there are only 0.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the country. India needs to primarily focus on changing the societal culture regarding mental health. By educating children from a young age about the importance of mental health and acknowledging that mental illness is real and valid, the overall acceptance of mental health can increase. Changing the stigma surrounding mental health will enable more people to pursue jobs in treating mental health, increasing access. The cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India can only be broken by giving people, regardless of income, social status or gender and equal access to mental health treatment.

If India does not take a more aggressive stance on the issue of mental health, the country could face serious problems in the future. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that if mental health remains unchecked, 20% of the Indian population will suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020; additionally, it determines that mental illness could reduce India’s economic growth by $11 trillion in 2030. Essentially, the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India must break to enable optimal growth in the future.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

India's Center for Policy ResearchEstablished in 1973, the Center for Policy Research (CPR) is a non-partisan nonprofit think tank designed to produce better public policy that shapes Indian life. Its unique team draws from a diverse set of occupational backgrounds to confront social issues with a multi-dimensional lens. Some highlights include Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India; Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, former Indian ambassador to the EU and well-known historian and Vinita Bali, former CEO of Britannia Industries Ltd.

India’s Center for Policy Research, located in the heart of Delhi, divides its research into five main categories:

  1. Economic policy
  2. Environmental law and governance
  3. International relations and security
  4. Law regulation and the state
  5. Urbanization.

The following will breakdown these subgroups in an attempt to decipher just exactly what the organization supports.

Economic Policy

The think tank recognizes the necessity for growth and productivity for the maintenance of a healthy economy. What makes it stellar is its commitment to equity

For example, one of their most recent projects involves the analysis of India’s “Special Economic Zones” and who truly benefits from their implementation. The organization’s non-partisan and nonprofit approach liberates them from the bias of special interest groups that oftentimes heavily influence the outcomes of these “case studies.”

These sentiments are echoed in another of the group’s economic policy projects. It is a campaign to officially define the characteristics of the country’s middle class. This could serve as a critical step in enhancing the rights of millions of Indian citizens.

Environmental Law and Governance

The goal of India’s Center for Policy Research is to establish a clean and sustainable environment. To address this, the group focuses their programs on pivotal topics such as Delhi’s air pollution, water use in rainfed agriculture, overall water policy and state action plans on environment sustainability.

International Relations and Security

The CPR’s international relations and security division is more in tune with typical slants on the subject than the other divisions. But, it still has some standout components. In the quest to understand India’s past and present role in the shifting global order, the think tank vows to research international relations from traditional and alternative perspectives. This aspect is very important as it deviates from the usual one-dimensional historical viewpoint.

Law, Regulation and the State

This sector of the CPR delivers a sort of institutional examination of the country of India. The purpose is to identify the relationship between laws, institutions and Indian life. It consciously aims to figure out the implications of these entities on basic rights such as land and intellectual property.

This category unites the others to land rights and dialogues on Indian politics. The hallmark project in this section is labeled “Balancing Religious Accommodation and Human Rights in Constitutional Frameworks.” This project is especially important because it targets issues with the country’s constitution that suppress rights, providing a direct opportunity to rework the country’s unequal beginnings.


This final subset is focuses on the rapid effects of urbanization currently taking place in India. The process of urbanization comes with a range of different challenges such as personal issues with governance and citizenship, to material issues regarding infrastructure. Because of this, urbanization holds a very multifaceted array of projects. These aim to work in unison to uncover the connection with urbanization and its effect on how people engage with the state.

Overall, India’s Center for Policy Research is tackling many different issues and challenges that India faces today. If it helps enact effective policies in its five focused areas, it could help boost India’s already growing economy and even eliminate its national poverty.

– Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

In India, Farmers Suicide is a Complex Problem
In 1995, India saw its first few cases of farmer suicides. Since then, according to a 2010 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there has been a baseline of 15,000 farmers committing suicide every year since 2001. In total, the agency revealed that over a quarter of a million farmers (256,913) have killed themselves between 1995 to 2010 alone, which amounts to 45 farmers a day.

