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Updated: August 6, 2013 04:32 IST

Understanding the poverty line

Mihir Shah
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What it signifies, what it does not tell us and what it will definitely not be used for

Great shrillness has marked the current furore over the Planning Commission’s latest poverty estimates. No surprise, therefore, that understanding and wisdom have flowed in an inverse proportion. Surprising and sad, however, is the fact that some political leaders have at times spoken in a manner deeply hurtful to the aam aadmi and others have shown complete lack of understanding of what these estimates are all about.

A Committee chaired by one of India’s finest economists, former Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and the National Statistical Commission, the late Suresh Tendulkar, computed poverty lines for 2004-05 at a level that was equivalent, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, to one U.S. dollar per person per day, which was the internationally accepted poverty line at that time.

Tendulkar line

PPP refers to a method used to work out the money that would be needed to purchase the same goods and services in two places. Across countries, this is used to calculate an implicit foreign exchange rate, the PPP rate, at which a given amount of money has the same purchasing power in different countries. The 2004-05 Tendulkar poverty line was Rs.16, which in PPP terms, is equivalent to one U.S. dollar per person per day.

The new poverty estimates of Rs. 29 per person per day recently released by the Planning Commission are equivalent, in PPP terms, to the new internationally accepted poverty line of $1.25. The suggestion that somehow this much money is enough for people to survive in any conceivable form has given rise to understandable public anger, much exacerbated by insensitive suggestions by some members of the ruling party that even less could be enough.

There could not be a more ridiculous tragedy of errors on all sides. All that the Planning Commission has done is to use the most credible source of consumption data available in the country (the National Sample Survey Organisation) to compute poverty estimates that are both on parity with international standards and enable comparisons within India over time and across States. There is no value judgment being made about the adequacy of this amount of money for any meaningful purpose. All that is being done is to provide an estimate (using the very same methodology) that allows one to compare the number of people below a certain consumption level (aka poverty line) in 1993-94, 2004-05 and 2011-12. Nothing more, nothing less.

Huge decline

The data show that the rate of rise of consumption expenditure in the last decade far exceeds the rate in the previous decade. While those below this consumption poverty line actually went up marginally between 1993-94 and 2004-05, they fell dramatically from 41 crore in 2004-05 to 27 crore in 2011-12. This huge decline in the number of people below this poverty line needs to be taken very seriously.

Ascertaining precisely the contribution of the Central government in this achievement is not a straightforward matter, since it is not government action alone that determines the course of an economy. And State governments also play a crucial role. This is a matter of research and more satisfactory answers will emerge only over time.

However, there can be no denying that Verdict 2004, in which the people of this country voted with their feet to reject the slogan of India Shining, placed great public pressure on the new government at the Centre to move in the direction of more inclusive growth. And it is clear that since 2004, there has been an enormous and unprecedented rise in expenditure by the Government of India on programmes of social inclusion, such as MGNREGA. There is also overwhelming evidence of a rise in wages of the poorest people in rural India. How much of this is directly or indirectly attributable to MGNREGA is another scholarly question, on which divergent views have been expressed. But no one disagrees that MGNREGA certainly played a role here. Nor can it be denied that during this period India became one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

What is even more important, however, is to clarify what the poverty line does not signify. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, there is no suggestion whatsoever that the benefits of government programmes will be restricted to those below this poverty line. The aim is not, as many canards make out, to artificially or falsely reduce the poverty numbers in order to score political brownie points or to bring down the allocations that have to be made on anti-poverty programmes.

Landmark contribution

Quite to the contrary, the incontrovertibly clear landmark contribution made by the UPA-II government is that for the first time in the last 20 years, the poverty line has been delinked from entitlements of the people of India. Indeed, with the 12th Plan, this government has taken the first steps in acknowledging that poverty is a multi-dimensional concept that cannot be reduced to consumption expenditure alone. To illustrate, till now if you were to be regarded as a beneficiary of the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) or the Total Sanitation Campaign, you needed to possess a BPL card. The distribution of these cards was plagued by humungous errors of inclusion and exclusion, such that many of the really poor would not be included but those with muscle power at the local level managed to hustle BPL cards even if they were not poor.

During the 12th Plan, all this is poised to change with the enshrining of the principle — “programme-specific indicators for programme-specific entitlements.” This is a clear recognition that poverty has many dimensions, each of which is to be tackled by different programmes and the benefits of each programme will either be universal (as in MGNREGA, health, primary education, sanitation, mid-day meals, etc.) or be based on data on specific deprivations such as homelessness.

The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) conducted by the Government of India, in partnership with all State Governments, is nearing completion. The SECC data will be presented in gram and ward sabhas across the country over the next few months and this will enable a kind of social audit of this data and foster citizen awareness and participation in the process. The SECC contains invaluable information on homelessness, manual scavenging, disability and a host of other deprivations, all of which are major constituents of poverty. These will be used to identify the people entitled to specific benefits. Thus, the homeless will be the beneficiaries of IAY and the disabled will get disability pensions, irrespective of whether or not they have a BPL card. The food security legislation will cover 67 per cent Indians, which is more than three times the number of people living below the consumption poverty line (22 per cent).

Of course, whether the consumption poverty line should remain as low as $1.25 is a relevant question. This is the internationally accepted definition of absolute poverty. There is also a notion of moderate poverty pegged at two U.S. dollars. But my counter-questions are: even if we were to raise the poverty line to two U.S. dollars, would it be right to exclude people from benefits of government programmes such as PDS, based on such a line? And should a uniform line, at whatever level, be at all used, in an indiscriminate manner, across programmes? As has been done for decades now?

To its abiding credit, UPA II answers these questions in the negative. Almost all its programmes are now either universal or based on deprivation-specific data. They have no reference to any kind of poverty line. The data on consumption expenditure poverty are used only for the purpose of comparison over time and across States. There is a clear recognition that poverty has many dimensions and data on each of these are used to guide programmes meant to overcome those forms of poverty. Thus, nutritional poverty data come from the National Family Health Survey, housing poverty and disability data from the SECC, sanitation poverty from the 2011 census and so on.

In fact, the 12th Plan clearly acknowledges that even if the figure of people below the consumption poverty line were to fall to zero, removing poverty in India will remain a challenge till every Indian has access to safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, health and education. That is the challenge we need to focus on, rather than splitting hairs over the singular estimation of poverty.

(The writer is Member, Planning Commission)

More In: Lead | Opinion

There is no point arguing over a line.We need to see where the real problems lie-Corruption,Population and Migration.Does the learned members of planning commission ever uttered a single word regarding these basic problems?

from:  S Karmokar
Posted on: Aug 10, 2013 at 23:39 IST

This is for the first time someone has actually tried to throw light on non glamorous aspects of government policies. Government accepting that 65 % Indians are poor is a fact that not even urban people have a hard time accepting. These minute but significant details should also be made public through media companies instead of focussing on comments by MLAs.

from:  Prateek Dutta
Posted on: Aug 7, 2013 at 03:44 IST

It is natural that a member of Planning Commission will try to defend
the indefensible by his "scholarly" article.If it is a hypothetical
line it should have been stored in the archives of planning commission
and circulated among the economic wizards who have brought our country
to the present state after 66 year of independence and planning.
The author should understand what the people in general understand by
poverty line. They believe that it is much beyond the bare survival
like an animal. A person should have enough to eat (unlike the learned
writer, the poor do not calculate calories), a roof over his head (may
be rented) and a basic education for his children. All the above
should be available to him for the whole year. One learned commentator
has stated that the media should be taught how to present facts. I
think it is not the media, but the members of the Planning Commission,
who should be taught to look to the ground realities from their
exalted positions.

from:  N R Panigrahi
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 18:27 IST

What the government can do is set a different limit for each dimension of poverty. Like for daily consumption it is $1.25. So set a limit for health, sanitation, education and then draft policies for each dimension. I thinj this will ensure accountability of providing right service to the right person, obviously at the right time.

from:  Sanjay Bhatt
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 17:11 IST

