T.N.’s success in poverty reduction

It is considered the best administered State in terms of implementation of schemes; SHG movement helped in a big way

Updated - February 11, 2022 10:24 am IST

Published - February 11, 2022 02:59 am IST - Chennai

All the three editions of NITI Aayog, the Centre’s policy think tank’s implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have one common feature –Tamil Nadu finishing on top with regard to Goal 1 - “No Poverty.”

A perusal of the third edition of SDG reveals that even Kerala, the number one State in the implementation of all the SDGs, occupies the third rank, trailing behind Tamil Nadu’s score of 86 by three marks. In fact, two of its neighbours, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka that are bigger than Tamil Nadu in area and better placed in terms of natural resources, are behind the State.

Lauding Tamil Nadu as one of the best administered States with respect to the implementation of schemes in general, S.M. Vijayanand, former Kerala Chief Secretary (May 2016-March 2017), who had observed Tamil Nadu closely during his spell at the Union Ministries of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj in the 1990s and 2010s, says the State is known for having a sound development administration, particularly at the district level.

Efficient administration

As the administrative system is highly efficient and effective, the fruits of various development and welfare schemes have reached the intended beneficiaries in a big way.

This has been borne out by the way the Centrally sponsored schemes have been implemented. Also, the State’s strong culture of local data comes very handy while planning schemes and projects.

The former civil servant’s views on the efficacy of implementation of schemes can be supported by the preliminary findings of an ongoing study, commissioned in 12 districts, on the impact of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS) during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. V. Ragupathy, Professor, Department of Political Science and Development Administration, Gandhigram Rural Institute (GRI), who is supervising the study, says the Scheme has ensured food security in the State.

“Women, being a majority of the beneficiaries, use the money essentially for food items. As the coverage of differently abled and senior citizens has been given a special attention in the State, the two segments of the society have also been taken care of, as otherwise they would have suffered deprivation,” says Prof. Raghupathy, adding that the study covers districts such as Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Tiruchi, Ariyalur and Perambalur.

A commendable role

Mr. Vijayanand, now chairperson of Kerala State Finance Commission, whose roots are from Kanniyakumari district, cites the self-help group (SHG) movement as one of the factors that contributed to the consistent performance of Tamil Nadu with regard to the Goal No. 1.“The SHG movement is very strong in the State and its role in poverty identification and reduction is quite commendable,” he observes.

Pointing out that Tamil Nadu has been implementing a health insurance scheme [CM’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme] for more than 10 years, he describes the move as the biggest factor preventing immiseration. The scheme has protected many vulnerable sections against adverse health events which, if not guarded, has the potential of pushing economically vulnerable people back to poverty.

Retired civil servant K. Shanmugam, who was Tamil Nadu’s Finance Secretary for nine years at a stretch before becoming Chief Secretary in July 2019, emphasises that the State is “free of abject poverty,” even though relative poverty exists in rural parts and urban slums. This has become possible, thanks to the universal public distribution system.

The provision of free rice is a measure that makes a difference to the poor, feels Mr. Shanmugam, who had served in the State Food sector for five years, including two-and-a-half years as Food Secretary.

Apart from having a widespread economic development, the State is strong in several social and educational indicators. For example, only in thousands, children in the State would not have joined any school. The Education Department, through the district administrative set up, monitors such children and encourages parents to get them to schools.

Even as he commends the execution of schemes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and many of its variants, he feels the State still has to address issues concerning nutrition more effectively.

Besides these, sanitation is another area that has to be focussed on.

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