A more recent 2015 study about farmers’ suicide in India suggests that there has been an average of 12,000 suicides in the agricultural sector every year since 2013. As of 2018, the Bureau has not published any new statistics on the epidemic, but India is likely not on the path of solving the problem.

Farmers’ Suicide in India and its Causes

More than 8 percent of Indian farmers have landholdings below two hectares. These farmers have such a fragmented and small holding, and others deny them the benefits of mechanization, modern irrigation and other investment-based technological improvements, thus limiting productivity.

The overarching problem of water scarcity in India adds to this already weakened infrastructure. Estimates put India’s groundwater use at roughly one-quarter of the global usage, and needless to say, it is a quickly diminishing resource for those in rural areas especially.

Without access to water, farmers have relied on seasonal rains for their yield, the unpredictability of which can lead to either severe droughts or floods that prove to be a recipe for crop failure. Climate change is a problem that exacerbates these sorts of uncertainties.

Whatever income farmers manage to scrap is meager and depends on factors such as the prevailing market situation or the cost of greedy middlemen. As a result, profit is rare and this forces small and marginal farmers to take out expensive loans to fund the farming process, thus they get caught in debt traps.

These same small, two-hectare farmers made up 75 percent of the 5,650 suicides that the National Crime Records Bureau recorded during 2014; further data points out that in 2,474 suicides out of the studied 3,000 farmer suicides in 2015, the victims had unpaid loans from local banks. This information suggests that severe socioeconomic adversity, such as crop failure or debt-burdens, is a predominant cause of farmer suicide.

India’s agricultural sector accounts for almost 20 percent of the country’s GDP, making prompt attention to the tragedy of farmer suicide important not only from a humanitarian point of view but also an economic one.


Protecting farmers from spiraling down a pit of debt is, of course, a compelling starting point. A few policy solutions, according to Indian psychiatrists, Mahesh R. Gowda and T.S. Sathyanarayana Roa, in their journal “Prevention of Farmer Suicides,” are:

  1. Small and marginal farmers should pool their farmland to leverage the advantages associated with larger land holdings, such as the use of modern and mechanized farming techniques.
  2. Farm loans at soft interest rates should be available to farmers, and loan recovery procedures need to respect human rights; farmers should not deal with private money lenders.
  3. Fair prices for farm products should be mandatory and there should be a direct reach for farmers to markets in order to eliminate middlemen.

Farmer suicide is a complex problem in India, but the solutions are doable if the government correctly implements initiatives, such as the ones above. Lives are on the line, after all, and being quick to action is of the utmost importance.

– William Cozens
Photo: Pexels

e-Commerce Industry in India
The e-commerce industry in India is growing at an unprecedented rate and is estimated to be worth $150 billion by 2022. This industry is expected to generate employment throughout the country; it includes e-travel, e-tail and e-financial services. Fashion retail is around 30 percent of the online retail searches and may reach as much as $35 billion by 2020. This will be a significant source of employment for women and minorities.

Supporting Digital Commerce

The Government of India has supported this sector through initiatives such as Digital India and Startup India. Digital India is a campaign to increase access to digital technology throughout the country by improving infrastructure, spreading awareness about digital technology and digitizing government services. This campaign has been endorsed by several high profile companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Other major initiatives, such as the GST (Goods and Services Tax), have coaxed the economy away from cash transactions towards the digital economy.

The Government of India has involved various stakeholders from the private and public sector to create an updated e-commerce policy that recommends improving the regulatory mechanism and enforcing certain protectionist barriers. The draft version of this policy includes providing data protection for users, giving more control to the founders of e-commerce and encouraging domestic production.

Helping Women Become Successful Entrepreneurs

The e-commerce industry in India is expected to generate more than a million jobs by 2023; this will not only increase jobs in the corporate sector but also in industries such as logistics, warehousing, customer care, human resources and technology. This will benefit many Indians in both urban and rural areas.

Studies show that more than 70 percent of online sellers come from smaller towns, and more than 20 percent of them are women. Thus, e-commerce encourages women entrepreneurship and adds to the growth of the economy. Creating opportunities for women to be economically independent helps fight gender norms and make progress towards economic equality of the sexes.

Many women are selling products within the fashion, health and wellness as well as handicraft industries. The ability to work from home is a convenient and effective way to earn a living, and it also supplements family incomes. Studies show that empowering women has a huge impact on the health and well being of the family.

An online portal named Mahila-e-Haat is an organization that facilitates a direct interaction between vendors and buyers. It provides support to women who wish to gain financial independence; this group is expected to help 125,000 women nationwide.

Craftsmanship on the Rise

Global as well as local companies are contributing to the market by expanding the workforce. Many traditional craftsman and artisans have been able to use this platform to sell their products. Now, they can continue the age-old traditions of craftsmanship while at the same time break free from the traditional costs of the middleman.

Plus, the e-commerce industry in India is empowering small manufacturers since many e-commerce companies are employing experienced craftsman, many of whom were not formally employed before, but rather, worked with their families unofficially.

– Isha Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Universal Basic Income in India
Universal Basic Income (UBI) refers to an unconditional sum of money given by the government to all citizens, via cash transfer, regardless of their wealth. The goal of such a scheme is to guarantee that all citizens of the country are able to support themselves and fulfill their basic needs.

Benefits of Universal Basic Income

Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, believes that Universal Basic Income will be a reality in some states in the country within the next two years. He argues that such a scheme will be more effective and easier to administer, compared to other welfare programs administered by the government.

The Economic Survey of 2017 highlighted the benefits of Universal Basic Income in India as a means to alleviate poverty. The report mentions that such a scheme must first and foremost be unconditional and universal, and thus it will promote social justice, productivity and economic equality. The poor would be empowered to decide how to spend their money most efficiently, based on their individual needs.

Individuals would also have the ability to select their employment conditions more carefully, instead of being forced to work in exploitative conditions simply because of the desperate need to provide for themselves and their families.

The report asserts that UBI is an effective scheme, and should replace existing subsidies that are given with the lofty aim of alleviating poverty. However, it also makes a specific mention that the political climate might prove to be an obstacle to achieving this goal. Universal Basic Income in India cannot replace state capacity but it could and should complement it.

UBI would especially empower women by providing them with greater economic independence. Having their own reliable source of income would enhance their agency, make them less dependent on men and will be a step to narrow the gender inequality and the overarching sway of patriarchy.

Such a scheme would also encourage citizens to utilize financial systems and establish credit. Not only will this enhance the financial knowledge of citizens, but it will be profitable for banks in India. Allowing previously socioeconomically marginalized groups to access formal credit systems will reduce their reliance on informal loans and exploitation by moneylenders.

Critics of UBI

Critics of Universal Basic Income argue that giving unconditional cash to citizens will encourage them to spend it recklessly on alcohol, gambling and drugs and that this would actually reduce the incentive to work. However, basic income experiments conducted in a village in Kenya over a 12-year period show that most participants used $22 per month allowance on basic necessities and did not squander the money.

The UBI pilots in India were funded by UNICEF and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and operated in rural villages of Madhya Pradesh, in 2011. These pilots showed largely positive results- the beneficiaries were using the money wisely by investing in education, household expenditure and food. A report published by SEWA found that unconditional cash transfers helped improve productivity, financial stability and health of the people.

The pilot study measured only the short-term impact of UBI, and critics argue that the long-term impact cannot be measured so easily and thus we cannot really assess if the scheme is feasible.

This innovative approach offers the prospect of empowering the poor and providing them with basic necessities. Previous studies have shown its positive impact on poverty alleviation on social, political and economic levels.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr