Vested interests of individuals and "lobbying" among political parties is acting as impediment in India's quest for poverty reduction, noted economist Jean Dreze has said. The economist said it was "ironical" that during the peak period of the country's development, the corresponding indexes for poverty reduction, nutrition and health status have declined. Dreze claimed certain "vested interests were also trying to undermine the positive aspects of recent measures like the introduction of the NEREGA and the Food Security Bill" and such individuals "were acting as impediments in India's quest for poverty reduction." The world renowned economist and Professor at Delhi School of Economics was delivering the ninth IG Khan memorial lecture at the Aligarh Muslim University here yesterday. He noted that India's performance in poverty reduction and public welfare schemes is now lower even than that of poor countries like Bangladesh and Nepal. "I am sad to report that the mainstream media in India is avoiding its responsibility in making the people of India aware that India's development graph in certain poverty reduction parameters is now at the sub-Saharan country level," he said. Dreze, who has been actively involved in a number of field studies on poverty reduction in India said it is high time that the public is made aware of the fact that "inequalities between different sections of society are growing based on class inequality, caste inequality and gender inequality". He, however, pointed out that some States like Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh have on the other hand shown remarkable progress in the fields of poverty reduction through Public distribution schemes. Dreze lauded the Raman Singh government for being an "effective development model" in reducing poverty levels in Chattisgarh. The Professor claimed that certain leading corporate groups were trying to "wrongfully persuade some State Governments for introducing their own manufactured food products in mid day meals for school children instead of opting for nutritious natural options like eggs and fruits." "Some years back 29 MPs took up the cause of a leading multi national biscuit manufacturer who wanted to promote its biscuits through mid day meal scheme. These MPs were from all the national political parties, barring the BSP.
The move was dropped when the then HRD minister Arjun Singh opposed it. This lobby is still active in political parties," he alleged.