When India has a space programme, more billionaires than the UK and an aid budget of its own, should the UK still be sending money there?
This was a question raised by the BBC’s South Asia reporter Justin Rowlatt on Radio 4’s Today Programme, and skilfully debated by Oxfam India CEO, Nisha Agrawal earlier today. Despite being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India suffers from vast poverty; over a third of the world’s poor live there and, according to Agrawal, between 30-40% of Indians live on less than $1.25 a day.
Jeevika Trust has been working in villages in India for over 45 years in an effort to revitalise rural communities, empower marginalised women and help some of the world’s poorest people help themselves out of poverty through building sustainable livelihoods. The projects we support in partnership with grassroots Indian NGOs have touched one hundred thousand lives in village India since 1970 and have brought improved sanitation, better health and nutrition, empowerment and increased financial stability to hundreds of villages in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.
With India, particularly rural India, having been supported by the UK Government for many years, we are suffering after DfID’s decision to close its main aid programme to India by the end of 2015. One of our flagship projects, the Madhu Network Project, was funded for two years by the department and helped hundreds of isolated women from dalit and tribal communities in Odisha become self-sustaining village entrepreneurs by training them in bee keeping and the production and marketing of honey. Through participating in this project, some women were able to increase their household income by over 20 per cent after just one harvest, improving conditions for their whole families. After the success of the pilot phase of this project, we hoped to extend the initiative to multiple other villages to benefit hundreds more marginalised women and their families; however, with the cuts in aid from DfID and from other funding sources following suit, this extension has not yet been possible.
Our Executive Director, Andrew Redpath said: “It is frustrating that there is a perception that India no longer needs aid. It is a country of 1.2 billion people and the world’s biggest poverty trap with over 280 million people living in poverty in rural areas and villages alone.
“We have seen immense success in our projects and, with our Indian NGO partners, we have been able to make a positive impact on a hundred thousand people over the last 45 years. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and millions of people who need the support of NGOs like Jeevika Trust.
“We’re not about handouts – we’re about village livelihoods. We recognise that there is far greater success in helping marginalised communities stand on their own two feet through building sustainable livelihoods and enterprises than there is in simply delivering food or utilities.
“We’re calling on the world to recognise that millions of people in rural India still need help, and that aid cuts will have a long term negative impact on so many people living in desperate poverty.”
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