Chapter 3 Poverty as a Challenge
Describe how the poverty line is estimated in India.
While determining the poverty line in India, a minimum level of food requirement, clothing, footwear, fuel and light, educational and medical requirements etc. are determined for subsistence. These physical quantities are multiplied by their prices in rupees.
The present formula for food requirement while estimating the poverty line is based on the desired calorie requirement. Food items such as cereals, pulses, vegetables, milk, oil, sugar etc. together provide these needed calories. The need of calories depends on age and the work done by a person. The accepted average calorie requirement in India is 2,400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2,100 calories per person per day in urban areas.
The calorie requirement of the people in rural areas is higher than that of the people living in urban areas because they do more physical work as compared to urban people. On the basis of the calculations for the year 2011-12, the poverty line for a person was fixed at t 816 per month for the rural areas and ? 1,000 per month for the urban areas.
Do you think that the present methodology of poverty estimation is appropriate?
I don’t think that the present methodology of poverty estimation is appropriate because each country uses an imaginary line that is considered appropriate for its existing level of development and its accepted minimum social norms. For example, a person not having a car in the United States may be considered poor. In India, owning a car is still considered a luxury.
Describe poverty trends in India since 1993.
There is a substantial decline in poverty ratios in India from about 55 percent in 1973 to 36 percent in 1993. The proportion of people below the poverty line further came down to about 26 percent in 2000. If the trend continues, people below the poverty line may come down to less than 20 percent in the next few years. Although the percentage of people living under poverty declined in the earlier two decades (1973– 1993), the number of poor remained stable at around 320 million for a fairly long period. The latest estimates indicate a significant reduction in the number of poor to about 260 million.
Discuss the major reasons for poverty in India.
The major reasons for poverty in India are:
- Colonial rule. India went through a long phase of low economic development under the British colonial administration. The policies of the colonial government ruined traditional handicrafts and discouraged the development of industries like textiles.
- High growth in population. The rapid growth of population, particularly among the poor, is one of the major reason for Indian poverty. Poor people are illiterate and have a traditional outlook. Hence, they are either ignorant of birth control measures or are not convinced of the need of birth control. Moreover, they consider a male child as an asset, i.e., as a source of income and a source of security in old age.
- Low rate of economic development. The actual rate of growth in India has always been below the required level. This has resulted in less job opportunities. This has been accompanied by a high growth rate of population.
- Unemployment. Another important factor for the incidence of high poverty in India is the high degree of unemployment and underemployment. The job seekers are increasing at a higher rate than the increase in the employment opportunities.
- Unequal distribution. Although national income of India has been increasing since 1951, it was not properly distributed among different sections of the society. A large proportion of increased income has been pocketed by a few rich. They have become richer. A majority of people live below the poverty line.
- Social factors. Various social factors, viz., caste system, joint family system, religious beliefs, law of inheritance etc. have blocked the path of economic development.
Identify the social and economic groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India.
The social groups vulnerable to poverty are:
- Scheduled castes households
- Scheduled tribes households
The economic groups vulnerable to poverty are:
- Rural agricultural labour households
- Urban casual labour households
Give an account of inter-state disparities of poverty in India.
The proportion of the poor is not the same in every state in India. Though there has been a decline in poverty in every state since from the early seventies, the poverty ratio varies from state to state. The states like Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha had above all India poverty levels. Bihar and Orissa continue to be the two poorest states with poverty ratios of 33.7% and 32.6%.
Both rural and urban poverty is quite high in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, and West Bengal have shown a significant decline in poverty. Public distribution of food grains focuses on human resource development, high agricultural development, and land reform measures are some of the factors responsible for the decline in poverty in these states.
Describe global poverty trends.
The proportion of people in developing countries living on less than $1.90 per day has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to 10.68 percent in 2013. There has been a substantial reduction in global poverty. However, the reduction is marked with great regional differences. Due to rapid economic growth and massive investment in human resource development, poverty has declined substantially in China and Southeast Asian countries.
In South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan), the decline has also been rapid. In Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty has declined from 54 percent in 1990 to 41 percent in 2013. It has also resurfaced in some of the former socialist countries like Russia, where officially it was non-existent earlier. In Latin America, the ratio of poverty has also declined from 16% in 1990 to 5.4% in 2013.
Describe the current government strategy of poverty alleviation.
A common method used to measure poverty is based on income or consumption levels. A person is considered poor if his or her income or consumption level falls below a given “minimum level” necessary to fulfill basic needs.
Answer the following questions briefly:
(i) What do you understand by human poverty?
(ii) Who are the poorest of the poor?
(iii) What are the main features of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005?
(i) Human poverty is a concept that goes beyond the limited view of poverty as a lack of income. It refers to the denial of political, social, and economic opportunities to an individual to maintain a “reasonable” standard of living. Illiteracy, lack of job opportunities, lack of access to proper healthcare and sanitation, caste and gender discrimination etc. are all components of human poverty.
(ii) Women, elderly people, and female infants are systematically denied equal access to resources available to the family. Therefore women, children (especially the girl child), and old people are the poorest of the poor.
(iii) The National Rural Employment Act provides 100 days assured employment every year to every rural household in 200 districts. Later, the scheme will be extended to 600 districts. One-third of the proposed jobs would be reserved for women. The central government will also establish National Employment Guarantee Funds. Similarly, state governments will establish State Employment Guarantee Funds for the implementation of the scheme.