UK aid to India defended against critics

By agency reporter
February 20, 2011

UK-based churches' international development agency Christian Aid has welcomed the UK Government’s continued commitment to fight poverty in India, describing criticism of it as ‘misguided.’

The International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell yesterday confirmed that the UK would give more than £1 billion in aid to India over the next four years.

The announcement drew criticism from some quarters as India is now the world’s second fastest growing economy.

But Christian Aid director Loretta Minghella commented: "Despite India’s recent phenomenal economic growth, it is still home to more than a third of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion people."

She continued: "The emphasis of the UK government programme is on three of the poorest states in the country – each of which are larger than most African countries – where there remain huge challenges, particularly in providing education and health care, nutrition and jobs."

"The UK aid will fit in well with the Indian government’s own strategy of targeting the poorest and most excluded communities. To withdraw aid at this crucial juncture in India’s development would be extremely short-sighted."

Ms Minghella stressed that the private sector in India also has a key role to play in supporting poverty alleviation programmes, particularly among the poorest and most marginalised citizens, who are excluded from mainstream development because of identity-related factors like caste, ethnicity or gender.

"We want to see the private sector in India following Indian Government policy and practice in promoting the inclusion of socially excluded communities across the whole country," said Ms Mighella.

She urged the UK’s Department for International Development to work closely with Indian civil society organisations in persuading investors to target not just the economic symptoms of poverty, but the underlying social, cultural and political factors that are at its root.

Under a DFID-funded programme, Christian Aid and civil society partners in India already work closely with the Confederation of Indian Industry and others on issues such as inclusive employment practices.

"Many Indian organisations drawn from and led by women and men from excluded groups are working with DFID and Christian Aid, and many, many more stand ready to do so, to bring about fundamental change," said Ms Minghella. ‘Continued UK aid will help make that a reality.’

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