The distribution of resources in India is highly uneven, this is true since the colonial period and there are certain statistical methods which were adopted to measure these disparities such as Poverty, income level, Deprivation etc.
The author has right pointed out, that this is just to measure absolute poverty as per international standards and has got nothing to do with Subsidies given by the government.
What is more painful is the fuss in media to "STOP THIS SHAME", without knowing the basis on which poverty line is measured. Truly speaking Media in recent times is misleading and there is much need to have an independent regulatory authority for framing broader rules and make media accountable.

from:  Madhav
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 10:52 IST

If an government officer has not shown due diligence when taking action, he/she stands suspended. I don't think anybody with commonsense will accept that the planning commission has now shown due diligence when measuring poverty. But is he punishable? Why there is not yardstick to measure the efficiency of the governance of the politicians.

from:  m marudah
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 04:51 IST

I understand what the author of the article is trying to convey.
<Start>BPL is a mere measurement, is not a complete and true
indicator of poverty. But the government is anyways going ahead with
separate indicators for different programs!!<The End>

But i just do not think it still addresses anything substantial
besides trying to appease enraged readers. Here is why:

1. If BPL is not a true indicator, then why even publish it in the
media and make a mockery by politicians trying to get some brownie
points for these?
2. Why not agree that this is just an indicator and present other so-
called dimensions that truly reflect the progress? How about
indicators showing effectiveness of programs?
3. Where is the commonsense when we do all these discussions? I
understand that "some things" have gotten better since last 20 years.
But why not look at last 5 years? Do you see transparency and
sincerity in ruling govts? Do you think aam aadmi has access to
health/water/home/dignified existence

from:  Joe
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 01:30 IST

when the results of socio-economic and caste census are still awaited,how came the government decided to include 67percent of the population in the food bill?and that too would be imposed on the states over the top by the commission almost arbitrarily. It seems in the beginning of the article that auther is obsessed with "doller terms',while in the latter part questions it. The impression of this whole narrative is confusing and self-contradicting.First there is a poverty line, then this sample survey without inflation's real costs, and now these 67% people,adding with this new kind of census. The first one is for the world to show and to escape humiliation,and the second one is for the voters, and the rest? only mandarins know....

from:  abhishek tripathi
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 01:09 IST

If You think that this poverty line estimation is so useless and
misnomer that "AAM AADMI" should not bother about it then why does the
govt. invest lot of resources in forming committees to come up with this
estimate? The problem with our beloved country is that we the JAN GAN
MAN do not speak the truth, we speak what pleases us or what defends us.

from:  Vimal Shukla
Posted on: Aug 6, 2013 at 01:01 IST

Over the last decade UPA may played an considerable role in achieving low population of poverty. But this is mainly obtained through subsidies, various alleviation programmes which actually made section of people in comfort zone by under utilising their potential. Poverty consists many things other than consumption as mentioned here. But the allievation of poverty should only be achieved through proper utilisation of human resources. Not by telling someone to sit in home and promising him that the govt will give him free grains. Ultilasation of human resources and alleviating properrty by that can be made possible through very effective property awareness alleviation programmes and monitoring the effect of awarness or making the effect of awarness in positive way. May a separate dept shall be created in villages and poverty availing places for proper awarness of poverty and making them engaging in proper alleviation measures privately. It may generate employment also in that dept.

from:  Sasidhar Subramaniyam
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 23:51 IST

What exactly should be the poverty line is a big question. If one was to go by the comparative figures I would like to ask government if in 2004 16 Rs was the figure how can it say that 29 Rs in this day is a good equivalent figure. To give a good example I would like to take to essential commodities who prices remain same be it a city or a rural setting.
1) Fuel prices: in 2004 a liter of petrol coasted 37 Rs, today it cost over 75 Rs. Another concrete example.
2) Look at the size of the 50 paisa coin in 2002-2004 era and compare it to today's 1 Re coin compare their size and weight. one would be amazed to find they are of same size and weight indicating today 1 Re coin can buy metal worth the same amount as that of 50 paisa as it could be in 2004.

