Poverty in India

Poverty in India
Poverty in India

Poverty as we understand is of two types

  1. Relative Poverty
  2. Abject/ Absolute Poverty

By Relative Poverty, we look at the comparative position of one individual with another in the same society. But Relative Poverty cannot give us the true picture of prevalence in the society. that can only be found with a thorough estimation of Abject Poverty.

What do we mean by Abject Poverty?

It is the acute scarcity of resources given in respect to basic subsistence of life.

In India at present, the understanding is that 19% of India’s population lives in abject poverty. This estimation is based on both Indian mechanisms and World Bank’s estimation on the basis of parameters of $ 1.25/person per day on purchasing power basis.

If we look into the history of poverty estimation in India. We see a distinct sequence of evolution. 1st step for poverty estimation was taken by ‘Grand Old Man of India’ Dadabhai Naroji in his book: Poverty and Un-British rule in India. In that book, it was estimated that based on the region, a person earning within the range ₹16-35/annum may be considered above Poverty line. Subsequently, in 1938 Hari Pura Congress session, The National Planning Committee was formed, which estimated a poverty line of ₹20-25/person per month.

Post India’s independence, the 1st estimation effort was made by joint working group of the National Planning Commission in 1961. However, the 1st systematic effort of poverty estimation was done by the duo Dandekar and Rath. For the 1st time we saw, kilocalorie intake of food was considered as a necessary ingredient for poverty estimation and 2250 kilocalorie was fixed as the basic minimum requirement was fixed both in urban area and rural backdrop.

In 1977, the Y.K.Alagh committee improved upon the previous estimation and set the standard of 2100 kilocalorie for urban area and 2400 kilocalorie for rural area. Subsequently, Lakdawala committee and Suresh Tendulkar committee were formed for poverty estimation. Suresh Tendulkar committee estimated ₹32 as poverty line in urban area and ₹27 as poverty line rural areas. Based on these estimations the Suresh Tendulkar committee was heavily criticized and government was forced to reject the recommendation of Suresh Tendulkar committee. Subsequently, the C. Rangarajan committee was brought into force, in 2014. The estimation says that ₹47 is the poverty line in urban areas and ₹32/person per day is poverty line in rural backdrop. This estimation was also highly criticized, and the government was forced to form a 14 member commission under the chairmanship of the then chairperson of NITI Aayog Dr. Arvind Pangharia. Even this committee could not come out with a proper parameter for poverty estimation in India. The primary problem as we understand is defining poverty in India. If we look at kilocalorie intake of food as parameter for poverty estimation.

To define poverty, kilocalorie intake of food is no doubt significant. But it is just one aspect of poverty estimation. Along with kilocalorie intake of food, shelter, clothing access to education, access to information are all significant. However, they are hardly taken into consideration.

Additionally, most of the states in India have their own parameters for poverty estimation. As a result, a holistic understanding of poverty becomes far more complex an issue.

India has been pioneer in poverty estimation in one aspect. It is from the Indian concept of poverty line estimation, that World Bank evolved its own poverty line. However the poverty line of the World Bank kept on improving from $0.9/person per day in 1991 to $1.90 in today’s estimation {at nominal price}. However, prices of goods are not ubiquity at every region of the world. Given this understanding the World Bank revised its poverty line to $1.25/person per day on P.P.P. basis.

However, whether understanding in India or the poverty estimation of the World Bank are both heavily skewed. The first systematic approach of understanding poverty started in  1990, in the form of HDI formulated by Mehbub-ul-Haq of Pakistan and Amartya Sen of India. This estimation was further revised by Duo in 2010. However, though widely accepted HDI does not provide us with the ground reality rather it is more academic in nature. To deal with the drawbacks of HDI , UNDP along with Oxford poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) came out with Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (GMPI) consisting of 6 parameters on a weighted average method which also includes practical parameters like flooring of the house, access to safe drinking water, sanitation, etc. Additionally, the global hunger index formulated in 2011is also an appropriate indicator of the fuel level of object poverty in any society.

In India, tremendous achievements have been done in terms of bringing down the population. Below Poverty Line from 54% in 1970 to 19% today. However, India remains home to the largest population living in BPL. Today India, in this respect is compared with the Sub Saharan Africa which is hardly a matter of pride for the nation.

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