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MPs’ India report is a valuable contribution to aid debate

June 14 2011 - A new House of Commons report on British aid to India is a welcome endorsement of efforts to tackle the devastating discrimination which excludes many millions of people from mainstream Indian society, Christian Aid says today.

The development agency says that MPs on the International Development Committee are right to state that the UK should have a long-term exit strategy from its Indian aid programme – and indeed others.

‘However, if the UK is going to end its aid programme to a particular country then it should do so on the basis of clear, rational criteria and not in response to media campaigns,’ said Robin Greenwood, Christian Aid’s Head of Asia.

‘Terrible need and extreme inequality and discrimination still exist on a staggering scale in India, with more  than     400 million people living below the international poverty line. This is one in three of the world’s poorest people.

‘If Britain does decide at some future point to withdraw its financial support from the country, then it is more important than ever to ensure its existing aid programme is reducing inequality and discrimination, which go hand in hand with extreme poverty.

‘What this means in practice is empowering poor men and women to get what they need from local and national government within India.’

Christian Aid welcomes the MPs’ decision to highlight discrimination against people in groups such as Dalits and Tribals as the major cause of severe poverty in India and their calls for the Department for International Development (DFID) to increase its efforts to help them.

‘This is not just political correctness. This is about saying that Dalit women, for instance, should not be forced by accident of birth to empty other people’s toilets with their hands – many other, more dignified ways of earning a living should be open to them,’ added Mr Greenwood.

‘Christian Aid’s experience in India is that the exclusions from society of whole groups - Dalits, tribal people, religious minorities and also women - are the most important causes of continuing extreme poverty in India.

‘We also welcome MPs’ conclusions that most British aid in India is making a difference in the fight against poverty in that country and that civil society groups play a valuable role.’

Christian Aid believes India’s tax system is an important source of the resources its government needs to fund public services and redistribute income towards the poorest people. India’s tax system also holds the potential to replace at least some of the millions that India will lose when British aid finishes.

However, international financial secrecy is one of the problems blocking that potential, because it helps tax dodgers. Christian Aid hopes that India will use its influence with fellow G20 members to get financial transparency put at the heart of the Group’s agenda for its meeting in Cannes this November.

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For more information please contact Rachel Baird on 0207 523 2446, 07545 501 749 or rbaird@christian-aid.org

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid has worked in India for more than 50 years. It currently works through partner organisations and strives to tackle the country’s growing inequality and its human cost, as well as to help poor families create secure incomes and hold the government to account.

2. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

3. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

4. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

5. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

6. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk