INTRODUCTION

This chapter deals with one of the most difficult challenges faced by independent India—poverty. There are various dimensions of poverty:

Above all poverty means living with a sense of helplessness. Poverty is one of the major problems in India. Every fourth person in India is poor. This means, roughly 270 million (27 crore) people in India live in poverty 2011-12. India has the largest concentration of poor in the world. Mahatma Gandhi always insisted that India would be truly independent only when the poorest of its people become free of human suffering.

POVERTY AS SEEN BY SOCIAL SCIENTIST

Social scientist looks at poverty through a variety of indicators. Income and consumption level of people usually taken as the indicator of poverty. But now other other social indicators are considered like illiteracy level, lack of job opportunities etc. social exclusion and vulnerability are becoming common indicators of poverty.

 Social exclusion: it is a process through which individuals or groups are excluded from facilities, benefits and opportunities that others (their “betters”) enjoy. It can be both a couse as well as consequences of poverty in usual sense.

Vulnerability: vulnerability to poverty is a measure, which describes the greater probability of certain communities or individuals of becoming or remaining poor in the coming years.

POVERTY LINE

It’s a common method used to measure poverty which is based on the 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 the basic needs.

Different countries use different poverty lines because each has different necessities to satisfy the basic needs. For example a person not having car in us may be considered poor. In India, owning a car is still considered luxury.

While determining the poverty line in India, a minimum level of food requirement, clothing, footwear, fuel and light, educational and medical requirement, 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. On the basis of these calculations, for the year 2011–12, the poverty line for a person was fixed at Rs 816 per month for rural areas and Rs 1000 for urban areas.

The poverty line is estimated periodically (normally every five years) by conducting sample surveys. These surveys are carried out by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO). Many international organizations like the World Bank use a uniform standard for the poverty line: minimum availability of the equivalent of $1.90 per person per day (2011, ppp).

POVERTY ESTIMATES

There is a substantial decline in poverty ratios in India from about 45 per cent in 1993-94 to 22 per cent in 2011-12 (Tendulkar methodology).

Vulnerable Group

There is significant percentage of social groups (sc,st) and economic group (rural agricultural labour households, urban casual labour household) are vulnerable to poverty.

INTER-STATE DISPARITIES

There has been significant decline in poverty in Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana etc but Bihar and Orissa continue to be the poorest state.

GLOBAL POVERTY SCENARIO

Poverty declined substantially in China and south east Asian countries as a result of rapid economic growth and massive investment in human resource development. Number of poors in China has come down from 88.3% in 1981 to 0.7% in 2015 while 21.2% people of India are under poverty (World Bank report 2011)

The new sustainable development goals of the United Nations (UN) proposes ending poverty of all types by 2030.

CAUSES OF POVERTTY

  • The policies of the colonial British government ruined traditional handicrafts and discouraged development of industries like textiles. This resulted in less job opportunities and low growth rate of incomes.
  • With the spread of irrigation and the Green revolution, many job opportunities were created in the agriculture sector. But the effects were limited to some parts of India.
  • Another feature of high poverty rates has been the huge income inequalities. One of the major reasons for this is the unequal distribution of land and other resources.
  • Since poor people hardly have any savings, they borrow. Unable to repay because of poverty, they become victims of indebtedness. So the high level of indebtedness is both the cause and effect of poverty.

ANTI- POVERTY MEASURES

The current anti-poverty strategy of the government is based broadly on two planks (1) promotion of economic growth (2) targeted anti-poverty programmes.

There is a strong link between economic growth and poverty reduction. Economic growth widens opportunities and provides the resources needed to invest in human development. This also encourages people to send their children to schools in the hope of getting better economic returns from investing in education. But growth in the agriculture sector is not seen as expected inspite of economic growth. So large numbers of poor people depended on agriculture not directly benefitted from economic growth.

