Govt makes progress in weaning households away from subsidies, says Economic Survey

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New Delhi: The government has made progress in providing citizens with bank accounts, cooking gas, housing, power and toilets—a major part of its policy plank to wean households away from subsidies, according to the Economic Survey 2017-2018.

This holds out the promise that the lives of the poor and marginalized will change, it said. However, the pace and magnitude of improvement will depend on the extent to which increased physical availability of products and services is converted into actual use, the Survey said.

Inclusion and empowerment have been two key policy priorities of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government, which has been aiming to cut doles and subsidies and deliver benefits directly to the needy through the use of the internet and other technologies. The two themes are also in keeping with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations in 2015.

The Survey, tabled in Parliament on Monday, noted that 74% of rural households have been covered by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) in terms of coverage as well as usage.

“Towards inclusive development, India has been implementing programmes for social sectors like education and health to include women and the marginalized sections of the people to bridge the gaps in educational attainments, health outcomes and employment opportunities,” the Survey said.

“Though macroeconomic growth and efficient markets are essential, it is necessary to equally ensure that the benefits of growth are equitably accessible to all citizens to make growth broad based,” it added.

In terms of ensuring people’s access to banking and other financial services, 300 million bank accounts had been opened till December 2017 under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna, the Survey said. The number of zero-balance accounts had also fallen sharply from 70% to less than 20% till December 2017. The number of bank accounts linked to Aadhaar had risen to 75% till December 2017.

In the case of rural housing, some 3 million homes had been built under the Indira Awas Yojna till the end of 2016. An additional 1.63 million had been built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G, launched in November 2016) till 20 January 2018, the Survey said.

Another flagship programme—the Ujjwala scheme—has seen more than 30 million poor households being given cooking gas connections. The scheme, launched by Modi in May 2016, aims to issue liquified petroleum gas connections without upfront charges to 50 million women below the poverty line by 2019.

“The policies and institutional systems for inclusive growth are progressively being built by the Government of India in the form of digitalization to transform governance and achieve social inclusion through financial inclusion initiatives, gender mainstreaming and measures to reduce all forms of social inequalities inherent in Indian society,” the Economic Survey added.

On health, the Survey said child and maternal malnutrition was the most challenging risk factor for health loss in India in 2016 followed by air pollution, dietary risks, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“In 2016, malnutrition still remains the most important risk factor (14.6%) that results in disease burden in the country. Neonatal disorders and nutritional deficiencies as well as diarrhoea, lower respiratory infections, and other common infections are manifestation of maternal and child malnutrition,” the report said.

The Survey also mentioned air pollution as adding to India’s disease burden, with levels of exposure remaining among the highest in the world.

Pollution was the leading cause of cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases and lower respiratory infections.livemint