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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Poverty in India, lecture Notes, III B A Political Science

The state of being extremely poor. The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.  The word poverty comes from old French poverté (Modern French: pauvreté), from Latin paupertās, from pauper (poor). The English word "poverty" via Anglo-Norman povert. There are several definitions of poverty depending on the context of the situation it is placed in, and the views of the person giving the definition.
UN- Fundamentally, poverty is the inability of getting choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation
World Bank: Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.
Copenhagen Declaration: Absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to social services. The term 'absolute poverty' is sometimes synonymously referred to as 'extreme poverty.
The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way:“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action -- for the poor and the wealthy alike -- a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”

Poverty is usually measured as either absolute or relative

Absolute poverty refers to a set standard, which is consistent over time and between countries. First introduced in 1990, the dollar a day poverty line measured absolute poverty by the standards of the world’s poorest countries. The World Bank defined the new international poverty line as $1.25 a day for 2005 (equivalent to $1.00 a day in 1996 US prices). Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context, hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. Usually, relative poverty is measured as the percentage of population with income less than some fixed proportion of median income. There are several other different income inequality metrics, for example the Gini coefficient or the Theil Index.
The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor," based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people identify as part of poverty. These include: Precarious livelihoods-Excluded locations,Physical limitations,Gender relationships,Problems in social relationships,Lack of security,Abuse by those in power,Dis-empowering institutions,Limited capabilities,Weak community organizations.

Poverty in India
It is widespread, with the nation estimated to have a third of the world's poor. In 2010, the World Bank reported that 32.7% of the total Indian people fall below the international poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day (PPP) while 68.7% live on less than US$ 2 per day. Defining a poverty line is the first step in estimating poverty in India. There has been no uniform measure of poverty in India

Working Group of eminent Economists and social thinkers – 1962- The Working Group consisted of Prof. D.R. Gadgil, Dr. B.N. Ganguli, etc. It recommended in 1962 that the national minimum for each household of five persons (4 adult consumption units) should be not less than INR100 per month in terms of 1960–61 prices or INR20 per-capita. For urban areas, this figure will have to be raised to INR125 per month per household or INR25 per capita to cover the higher prices of the physical volume of commodities on which the national minimum is calculated.

V M Dandekar and Nilakantha Rath – 1971- V M Dandekar and Nilakantha Rath in their work poverty in India used an average calorie norm of 2,250 calories per capita per day for both rural and urban areas, as a criterion to define the poverty line.

Task Force on Projections of Minimum Needs and Effective Consumption Demand −1979- The "Task Force on Projections of Minimum Needs and Effective Consumption Demand", of the Perspective Planning Division, under Planning Commission defined the poverty line as the per-capita expenditure level at which the average per-capita, per day calorie intake was 2435 calories in rural areas and 2095 calories for urban areas

The Expert Group on 'Estimation of Proportion and Number of Poor' – Lakdawala Committee, 1993- The Expert Group recommended that the poverty line approach anchored in a calorie norm and associated with a fixed consumption basket (as recommended by the 1979 Task Force) might be continued. However, the Expert Group further recommended that the state –specific poverty lines be worked out.

Tendulkar line- 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.


Before we can hastily conclude that poverty is indeed vanishing from our land, both government and the middle classes must collectively affirm the right of every human being to a decent living standard, to nutritious and diverse food, to safe housing, to clean water, to quality education, to healthcare, and construct its poverty line on this basis. Only when people are able to access decent wages, sufficient food, good education, healthcare, decent housing, clean water and sanitation, should they be deemed to rise above poverty. That clearly has not yet happened for most among the millions that the Planning Commission claims have been freed from poverty. Successive government however distort actual statistics on poverty in India to win over people’s heart and compulsions of electoral politics also makes things worse on poverty lines.

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