In this circumstances, there are many targeted anti-poverty programmes are formulated to affect poverty directly or indirectly. Some of them are:

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NAREGA): it aims to provide 100 days of wage employment to every household to ensure livelihood security in rural areas. It also aimed at sustainable development to address the cause of draught, deforestation and soil erosion. One-third of the proposed jobs have been reserved for women. The range of wage rate for different states and union territories lies in between Rs 281 per day (for the workers in Haryana) to Rs 168 per day (for the workers of Bihar and Jharkhand).

  • Prime Minister Rozgar Yozana, 1993(PMRY): The aim of the programme is to create self-employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth in rural areas and small towns. They are helped in setting up small business and industries.

  • Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP): it was launched in 1995. The aim of the programme is to create self- employment opportunities in rural areas and small towns. A target for creating 25 lakh new jobs has been set for the programme under the Tenth Five Year plan.

  • Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY): it was launched in 1999. The programme aims at bringing the assisted poor families above the poverty line by organising them into self help groups (SHGs) through a mix of bank credit and government subsidy.

  • Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yozana (PMGY): it is launched in 2000. Under this scheme additional central assistance is given to states for basic services such as primary health, primary education, rural shelter, rural drinking water and rural electrification.

  • Antyodaya Anna Yozana (AAY): it was launched in 2000. The programme aims at reducing hunger among the poorest segments of the BPL population. It involved identification of poorest of the poor families from amongst the number of BPL families within the states and providing them food grains at a highly subsidized rate.

 The Challenges Ahead

Poverty reduction is expected to make better progress in the next ten to fifteen years. This would be possible mainly due-

  • to higher economic growth,
  • increasing stress on universal free elementary education,
  • declining population growth,
  • increasing empowerment of the women and the economically weaker sections of society

The official definition of poverty captures only a limited part of what poverty really means to people. It is about a “minimum” subsistence level of living rather than a “reasonable” level of living. Many scholars advocate that we must broaden the concept into human poverty. Broader concept of poverty eradication includes more than providing only minimum subsistence level that is to say providing health care, education and job security for all, and achieving gender equality and dignity for the poor.

Exercises

  1. Describe how the poverty line is estimated in India?

Ans.- The method used to measure poverty is based on the 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 the basic needs.

         While determining the poverty line in India, a minimum level of food requirement, clothing, footwear, fuel and light, educational and medical requirement, 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. The accepted average calorie requirement in India is 2400 calories per person per day for rural areas and 2100 calories for urban areas.

 On the basis of these calculations, for the year 2011–12, the poverty line for a person was fixed at Rs 816 per month for rural areas and Rs 1000 for urban areas.  

2. Do you think that present methodology of poverty estimation is appropriate?

Ans.- The present methodology of poverty estimation does not seem appropriate. Present methodology considers about a “minimum” subsistence level of living rather than a “reasonable” level of living. Poverty has various dimensions and this methodology considers only income or consumption level. The quality of the basic necessities is also not taken into account. The amount which is fixed a poverty line does not include the margin for price fluctuation

3. Describe poverty trends in India since 1973?

Ans.- There has been a decline in poverty since 1973. The percentage of people living under poverty declines from 1973 to 1993 is 45%. This percentage comes down to 37.2% in 2004-5 and to about 21.9% in 2011-12.

4. Discuss the major reasons for poverty in India?

Ans.- 

  1. The policies of the colonial British government ruined traditional handicrafts and discouraged development of industries like textiles. This resulted in less job opportunities and low growth rate of incomes.
  2. With the spread of irrigation and the Green revolution, many job opportunities were created in the agriculture sector. But the effects were limited to some parts of India.
  3. Another feature of high poverty rates has been the huge income inequalities. One of the major reasons for this is the unequal distribution of land and other resources.
  4. Since poor people hardly have any savings, they borrow. Unable to repay because of poverty, they become victims of indebtedness. So the high level of indebtedness is both the cause and effect of poverty.

5. Identify the social and economic groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India.

Ans.- The social groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India are:

  1. 43% people belonging to scheduled caste and
  2. 51% people belonging to Scheduled tribe households.

         The economic groups which are most vulnerable to poverty are:

  1. 47% landless rural agricultural labourers and
  2. 50% urban casual labour households.

