Read this article to learn about the meaning, types and measures to reduce poverty in India.
Essay # Meaning of Poverty:
Poverty as a phenomenon has existed since the beginning of known history. But as centuries rolled by and populations increased, it began to appear on a mass scale.
About 74 percent of India’s population lives in villages. The incidence of poverty is much higher in villages-roughly 39 percent of the rural population.
“Poverty is that condition in which a person either because of inadequate income or unwise expenditures does not maintain a scale of living high enough to provide for his physical and mental efficiency and to enable him and his natural dependents to function usually according to the standards of society of which he is a member”. —Gillin and Gillin
Thus poverty is a condition of extremely lower standard of living. In villages, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 70 percent of the population but agriculture accounts for less than 40 percent of the national income.
One of the reasons for this is the unequal distribution of land, 10 to 20 percent of land holders hold 70 percent of the total land and 50 percent of landholders are marginal farmers with less than one hectare (2.471 acres) of land. Thus any agenda for fighting poverty must address itself to the rural sector.
According to the IRDP definition, approved by the Ministry of rural development (Revised in May 1991) a rural household with an annual income less than Rs. 11,000/- is described as a poor household.
These ‘poor households’ have been further classifies into four groups:
At 1991-92 price level
1. The destitute (with an income of less than Rs. 4,000 per annum).
2. Extremely poor (with an income between Rs. 4,001 and Rs. 6,000 per annum).
3. Very poor (with an income between Rs. 6,001 and Rs. 8,500 per annum).
4. Poor (with an income between Rs. 8,501 and Rs. 11,000 per annum).
According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) survey:
The all India annual income in village India in 1994 was Rs. 4,485.
It was Rs. 3,028 in Orissa.
Rs. 3,157 in West Bengal.
Rs. 3,169 in Bihar.
Rs. 4,185 in U.P.
Rs. 9,166 in Madhya Pradesh.
Rs. 4,229 in Rajasthan.
Rs. 6,380 in Punjab.
Rs. 6,368 in Haryana.
Who is Poor?
1. Landless or marginal farmers cultivating low value products, mostly for family subsistence.
2. Self employed artisans/service rendering people catering to low income customers/markets.
3. Women headed households and groups with large families but limited assets and earning opportunities.
4. People with limited skills and education engaging in seasonal casual work.
5. Socially excluded, depressed groups (for example lower castes), tribal, nomads etc.
6. Victims of the side effects of development of infrastructure and other changes which disintegrated their past sustenance strategies (for example, people affected by breakdown of traditional occupations, collective sustenance systems etc.)
The incidence of poverty is greater in certain communities in India. Scheduled Tribes who reside in the more fragile areas of the country, exhibit higher incidence of poverty. The other social indicators of health, education and related facilities are also very poor in these areas. Even though tribals may have access to land, the poor quality of land contributes to their poverty.
Scheduled castes who are dispersed across the country also show a higher incidence of poverty. Most of the agricultural labourers in the country are landless scheduled castes. Their educational and skills levels are also limited. As a result they show higher incidence of poverty than the general population.
Poverty by Social Groups (%):
Poverty in the Global Context:
The world community committed itself to achieve eight goals. These are known as the millennium development goals (MDG). Each goal has specific targets and has to be achieved by the year 2015.
The MDGs are to:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Ensure global partnership for development.
The world bank has estimated poverty based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). The three P’s takes into account price differences across the countries and allows international comparison of real output and income. The monetary measures of poverty do not capture the deprivation and disabilities that the poor suffer.
The concept of poverty is therefore considered to cover more than the word poor may convey ordinarily. It includes health, education, sanitation and other aspects that have an impact on the living conditions of the people/poor. The international community in the 1990s had committed itself to achieve specific targets on the provision of health facilities, education and eradication of diseases.
Conventions on environmental sustainability were also signed. In October, 2000, the heads of Governments of the United Nations member-countries committed themselves to “eradicate Poverty, promote human dignity and equality and achieve peace, democracy and environmental sustainability”.