So in term of value indian money is loosing its buying power. Salaries haven't doubled but buying power has halved. Real estate prices gone up 10X average man can't buy a shelter in any city.

from:  Rohit Khanna
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 23:38 IST

A reality base writing , i think we are living in multi-dimensional society there every thing is different from each other so definitely approch toward multi dimensional problems effecting poor or less capable or backwards is also should be multi dimensional for educational, poverty, nutritional , employment etc. We should have many plans like SECC. Poverty line is emerged a debatable issue but I think deprive from all basic needs accept educational, nutritional, employment, health is poor.

from:  Chanchal Kumawat
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 23:35 IST

This article subtly accedes that the estimation was indeed an erroneous report, we have not grown up enough to build a model which in our socio and geographc conditions cannot define a poor correctly both interms of calorie intake and PPP. Taking international standards is the one of the reason that is shown in the article to coverup withe absurd calculation of poverty line PPP, this indeed shows the shameless attitude of our commission members, hasn't this commission used it commonsense when it reached that 28 rupees mark?

from:  Raju
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 23:27 IST

Poverty from being defined in terms of in-taken calories, it has been broadened into a multidimensional concept. It is to be said that a person is not poor if he has access to food required for nourishment, access to basic health facilities, access to employment, house with sanitation and water supply. Moreover to be evaluated on his choices to have a life with dignity and sense of participation in the progress of society.Though the author highlighted the issues at its best, he conceded to the fact that poverty has decreased to a large extent. Going by the above criteria, it is well known fact that more than 50% of our citizens are still poor. Mere consumption expenditure numbers show rise in incomes of the people but not the quality of life.Government initiatives in that direction are welcome but has to be more target driven and inclusive to achieve zero-poverty and not merely coming with numbers to misguide the people though they are true but not comprehensive.

from:  T.Rahul Kumar Reddy
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 22:59 IST

Thank you for your excellent article, hope this will finishes all the doubt's in common man,but if the lines is not meant for defining poverty then why should it be called as poverty line..

from:  Kiran
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 21:55 IST

Thank you sir,for your excellent article, the much shrilling debate regarding poverty line will almost over with your article,major problem of this kind of approach from planning commission is arisen by naming the comparison line with the poverty ,it created big confusion in poor mans mind even in political brains

from:  Kiran
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 21:50 IST

1) Just forget about the numbers. Look around you. You will see that in the past 20 years there is significant reduction poverty.

It is due to :

a) Increase in food production. Let the readers look for the numbers.
b) There is substantial increase in (1) Food Subsidy (2) Fertilizer subsidy (3)Transport subsidy (4) Electricity subsidy (5) Fuel subsidy, etc.
c) There has been substantial increase in health care investments
d) MGNREAG has made significant impact poverty reduction ( But it has made a negative impact by bringing down the growth rate in the last few years. I am surprised that no one has ever identified it ! It is simple common sense. Productive labor is wasted due to this program).
e) There has been near double digit growth rates for nearly a decade.

In the whole debate there is one important thing that has been overlooked by everyone. That is the Purchase Price Parity, which even this author did touch but did not elaborate.

from:  K.Periasamy
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 21:46 IST

May the approach/effort to identfy the actual targetted 'Janta' for different welfare scheme work and bring answer to the basic concept of Poverty alleviation i.e. accessibility and affordability of Food,Water,Sanitation, health, Education, Social Security and a dignified life.

Its not merely the statistics or numbers that are going go do but the actual will of govt. towards marginalized section of the country.

from:  Vikas Kumar SINHA
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 21:33 IST

Forget Tendulkar Committee's thesis. What has happened to its review to have been
done by Rangarajan Committee ? In any case, theoreticians in Planning Commission
and elsewhere should forget statistical modeling and instead, go around the country
with a daily allowance of say Rs 50/- and see how the amount serves to fill their
bellies and based on this come up with projections to draw the poverty line on a
realistic basis.

from:  K S Raghunathan
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 21:30 IST

