With the initiation of market-based economic reforms a decade and a half ago, India, a country hitherto perceived as “poor”, is emerging as a significant player in trade globalisation and is seen as a future economic powerhouse and global economic leader.
In spite of this performance, India is home to very large numbers of poor and deprived people. Ancient inequities and conflict continue to overshadow the modern nation. Economic reforms and impressive economic and export growth have been accompanied by widening disparities, and continuing marginalisation of the poor and vulnerable.
The state, from its commanding and almost-singular role in fostering social equity and eliminating poverty, has in practice retreated from such a concern and responsibility. Instead, there has been a growth in NGOs, working for the poor and vulnerable in rural and urban areas. But in terms of their numbers and spread over the vast country, and their impact on poverty as well as public policy and action, NGOs are as yet a largely insignificant force in society.
(From a collaborative research proposal on upgrading slum-based manufacturing in Calcutta.)
Photo: courtesy Janmeja Johl