Latest NSSO data show a decline from 37% to 22% for all of India, poor states record steepest decrease

Poverty levels across India decreased by 15 percentage points — approximately 2 percentage year over year — between 2004-05 and 2011-12, as per the latest National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) figures accessed exclusively by The Hindu. Many economists and government officials say the significant reductions in poverty levels can be correlated to high economic growth rates.

Between 2005 and 2010, the country’s GDP grew at an average of 8.5 per cent and the poverty rate (the proportion of the population below the poverty line) registered an average annual decline of 1.48 per cent. The percentage of the country’s population living below the poverty line declined from 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 22 per cent in 2011-12, according to NSSO data. The 11th Plan (2007-08 to 2011-12) had targeted reducing poverty by two percentage points by 2009-10, compared to 2004-05. Rural poverty has declined faster than urban poverty during this period.

Encouraging as those gains are, the country still counts nearly 26.89 crore poor among its citizens. According to the data, the total number of people below the poverty line in the country is 26.89 crore as against 40.73 crore in 2004-05. In rural areas, the number has reduced from 32.58 crore to 21.72 crore.

The data also indicate that the steepest decline in poverty was in India’s poorer states. “While there has been a national reduction of poverty by two percentage points by 2009-10, compared to 2004-05, different states have performed differently. Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh have witnessed a sharp decline. Bihar shows the biggest decline,” Saumitra Chaudhuri, member Planning Commission told The Hindu.

Bihar has experienced a substantive decline with the percentage of the population living below poverty line (BPL) coming down from 55 per cent in 2004-05 to some 35 per cent in 2011-12. The figures for Gujarat were 31 per cent in 2004-05 and 16 per cent in 2011-12. In Rajasthan, 0.6 crore were lifted out of poverty in the same period. Andhra Pradesh reveals a noteworthy decline in urban poverty from 23 per cent in 2004-05 to 6 per cent in 2011-12.

“Wherever you draw the poverty line or set the poverty level it does not matter as there will still be a decline,” says Mr. Chaudhuri.

Previously, poverty was shown to be declining by 1.5 percentage points between 2004-05 and 2009-10, the Planning Commission had received criticism for pegging the poverty line cut-off at Rs 28.65 per capita daily consumption in cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas.

The Planning Commission has been estimating the number of people below the poverty line at both the state and national level based on consumer expenditure information collected as part of NSSO surveys since the Sixth Five Year Plan.

(Due to an editing error, the poverty reduction of 15 percentage points (from 37 per cent to 22 per cent) was incorrectly described in the print edition as a decrease of 15 per cent.)

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