6. Give an account of interstate disparities of poverty in India.

Ans.- The proportion of the poor people to the total population is not the same in every state. Although in every state poverty has declined, but the success rate of reducing poverty varies from state to state.

  1. Bihar and Odisha continue to be the two poorest states with poverty ratios of 33.7 and 32.6 per cent respectively.
  2. In comparison, there has been a significant decline in poverty in Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal
  3. States like Punjab and Haryana have traditionally succeeded in reducing poverty with the help of high agricultural growth rates
  4. Kerala has focused more on human resource development
  5. In West Bengal, land reform measures have helped in reducing poverty.
  6. In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu public distribution of food grains could have been responsible for the improvement.  

7. Describe global poverty trends.

Ans.- The proportion of people in different countries living in extreme economic poverty— defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day—has fallen from 36 per cent in 1990 to 10 per cent in 2015.

  1. Poverty declined substantially in China and Southeast Asian countries as a result of rapid economic growth and massive investments in human resource development. Number of poors in China has come down from 88.3 per cent in 1981 to 14.7 per cent in 2008 to 0.7 per cent in 2015.
  2. In the countries of South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan) the decline has also been rapid 34 per cent in 2005 to 16.2 per cent in 2013. Because of different poverty line definition, poverty in India is also shown higher than the national estimates.
  3. In Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty in fact declined from 51 per cent in 2005 to 41 per cent in 2015.
  4. In Latin America, the ratio of poverty has also declined from 10 per cent in 2005 to 4 per cent in 2015.

8. Describe current government strategy of poverty alleviation?

Ans.- The current anti-poverty strategy of the government is based broadly on two planks

(1) Promotion of economic growth: There is a strong link between economic growth and poverty reduction. Economic growth widens opportunities and provides the resources needed to invest in human development..

(2) Targeted anti-poverty programmes: But growth in the agriculture sector is not seen as expected inspite of economic growth. So government formulated anti-poverty programmes to affect poverty directly or indirectly. Some of them are –

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NAREGA): it aims to provide 100 days of wage employment to every household to ensure livelihood security in rural areas. It also aimed at sustainable development to address the cause of drought, deforestation and soil erosion. One-third of the proposed jobs have been reserved for women. The range of wage rates for different states and union territories lies in between Rs 281 per day (for the workers in Haryana) to Rs 168 per day (for the workers of Bihar and Jharkhand).
  • Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana, 1993(PMRY): The aim of the programme is to create self-employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth in rural areas and small towns. They are helped in setting up small business and industries.
  • Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP): it was launched in 1995. The aim of the programme is to create self- employment opportunities in rural areas and small towns. A target for creating 25 lakh new jobs has been set for the programme under the Tenth Five Year plan.

In addition, other programmes are:

  1. Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY)
  2. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yozana (PMGY)
  3. Antyodaya Anna Yozana (AAY)

9. Answer the following questions briefly

(i) What do you understand by human poverty?

Ans.- Human poverty has various dimensions.

  • Poverty means hunger and lack of shelter.
  • It also is a situation in which parents are not able to send their children to school
  • A situation where sick people cannot afford treatment.
  • Poverty also means lack of clean water and sanitation facilities.
  • It also means lack of a regular job at a minimum decent level.

 Income and consumption level of people usually taken as the indicator of poverty. But now other other social indicators are considered like illiteracy level, lack of job opportunities etc. social exclusion and vulnerability are becoming common indicators of poverty.

(ii) Who are the poorest of the poor?

Ans.- Women, children, especially the girl child and old people are the poorest of the poor.

(iii) What are the main features of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005?

Ans.- Main features of NAREGA, 2005 are:

  1. The act provides 100 days assured employment to the adult members of rural household who are willing to do unskilled manual work.
  2. One- third of proposed jobs would be would be reserved for women.
  3. Work shall be provided within 15 km jurisdictions from the village.
  4. Wages are paid according to Minimum Wage Rate. The current wage rate is 117/- for all unskilled work and 120/- for skilled work.
  5. If the applicant is not provided employment within 15 days, he/she will be entitled to a daily employment allowance.
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