Every third Indian is living below the poverty line and the number of poor in the South Asian country has shot up to more than 37 per cent, a government study released on Friday said.

The report by economist Suresh Tendulkar, formerly chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, used a new methodology to assess poverty.

“It is a new poverty line, defined on wider access to commodities and services like health care and education and not calories,” he said at the release of the report in New Delhi.

People living in the eastern states of Orissa and Bihar were the poorest while north-eastern Nagaland, the national capital New Delhi and northern Jammu and Kashmir state had the least number of poor.

“In 2004, poverty in India was actually 10 per cent more than estimated, with poverty in rural India at 42 per cent and not 28 per cent,” the report said. Thus, the overall poverty figure is 37 per cent and not 27 per cent as was estimated in 2004. The report found that over 41.8 per cent of rural people survive on a per capita expenditure of 447 rupees (9.6 dollars) every month, spending on bare essentials like food, fuel, electricity, clothing and footwear.

The new study has raised concerns that there has been no decline in poverty levels despite India’s impressive economic growth over the past few years. The report was likely to have serious policy implications with more people being entitled to anti-poverty programmes and measures, local media said.

India’s population is more than one billion.

According to World Bank’s estimates, 41.6 per cent of Indians live on less than 1.25 dollars a day, the international poverty line. In a recent report, the World Bank has projected that even by 2015, one quarter of India’s population will be living in extreme poverty.

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