Thanks to Mr. Mihir Shah for trying to defend the indefensible. The
World Bank poverty definition based on 1.25$ and 2$ is archaic,
outmoded and controversial. It has been rejected long back (for
instance, 'How not to count the poor' by Reddy, SG and Pogge TW,
2002). The mischievousness and political nature of the timing of the
release of the Planning commission report cannot be missed. Also if
the whole exercise as defended by Mr. Mihir Shah is to de-link the
schemes then why at all have the BPL classification? Make all the
programs universal instead of segmenting on the basis of unreliable
poverty estimates? Also it is wrong to say that all the current
programs are all delinked to BPL cards. From fee waiver for RTI
applications to Right to Education admissions to the various health
insurance schemes all the programs are linked to having BPL cards.

from:  Prasanna Saligram
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 20:10 IST

Mr Shah has written a very scholarly and eloquent justification of the calculations done by the Planning Commission. As he himself has pointed out these estimates are not used for policy making by the Govt. If it is so it begs the question why such an exercise is needed in the first place. What is the purpose and relevance (to India) of using a so-called international figure of $1 or $1.25? I am afraid by doing such silly exercises the Planning Commission exhibits itself as the haven for high-IQ but low-wisdom people. Just like the beltway of the US New Delhi has bred intellectuals who generate any amount of empty jargon while living in self-created charmed circles. Like the proverbial humpty-dumpty all these king's men are not able to put the economy back. I don't think it will make one iota of difference to India if all these economists were to retire tomorrow.

from:  Sreenivas
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 19:57 IST

Whatever be the reason for the poverty line estimate of Indian Planning
Commission, its a fact that a citizen cant meets his/her basic needs
with that 27 rs per day.. Why Indian authorities doing this, for justify
the labeling of incredible India???

from:  Mumtaz Jahan
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 19:53 IST

I agree wholeheartedly with "javak" who calls for abolishing the
planning commission. These people can not communicate even with all
their education. If they can not communicate with common man what
they copy from the west, that means they do not understand the
problem. Now, do I believe in the solutions they come up with? Their
incompetence is reflected clearly in the last paragraph.Clearly, in
their magic number they have not included "safe drinking water,
sanitation, housing, nutrition, health and education." Can they not
have confidence in rejecting the "world over" technique and ask
themselves that there could be something wrong with this and can we
come up with a solution of our own? All they have to send Mr Shaw or
Mr. Ahluwalia to 2 different places live for 3 months going through
the motions of setting up residence. Or cut their per diem when they
travel to Rs 30 a day.

from:  p. satyanarayana
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 19:21 IST

I was wondering who came up with the concept of this PPP which doesn't
has any relevance in monitoring poverty far less reducing it.
About MGNREGA, CAG already pointed out its benefits and doesn't need
further explanation about the ways it reduces poverty of selected few.
Still we keep pouring our money in this blackhole rather than making
people self-sufficient or developing vocational skills for small scale
industries, we use to dig the same road every week and rebuilt it just
for implementing MGNREGA. Dont know how longer we could keep doing it
as we have limited resources.
Food security bill is a nice concept, but in practice the food will be
similar to mid-day meals provided to children in schools or may be
poorer. We should first try to review first our currently going plans
like PDS, Anganwadi , Mid-day Meals and MGNREGA etc rather than
implementing a newer and bigger project which we don't have capability
to implement correctly and honestly.

from:  Dilip
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 18:11 IST

Glad to read this article and happy to see the clearance of the controversial debate of the poverty line by the UPA-2 GOVERNMENT.

from:  BIKASH DOLEY
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 17:33 IST

