How well do India's social service programs serve the poor?
Reaching India's poor calls for greatly improved social service delivery systems, better targeting of the poor, more coordination between agencies, policies aimed at income generation, and more involvement of the poor and of nongovernmental organizations. The authors of this paper found that India's social services were used relatively little by the poor. The health and education of the poor has improved but not as much for the population as a whole. The reasons that all social service programs did so little to alleviate poverty are similar. Physical access to education and health services has improved but inequalities exist because of biases in locating facilities. The access of the poor to housing, social security, and social welfare services has been limited because these services were inadequate relative to needs and because services leak to the nonpoor. Social service policies are not comprehensive enough and the quality of services is low. Issues common to the social sector delivery systems are weak management, ineffective targeting, and inflexible service delivery systems that result in a mismatch between perceived needs and services delivered. The bureaucracy is inadequate to reach the poor. Existing capacity and resources are inadequate, particularly for education and health.
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