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Poverty reduction should take precedence over reducing inequality in India, outgoing Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said today, while underlining that the country needs to focus much more on providing equality of opportunities, health and education. There can be a potentially serious conflict between poverty reduction and reduction in inequality, Panagariya said. "I would focus much more on equality of opportunities, health and education." He pointed out that "when we think about our historic economic policies, actually at some point of time (1960-70s), we worried too much about inequality which led to policy mistakes". Inequality is complex as well as multi-dimensional and in developing countries like India, poverty reduction should take precedence over inequality removal, he said. "For rich countries, inequality is a bigger issue.
For India, the removal of poverty has more salience than reduction in inequality," Panagariya said at an event here. He said that going by the Gini co-effecient, Kerala is the most unequal state and Bihar most equal. "Focus on poverty eradication is the key." Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said there are 201 backward districts in India which need to be readily transformed to reduce inequality in the country. "You can't bring equality through legislation. My belief is that we can't bring equality without greater focus on health and education," Kant noted. Also, it is not possible to achieve equality till there is gender equality, he added.