We need to focus on apl alongside bpl because together they consist about 50/ of population.also poverty is nt jst confind to labour class there are so many families who r serviving on a little govt pentions of their late husband who cnt b counted even they live in poverty.v hv nid to change d sophisticated criteria of poverty as mentiond by the auther

from:  Namrata
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 17:08 IST

The point that the entire dominant discourse, including this article,
misses is that people are much better off than they were 20 years ago.
Instead of all this pointless hair-splitting ask your auto-driver,
your maid, a landless labourer and the answer, notwithstanding current
inflation, will be, " I am much better off today than I was 20 years
ago, when managing even 2 square meals a day was a challenge!"
The growth generated by the reforms in the nineties has created
gainful employment and generated resources that can be spent on
infrastructure and on improving our human capital through health&
education.
So why don't we draw solace from all this, recognise that our current
economic woes are primarily due to the great recession and that our
energies are better spent creating an enabling environment, reforming
the bureaucracy, empowering the excluded. Above all, we need a
national conversation that is less obsessed with the concerns of the
rich, empowering instead of disempowering.

from:  Dharen Chadha
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 16:55 IST

Thanks for bringing clarity on this debate which has held government and people in zone of cloudiness.

from:  Himanshu Khatri
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 16:36 IST

The internecine conflict of window dressing is confusing as everybody shows their own favourable figure...but what reality demands is in great peril as no one bothers...its time not to divide but unite.

from:  Prabhat
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 16:02 IST

After reading "understanding poverty Line" by Dr. Mihir Shah, my own opinion is that the "below poverty line" is a mysterious line which is being discussed over the decades and will be continued to be discussed in decades to come.
I remember on April 8, 1972 I had come from my village in Haryana to attend a seminar "Quit poverty - How?". It was held in New Delhi's Gandhi Peace Foundation. Speakers were Hon'ble Shri Morarji Bhai Desai, Prof A.M. Khusro, Dr. C. Subramaniam and other prominent economists. The purpose of my attending the seminar was to know to find ways so that people of my village suffering from poverty can be ascertained. To my utter surprise all the participants were discussing the "below poverty line" and were trying to estimate the number of persons in India living the poverty line and what was poverty line. It is still being discussed a mysterious line indeed.

from:  SC Aggarwal
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 14:45 IST

A smart person learns from mistakes and does not repeat them. If India
were smart, it would have banished the planning commission long ago, as
a colossal and unaffordable blunder. Opium smoke signals like this
article continue to emerge from that ivory tower to intoxicate the
people into believing that the monumental waste of public resources
that has bled the nation over the years in an elusive pursuit of
eradicating poverty through populist gimmicks, is preferable to
improving law and order, basic infrastructure, education, health and
judiciary. That leaky, harebrained, megalomaniac and totally non-
productive schemes that fuel inflation should be pursued in preference
to affordable finance and quality seeds and raw materials to farmers
and entrepreneurs to produce more. Populist talk is cheap, especially
when there are well heeled fat cats of the planning commission doing
the spin doctoring. Really useful work combines smart thinking and hard
work, qualities missing in today's India

from:  Javak
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 14:40 IST

I can't imagine that anyone can defend this current reference of
Rs.33 in Urban & Rs 27 in Rural households as a poverty line.
Writer is right in saying that poverty is multi-dimensional and
doesn't depend only on consumption expenditure but when you are
deciding poverty with expenditures only, please don't use these
princely prices and try to come up with results adhering to multi-
dimensionality and who needs low poverty(in statistics), what we
actually need is exact current situation and methodology to deal
with it.

from:  Naveen Kumar
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 14:24 IST

A laudable article sir. The planning commission has done a great job calculating the poverty line. And the recommendation that government schemes should not be based on poverty line that is estimated is a very good one. This estimation of poverty is more of a figure which measures the time trend changes in poverty.

from:  Sdningthou
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 14:11 IST

I don't understand that why we are considering poverty line of 2004-05 as our base for calculating for current year poverty line estimates.The base is old and obsolete. Just by indexing 2004-05 poverty line estimates,one cannot arrive arrive at correct poverty line estimates.Its high time to arrive at our poverty line estimates by following the approach of zero based budgeting, where we shall consider the estimates of essential basket of goods and services from the scratch.

from:  Rahul Narang
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 13:33 IST

Indian Spring! is the next option to this which could suffice gaps in
poverty line of our country.


from:  Swaroop Sharma
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 12:48 IST

