An important aim targeted by economic growth is uplifting the poor or the downtrodden in a society. If this primary aim of economic growth is not achieved; it might lead to more problems than what it actually aims to solve. Human wants are unlimited and the means or resources available to satiate these wants are limited. For any given country, poor natural resource endowments and an inappropriate access to these natural resources is a significant patron in rising levels of poverty. Apart from peripheral and marginal changes made to enhance their conditions, poor people still find it difficult to escape the spiral of these spatial poverty traps.
Many people around the world live in what is known as spatial poverty traps. These traps are basically found in isolated, far away rural areas, and also in budding slums present in various cities. Talking about a country like India, Spatial Inequality is a glaring hallmark of the Indian economy. In a country as diverse as India, not only there are myriad inter-regional variations, but many spatial poverty traps too. These traps are far-flung, low potential and faintly unified. These features, by and large, superimpose each other. These sundry demerits faced by people residing in these traps results in poverty and at a later date, breeding of poverty. This embodies stubborn levels of poverty in these regions in both absolute and comparative levels.
In India, poverty is mainly fixated in 5 out of 17 major states viz. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. If one considers these places, they are mainly located in India’s central eastern region. Additionally, these regions are closer forest areas and are characterized by a rocky contour. Furthermore, these poverty traps are also found in snow-covered regions. These features make a particular region or an area impervious. Moreover, flimsy communication services clasped with unusual weather conditions trap the residents in what is known as a vicious circle of poverty. A prominent example of such an area is the north-eastern part of India and the Himalayan ranges of Jammu and Kashmir. These regions have huge parts of land that are not easily accessible and also do not support agriculture. This, in turn, leads to poor agricultural and farm practices leading to low yields. As these areas are characterized by infrastructural constraints and market deadlocks, it restricts the ability of the residents there to improve farming and related activities and retrieve off-farm employment. However, these spatial poverty traps are also found in highly mechanized and industrialized regions like Gujarat and Maharashtra too. Talking about Gujarat in recent times, it has been in the limelight mainly for socio-economic reasons. Most of these socio-economic conditions are in the form of political hues which digresses the focus from the essential problems.
Maharashtra is a state which shows co-existence of both – presence affluent societies together with slums representing poverty. This represents high regional inequality in the state. According to the spatial analysis, most of the business facilities, economic institutions, and community services are concentrated in a few locations. Mumbai, the biggest patron of the state’s income, has enticed many people from all around the country because of the conducive availability of various job opportunities. However, around 50% of the population in Mumbai resides in slums. Apart from numerous job opportunities, the state offers, basic facilities of clean drinking water and sanitation seem to be an issue. It is always spoken and written that development is the key to combat poverty and its undefined expansion, many areas or regions which are able to avail and offer a high level of facilities, do show low levels of poverty. Thus, a systematic and a fair development is one the solutions to bridge this poverty gap.
For a country like India, there have been many state policies which are directed towards attacking the problem of poverty. In other words, India has a long history of tackling the issues pertaining to the ‘backward areas’. However, if one dissects these policies it is learned that these policies have gained only limited success. There are two reasons that can be cited for this:
The policies do not aim to tackle the root cause of this poverty and its reproduction. These policies rather tend to standardize these areas under a larger umbrella of ‘economic development’.
These policies limit their operations up to allocating funds or resources to the ‘backward areas’. These policies have implementation issues which are largely ignored.
The Planning Commission of India recently, through its various actions has tried to give special attention and preference to these backward and conflict-stricken areas in the country. However, an important question to ask here is, ‘Why do these spatial poverty traps need added policy attention? ‘To begin with, a prime reason is that this issue is important and needs the added attention. There are strict shreds of evidence which show that the presence of these spatial poverty traps partially explain the poverty experienced by many people around the world. These factors seem to be more sympathetic to policy interventions making it indispensable. Secondly, the people who are trapped in these spatial poverty pockets are known to experience an amalgamation of various disadvantages (low return on investments, poor access to public services etc.) Thirdly, the people residing in these poverty pockets have limited ways to escape it. This means that if an individual in such a trap is skillful and has investment capital too, will still find it difficult to maneuver his way out as the returns on his investment will be lower as connected to an area which is geographically better placed and connected. Such areas make it difficult for an individual to attain success and thereby remove himself from such a vicious circle.
In a nutshell, the possibility of growth in such poverty traps is actually based on efforts and the ability of the government and various community organizations to beat tendencies of under-investment that such geographic externalities tend to produce. Additionally, for a country like India, it might require a closer integration of various policies at all levels to uproot this issue entirely.
About the Author
An educator by Profession and a writer by Choice. She expresses her thoughts utmost by writing. She aims to connect with as many people with her writing and hopes to make a contribution to people’s lives and society at large.
Apart from writing and imparting education, she holds immense interest in research. Being an Economics postgraduate, she keeps herself indulged and well aware of the changing surroundings.