Civil Service – A high impact career for a helpful and hopeful world

The charm of Civil Service beckons many a young man and woman, to compete in the tough UPSC examination. It is not merely the glamour or power or perks that attract these youngsters. They can unmistakably, aspire to get much better pay package and perks in the private sector. Many are attracted to  the Civil Service by virtue of it’s satisfying nature of a highly impactful career, to make a more helpful and hopeful world, which offers an opportunity to serve the less privileged.

India is home for one third of poor people in the world!!! Our country has witnessed impressive growth in the last few decades. But poverty continues to stare at the victims and the policy makers alike. According to the most conservative account, 22% of Indians still live in poverty, deprived of  basic needs of life- food, shelter, clothes, essential health care and minimal education. Severe, abject poverty exists in pockets of rural and urban areas. It is in handling issues like this, that one notices the power of an impactful career like Civil Service.
Poverty can be defined as socially perceived deprivation with respect to basic human needs like food, clothing, shelter, health facility and minimal education. The measurement of Poverty has always been a contentious issue.

Poverty Line denotes the minimum level of income deemed adequate with reference to a particular country. In India it was first defined in 1970 by the erstwhile Planning Commission, based on the minimum requirement of 2400  and 2100 calories, along with  a minimum of non food expenditure, for an adult in Rural and Urban areas respectively. In terms of per day, per capita income it meant Rs.2 and Rs.2.3 in those days!!!! In 2009 it was revised to Rs.27 and Rs.33, on the basis of Suresh Tendulkar recommendations, inviting alround criticism. It was subsequently raised in 2014 to Rs.32 and Rs. 47 on the recommendations of C. Rangarajan Committee. According to these two studies the population Below Poverty Line (BPL) was estimated as 21.9% and 29.7% respectively.  If international poverty line of dollar 1 per day measured at 1993 PPP exchange rates, the number of poor people in India is estimated to be much higher i.e. about 34%.

Now the NITI Ayog has embarked on a fresh initiative, under its Vice – Chairman  ArvindPanagariya, to arrive at a more realistic assessment of poverty in the country. Poverty is redefined to include six basic amenities like deprivation of access to food, education, health, clean environment, benefits for women and children, and infrastructure (physical, economic and social).

The concept of BPL is commonly used in India as an economic bench mark to indicate economic disadvantage. It has to be borne in mind that BPL is a yardstick to measure prevalence of poverty and not for identifying the poor. The BPL families are identified through BPL census.

Factors causing poverty have been identified from time to time. But some of them remain fundamental and adament evading solution, despite decades of development efforts. Ever growing population, low agricultural productivity especially in the Rainfed areas, hunger and malnutrition, inadequate health care, illiteracy, absence of requisite skillsets, jobless growth of economy, widening gap between the poor and the rich are all reasons behind persistent poverty. Social tensions and feminisation of poverty further add to  woes of the most vulnerable sections of the society.

Impact of growth and development on poverty reduction, to a large extend, depends on the pattern of growth and delivery of services. The levels of inequality has been very prominent among certain groups. Hence the emphasis on inclusive growth. It allows all sections of the society to participate in and contribute to the development process on an equal basis regardless of their individual circumstances.

The governments at the Centre and the States have been adopting broadly  a three pronged strategy to address challenges of poverty alleviation. 1. Pursuit of a higher inclusive economic growth2. Enhanced public expenditure on social sector 3. Effective implementation of direct anti-poverty programs. The recent approaches have extended it’s coverage to 1. Strategies and policy intervention to enhance availability and access to physical infrastructure (Roads, electricity, irrigation) 2. Strategies to access economic infrastructure (financial services)3. Access to social infrastructure (education and health).

Several anti-poverty programs, both for rural and urban areas, have been implemented by the extant governments from time to time. They are aimed at 1. Wage employment 2.Self employment 3.Food security 4.Social security  and 5. Urban poverty alleviation. The details of these including their progress can be obtained from websites and annual reports of the concerned Departments and Ministries of Government of India and the respective State governments.
The effectiveness of the impactful Civil Service career lies in ensuring the effectiveness of service delivery which has been a major problem in reducing anti-poverty programmes.  And the greatest challenge and pleasure of a civil servant lies in addressing the daunting task!!!

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