Thursday, October 25, 2007

Poor flow of funds to poverty schemes

from The Economic Times of India

NEW DELHI: Eradication of poverty, a prime focus for the UPA government, seems to have been given the short shrift. Housing and poverty alleviation minister Kumari Selja has expressed concern over shrinking funds for urban poverty alleviation at the cost of urban development.

Fund allocation for the ministry in the 11th Plan period has been pegged at Rs 3,687 crore compared to Rs12,443 crore for the urban development ministry. The housing and poverty alleviation ministry had demanded an increase in allocation to Rs 12,000 crore.

A new scheme, called ‘housing for poor’, alone would require funds worth Rs 3,995 crore — more than the Rs 3,687 crore allocated for the housing and poverty alleviation ministry (MHUPA) — during the 11th Plan period, Ms Selja said in a recent letter to the Planning Commission.

She said her ministry had framed the policy only after finance minister P Chidambaram made an announcement in the Budget for ‘housing for poor’. Other schemes, such as Swarna Jayanti Rozgar Yojna (SJSRY), employment promotion programmes for placement in the private sector and sanitation schemes, would entail investments of about Rs 7,600 crore, she said.

Drawing the Plan panel’s attention to the proportional decrease in MHUPA’s budget from the Eighth Plan compared to the allocation for the urban development ministry, she recalled the prime minister’s recent letter to all chief ministers stressing the need to accord priority to housing and poverty alleviation.

MHUPA was allocated Rs 653 crore in the 8th Plan, Rs 1,685 crore in the 9th Plan, Rs 4,710 crore in the 10th Plan and Rs 3,687 crore (proposed) in the 11th Plan. The urban development ministry received Rs 819 crore, Rs 3,458 crore, Rs 6,800 crore and Rs 12,443 crore in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Plans, respectively. MHUPA’s share as percentage of allocation for the urban development ministry has shrunk from 79% in the 8th Plan to just 29% in the 11th Plan.

Referring to NSSO findings, Ms Selja said the absolute number of urban poor had risen by about 4 million. “The urban poverty ratio is much higher in several large urbanising states compared to rural poverty ratio. And unemployment rates among women in urban areas, especially in slums as well as small and medium towns, are much higher than in rural areas,” she said.

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