A general scarcity of basic necessities of life is called poverty. The basic necessities include food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, sanitation, etc.
This is a condition of inequality compared to the general population of the society.
Some of the issues which are related to poverty are; Landlessness, Unemployment, Size of families, Illiteracy, Poor health/malnutrition, Child labour and Helplessness.
Poverty as seen by social scientists: Income and level of consumption are the usual indicators of poverty. But many social scientists view poverty from many other parameters; like illiteracy, lack of general resistance due to malnutrition, lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, etc.
Poverty also results in social exclusion of the affected population. A poor person is usually barred from enjoying certain basic pleasures of life which the people in the mainstream society are able to enjoy. Many people are not allowed to participate in various social functions because they are poor. In India, there has been a history of social exclusion on the basis of caste. People from the lower caste and dalit classes were excluded from the mainstream society mainly because they had been poor.
Certain communities are more vulnerable to poverty than others. Data suggests that there is a larger percentage of poor among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Minorities are also more vulnerable to poverty. Similarly, women, widow and handicapped are more vulnerable groups. When a person has the least capability of withstanding various challenged towards his economic relevance, he can be termed as vulnerable to poverty.
Poverty line is usually defined on the basis of income or consumption. Different yardsticks are used in different countries to measure the poverty line.
According to the World Bank, a person living on less than 1$ per day is considered to be living below the poverty line. This figure has been now raised to 1.25 $ per day. According to 2010 report by the World Bank, 32.7% of India’s population was living below the poverty line.
As per 2000 figures; a family of five which is earning less than Rs. 1,640 per month is considered to be living below the poverty line. This figure is Rs. 2,270 per month for the urban area.
The expected calorie intake has been fixed at 2400 calories per person in rural areas and 2100 calories in urban areas. A person consuming less than this amount is considered to be living below the poverty line.
According to Development Goals Report of 2011, India is the only Asian country which is expected to half its number of poor people by 2015. The figure is expected to reach a level of about 22% of the population. This figure is expected to further go down to 20% by 2020.
Although the percentage of poor living below the poverty line has declined, their absolute number has increased. The number of poor remained static at 320 million for a fairly long period. But this figure has also declined to 260 million in recent
Graph: Percentage of poor in different social groups (NSSO Report 2000)
This graph shows the percentage of poor in different social groups in India. While the percentage of poor among average population is 26%; it is much higher among the vulenrable gropus. Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Caste, Urban Casual Labourer and Rural Agricultural Labourer are the most vulnerable groups.
Apart from the vulnerable social groups, different members in a poor family suffer in different ways. For example; women, children and elderly are the worst sufferers because of poverty. fferent members in a poor family suffer in different ways. For example; women, children and elderly are the worst sufferers because of poverty.
Poverty Level Across India
Poverty level shows wide variations in different states of India. Kerala has the least poverty ratio at about 15%, while tops the chart with 81% of the population living below poverty line.
According to NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research) Report of 2009 following facts emerge about income levels in India.
Out of 220 million households in India, 15.6% or about 35 million earn less than Rs. 45,000 per annum. About 80 million households earn between Rs. 45,000 – 90,000 per annum. About 48% of the households earn more than Rs. 90,000 per annum.
Global Poverty Scenario
The percentage of people living below povery line has fallen from 28% in 1991 to 21% in 2001; in the developing countries. Poverty declined substantially in China and some South Asian countries because of rapid economic development. On the other hand, reduction was not as sharp in countries; like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.
In Sub Saharan Africa, poverty increased from 41% in 1981 to 48% in 2001. The poverty level has remained the same in Latin America. Poverty has resurfaced in Russia and some of the former communist countries. The Millenium Development Goal of the United Nations has targetted to reduce the poverty level to half of the 1990 level by 2015.
Causes of Poverty
The British policies during the colonial rule were not in favour of the local economy. Traditional handicrafts declined and not much of the modern industries could develop during that period. This is considered to be a major reason for abject poverty in India at the time of independence.
The low growth rate persisted till 1980s. This was coupled with a high growth rate in population and resulted in a higher number of poor.
Green Revolution helped in reviving the agricultural sector but its effect was limited to certain parts of the country; mainly in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.
The secondary sector did not generate enough employment opportunties. This forced many rural migrants to go for unskilled works.
Inequality of income is another major reason of poverty in India. In spite of land reform initiatives, a major portion of land is in the hands of a selected few and a large portion of farmers are landless.
There are many socio-cultural factors which also contribute to poverty. An average Indian has to spend huge amount on marriage and other rituals because of socio-cultural pressure. This creates a heavy drain on savings.
The current anti-poverty measures are targetted at two planks, viz. promotion of economic growth and anti-poverty programmes.
Since 1980s, India’s economic growth has been one of the fastest in the world. The growth rate used to be 3.5% in the earlier decades. It increased to 6% during 1980s and 1990s. Higher growth rate has helped in generating employment and increasing income of the people.
Some of the Anti-poverty programmes are as follows:
MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme):
This programme was originally started in 2005 as NREGA. Under this programme, one member of each rural household shall be given 100 days employment in a year. The person should be willing to work for unskilled job. If the government fails to provide employment to a person within fifteen days, he would be getting unemployment allowance in lieu of that. National Food for Work Programme (NFWP) has also been merged with MNREGA.
1.Prime Minister Rojgar Yojna was launched in 1993.
2.Rural Employment Generation Scheme was launched in 1995.
3.Swarnajayanti Gram Rojgar Yojna was launched in 1999.
4.All the previous employment programmes have now been replaced with MNREGA.
The results of these programmes have been mixed. However, MNREGA has helped in arresting the tide of migration from rural areas. It has also helped in improving the wages in rural areas.