As a part of the global agreement the developed countries have agreed to reduce debt and increase aid, trade and technology transfers to the poor countries so that the MDGs could be achieved. In March 2002, In Monterrey in Mexico and in September 2002 in Johannesburg. South Africa, the developed countries agreed to a frame work for assistance to the poor countries in their fight against poverty. It is expected that the rich nations would facilitate greater resource transfer (o the poor countries to achieve the MDGs.’
Essay # Types of Poverty:
Poverty has different meanings for different people. The perception of |30verty differs from person to person.
There are basically two types of poverty.
Absolute poverty is measured against a pre-determined level of living that families should be able to afford. Consumption of food grains, vegetables, milk products and other items that are necessary for a healthy living and access to other non-food items are included in the absolute minimum consumption basket.
These standards are then converted into monetary units and defined as the poverty line. People with consumption expenditure below this threshold are considered poor.
Relative poverty is closely associated with the issues of inequality. The income or consumption of the last quintile of the population would be termed poor even though on absolute poverty definition non of the people in the last quintile group may be poor. Per capita income of a country could also be used to identify the poor.
Persons with per capita incomes of half the country’s per capita income could be termed as poor even though they may be in a position to afford the minimum basket of goods and services that may represent the poverty line. This again reflects concerns of equality.
Relative poverty is thus different from absolute poverty, which looks more at a household’s consumption, or income available for it to meet its minimum consumption needs.
Essay # Measures to Reduce Poverty:
The most common measure of poverty is to count the number of persons below the poverty line and express it as a percentage of total population in the country. This is known as the head-count measure of poverty or head-count ratio.
While this measure is simple and readily understandable its main weakness is that it gives equal weight to all the poor irrespective of their distance from the poverty line. The marginally poor and the very poor are treated equally In the head count ratio.
Amartya Sen has suggested a measure popularly known as Sen’s measure of poverty, which removes the above weakness of the head-count measure. His measure takes into account not only the number of the poor, but the intensity of poverty as well. The intensity of poverty is reflected by a concept known as the poverty gap, which shows how far a poor person falls short from the poverty line.
In other words, it is the difference between the poverty line and the income of the poor. Sen’s index is a weighted sum of poverty gaps of all the poor, the weights being such that less poor persons get lower weight than those who are poorer.
This measure is normalized so that it lies between 0 and 1. This means that the index is on an ascending scale between 0 and 1. A higher value of Sen’s index implies a higher Incidence of poverty. This index can be higher or lower for the same head count measure of poverty depending upon the distribution of the poor between less and more poor.
Anti-Poverty Programmes by Indian Government:
The government has Initiated, sustained and refined many programmes since independence to help the poor attain sell sufficiency. The planning commission has been estimating the incidence poverty using the methodology of Lakadwala Committee (Expert group on estimation of proportion and number of poor). The estimates of incidence of poverty from 1973-74 to 1999-2000 and poverty projection for 2007.
There was a significant decline in proportion of people living below poverty line, from 51.3 percent in 1977-78 to 26.1 percent in 1999-2000. The percentage of rural and urban poverty was 53.1 and 45.2 respectively, in 1977-78, which declined to 27.1 and 23M percent respectively and in 1999-2000. In absolute terms, particularly the number of rural poor declined from 264 million in 1977-78 In 193 million in 1999-2000.
Government has made an array of Interventions in the past for reduction of rural poverty. Among the various programmes launched for poverty alleviation, (since independence) Community Development Programme (CDP), the Small Farmers Development Agency (SFDA), Crash Programme for Rural Employment (CPRE), National Food for Work Programme (NFWP), Minimum Needs Programme (MNP), Antyodaya Programme, Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP), Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Hill Area Development Programme (HADP), Common Area Development Programme (CADP), Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY), Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana (JGSY), Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY), Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) are important.