Since its independence, the issue of poverty within India has remained a prevalent concern. The division of resources, as well as wealth, is uneven in India – this disparity creates different poverty ratios for different states. For instance, states such as Delhi and Punjab have low poverty ratios. On the other hand, almost half the population in states like Bihar and Orissa live below the poverty line. A number of factors are responsible for poverty in the rural areas of India. Rural populations primarily depend on agriculture, which is highly dependant on rain patterns and the monsoon season. Inadequate rain and improper irrigation facilities can obviously cause low, or in some cases, zero production of crops.
Additionally, the Indian family unit is often large, which can amplify the effects of poverty. Also, the caste system still prevails in India, and this is a major reason for rural poverty – people from the lower casts are often deprived of the most basic facilities and opportunities. Often the Indian government has planned and implemented poverty eradication programmes, but the benefits of these programmes are yet to bear fruits. The phenomenal increase in population in the cities is one of the main reasons for poverty in the urban areas of India.
In the end, poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens to divide a nation because of the issue of inequalities, in particular income inequality. This happens when wealth in a country is poorly distributed among its citizens. In other words, when a tiny majority has all the money.
The feature of a rich or developed country for example is the presence of a middle class, but recently we have seen even here in European countries gradually losing the middle class, hence the increasing number of riots and clashes.
In a society, poverty is a very dangerous factor that can destabilize an entire country. The Arab Sprig is another good example , in all of the countries concerned, the revolts started because of the lack of jobs and high poverty levels.

from:  kurt waschnig
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 11:49 IST

Since its independence, the issue of poverty within India has
remained a prevalent concern. The division of resources, as well as
wealth, is uneven in India – this disparity creates different poverty
ratios for different states. For instance, states such as Delhi and
Punjab have low poverty ratios. On the other hand, almost half the
population in states like Bihar and Orissa live below the poverty line.
A number of factors are responsible for poverty in the rural areas of
India. Rural populations primarily depend on agriculture, which is
highly dependant on rain patterns and the monsoon season.
Inadequate rain and improper irrigation facilities can obviously
cause low, or in some cases, zero production of crops.
Additionally, the Indian family unit is often large, which can amplify
the effects of poverty. Also, the caste system still prevails in India,
and this is a major reason for rural poverty – people from the lower
casts are often deprived of the most basic facilities and
opportunities. Often the Indian government has planned and
implemented poverty eradication programmes, but the benefits of
these programmes are yet to bear fruits. The phenomenal increase
in population in the cities is one of the main reasons for poverty in
the urban areas of India.
In the end, poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens
to divide a nation because of the issue of inequalities, in particular
income inequality. This happens when wealth in a country is poorly
distributed among its citizens. In other words, when a tiny majority
has all the money.
The feature of a rich or developed country for example is the
presence of a middle class, but recently we have seen even here in
European countries gradually losing the middle class, hence the
increasing number of riots and clashes.
In a society, poverty is a very dangerous factor that can destabilize
an entire country. The Arab Sprig is another good example , in all of
the countries concerned, the revolts started because of the lack of
jobs and high poverty levels.

from:  kurt waschnig
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 11:05 IST

I would like to refer another article on the Hindu about how the poverty line misses the picture because the circumstances of the people have changed over time.

How are the UPA-II schemes all universal? The FSB is clearly not universal... it remains targeted. 75% of rural poor and 50% urban. The urban poor who live in slums and on the streets face exclusion due to lack of identification. The rural poor are at the mercy of the Gram Sabha to place them in the IRDP list. Universal means universal... i. e. everyone. If you'd. like an example you could check out TN, Kerala, which have near universal PDS

from:  Pranjal
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 10:58 IST

Leave apart academic discussion on poverty line. Let members of the planning commission demonstrate in reality can any one even to survive in a village with this petty amount per day. For a survival, leave alone to make a living, he/she needs right from the morning tea/milk/coffee, food in the noon and evening [forget about breakfast]fuel to cook food, water to drink and cook food [forget about bathing and washing clothes which too require soap], for food bare minimum food-grains [coarse cereals/wheat, rice] [forget about vegetables and fruits], edible oil. What about expenses towards sanitation, education, health, dwelling house, clothes, transport between house and place of work at least. And last but not the least is how to meet expenses on minimum needs of utensils, sleeping materials, lighting, child birth, marriage, death, social ceremonies. This is just a broad-based needs which can be scientifically worked out taking random/representative samples.

