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Rahul Gandhi’s NYAY or Modi’s PM-KISAN: No. This is what poor Indians want, not money from govt

Eram Tafsir

Offers of income support schemes have gained popularity amid the ongoing elections, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi promising Rs 6,000 per year to poor farmers under PM-KISAN, while Rahul Gandhi topping it up with Rs 72,000 under NYAY. However, poor in India seem to have rejected the offer of direct cash transfers to them. Instead, they want the government to spend more on providing better services such as infrastructure, healthcare and nutrition, says a survey.

Despite studies showing that cash transfers to people result in higher expenditure on food, housing and education, there are still some benefits of investments on public services over cash transfers, said a study done by Stuti Khemani, James Habyarimana and Irfan Nooruddin for Brookings Institute. For example, infrastructure benefits the whole community, but no individual can pay for it, which means it has to be funded collectively somehow, said the study.

According to the study, out of the total respondents,only 13 percent preferred cash over public health and 35 percent preferred cash over roads.

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Despite being unhappy with the quality of care available from public facilities for curative health, poor rely on state-funded community health workers for preventive care and promotive outreach during women s pregnancy and for their young children. But these community health workers seem to be severely under-resourced, said the Brookings study conducted in rural Bihar in late 2018.

Therefore, the study suggested to increase spending on healthcare services as it has positive externalities like vaccination reduces the risk of disease, even for the unvaccinated, and disease eradication benefits everyone.

Meanwhile, there has been a shortage of an estimated 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses, said report by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) in the US.

Oxfam India in twitter post has said: Our government spends less than 1.5 percent of the GDP on public healthcare, therefore 70 per cent healthcare expenses are met by individual s own pocket. Due to this 7 per cent Indians are pushed into poverty every year.

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has also in an interview with Bloomberg pointed out towards the absence of strong reform agenda by the political parties in their poll promises.

All this makes a strong case for the government to relook their approach of social welfare and step up spending on public services.