from:  Dr Amrit Patel
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 10:49 IST

This is right for people but government should think about the true status of people.our country are facing many problem .so this is moral duty of government that they fram a good policy .

from:  RAM SHANKAR SONI
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 10:40 IST

...access to basic needs; but the poorer people have many more children; birth control
measures need to implemented more in rural areas where it is the only source of
entertainment.

from:  Simon Richard
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 09:46 IST

Thank you very much for the article. Very well interpreted by the
author.

from:  kumar
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 09:42 IST

Awesome cartoon .best way to explain things!

from:  Siva
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 07:34 IST

Poverty line falls to zero!! This reminds me of a statement from politicians-even though milk prize have gone up-people are still buying ice cream, Rs.1 is enough to buy food. Just shows that harsh reality that-poverty line falling to zero is hard/ but politicians will speak it as victory because it is not possible for 100% people falling to below poverty !! Every person savings is having a shark bite but we are still measuring the career success by being in the job!! Not by comfort to commute, health care affordability and preserving open space if any!!

from:  marudah
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 07:00 IST

Author spent a lot of his energy in making readers believe that BPL
line is now redundant as government schemes are moving towards
deprivation based indices. This is far from true. The BPL card matters
a lot while getting access to Health, education, PDS etc.

By selecting homeless for IAY benefits, author tries to distinguish
between poor people and homeless people. But does such artificial
difference between homeless and poor really exist in the real life?

Most of all, if author strongly believes that our welfare programs are
moving away from BPL line concept, then why we are continuing to
classify certain section as BPL defined purely on monetary consumption
figures? Author actually made the case for redundancy of BPL line and
thus its discontinuance.

Its ridiculous to see that PC is justifying its lower BPL estimate
even after all round criticism by different sections.

from:  Mahesh J
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 06:42 IST

Most poor defense for a flawed report. Base on PPP even, a result of
$1.25 is most ridiculous, even most poor in the country will need
minimum around 3k to feed one person comfortably through out a day. So
if a line can not feed a person even, what is the purpose of the line.
What is the purpose of the line, that is not being used in any
decision making at best. The talk of Indira Awas Yojana he was very
fond of, is a major failure at best with most funds unused or misused.

Yes we have increased our social spending but benefits has not
trickled down to much needed level. Spending on Non food items is a
just a mirage for government. One has to break down, what non food
items, and one will realize it is more on production of agriculture
produce and transportation and so on. Ultimately costing them more to
survive by a decent life.

from:  Sudhanshu Kumar Ashwini
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 06:23 IST

Yes,its quite unfortunate that planning commission has used such an
inappropriate method to calculate the no. of BPL families.Obviously
this move can be seen as a political weapon launched by govt. towards
AAM AADMI but inorder to impress them...its like killing two birds with
one stone..lowering the no. of poors in country might have been genesis
of AAM AADMI's faith in govt. and lowering of govt. budget as well...

from:  Shubham
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 04:56 IST

Congratulations Keshav-ji, brilliant cartoon! Sums up
succinctly how the ruling party is massaging the % (percentage) - up or
down, depending on whether they want to justify the Food Security Bill,
or claim fantastic poverty reduction using laughable poverty lines - and
how the poor Mango People (aam aadmi), young (black beard) or old (grey
beard), remain precisely where they always were, wearing a towel-like
piece of cloth wrapped round their waist (not a dhoti or a pair of
shorts), and a vest (not a shirt), with sunken eyes, emaciated body, an
empty food bowl in their hands and looking vacantly into infinity or
space (as if to express their utter helplessness in the scheme of things
that passes for modern democracy in India, where the only people to get
rich beyond imagination are crooked and corrupt politicians and their
friends in business, bureaucracy or judiciary)!

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Aug 5, 2013 at 02:44 IST
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