Chapter – 3 Poverty as a Challenge
In our daily life, we see poverty all around us. They could be landless labourers in villages, people living in overcrowded jhuggis in cities, daily wage workers or child workers in dhabas. According to facts, in India every fourth person is poor.
Two Typical Cases of Poverty
Poverty means hunger and lack of shelter, lack of clean water and sanitation facilities, lack of a regular job at a minimum decent level. Poverty is considered as one of the biggest challenges of independent India. India would be truly independent only when the poorest of its people become free of human suffering.
Poverty as seen by social scientists
Social scientists look at poverty through a variety of indicators. Usually, the indicators are used to relate to the levels of income and consumption. But, now poverty is looked through other social indicators like illiteracy level, lack of general resistance due to malnutrition, lack of access to healthcare, lack of job opportunities, lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation etc.
The poverty line is a method to measure poverty based on income or consumption levels. Poverty line varies according to time and place. In India, the poverty line is determined through a minimum level of food requirement, clothing, footwear, fuel and light, educational and medical requirement, etc. These physical quantities are multiplied by their prices in rupees. In India poverty is calculated on the basis of the desired calorie requirement. The accepted average calorie requirement in India is 2400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2100 calories per person per day in 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. The Poverty Line is estimated periodically (normally every five years) by conducting sample surveys carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
In India, there is a substantial decline in poverty ratios from about 45 per cent in 1993-94 to 37.2 per cent in 2004–05. The proportion of people below the poverty line further came down to about 22 per cent in 2011–12.
Social groups, vulnerable to poverty are Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. Similarly, among the economic groups, the most vulnerable groups are the rural agricultural labour households and urban casual labour households. According to a recent study, except scheduled tribe, all the other three groups (i.e. scheduled castes, rural agricultural labourers and the urban casual labour households) have seen a decline in poverty in the 1990s.
In India, the proportion of poor people is not the same in every state. Bihar and Odisha continued to be the two poorest states with poverty ratios of 33.7 and 32.6 percent respectively. Urban poverty is high in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal saw a decline in poverty. Punjab and Haryana have traditionally succeeded in reducing poverty with the help of high agricultural growth rates. Kerala has focused more on human resource development. In West Bengal, land reform measures have helped in reducing poverty. In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, public distribution of food grains is responsible for the improvement.
Global Poverty Scenario
In China and Southeast Asian countries, poverty declined substantially as a result of rapid economic growth and massive investments in human resource development. In Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty declined from 51 per cent in 2005 to 41 per cent in 2015. In Latin America, the ratio of poverty has declined from 10 per cent in 2005 to 4 per cent in 2015.
Causes of Poverty
There are various reasons for widespread poverty in India.
1. Under British control, India had a low level of economic development. New policies of the colonial government ruined traditional handicrafts and discouraged development of industries. like textiles. Low rate of growth and an increase in population combined to make the growth rate of per capita income very low. With the spread of irrigation and the Green revolution, many job opportunities were created in the agriculture sector. However, these were not enough to absorb all the job seekers.
2. 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. In India, lack of land resources has been one of the major causes of poverty in India, but proper implementation of policy could have improved the lives of millions of rural poor.
3. Small farmers needed money to buy agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizer, pesticides etc. So, they used to borrow money and were unable to repay the loan because of poverty.
The current anti-poverty scheme is divided into two parts.
1 Promotion of economic growth
2 Targeted anti-poverty programmes
Since the eighties, India’s economic growth has been one of the fastest in the world. There is a strong link between economic growth and poverty reduction. Some of the schemes which are formulated to affect poverty directly or indirectly are:
1. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 – It aimed 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.
2. In 1993, Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana (PMRY) was started. The main aim of the programme is to create self-employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth in rural areas and small towns.
3. In 1995, Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP) was launched. The aim of the programme is to create self-employment opportunities in rural areas and small towns.
4. In 1999, Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) was launched. The programme aims at bringing the assisted poor families above the poverty line by organising them into self-help groups, through a mix of bank credit and government subsidy.
5. In 2000, the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) was launched. Under this programme, additional central assistance is given to states for basic services such as primary health, primary education, rural shelter, rural drinking water and rural electrification.
The Challenges Ahead
In India, Poverty has certainly declined in India, but it still remains India’s most compelling challenge. Poverty reduction is expected to make better progress in the next ten to fifteen years. This can be achieved by 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.
1. Describe how the poverty line is estimated in India?
Answer: 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. This minimum level is called the poverty line. In India, the poverty line is estimated by multiplying the prices of physical quantities like food, clothing, footwear, fuel, light, education, etc. in rupees. The numbers involved in determining the poverty line vary for different years. Also, the poverty line for rural areas is different from that of the urban areas because the work, lifestyle and expenses are different for rural and urban areas.
2. Do you think that present methodology of poverty estimation is appropriate?
Answer: No, the present-day methodology of poverty estimation does not seem to be completely appropriate. This is because the only factor is taken into consideration is the economic status and moreover, it considers a minimum subsistence of living instead of a reasonable status of living. Poverty, today is a larger concept than only the economic status of the people. With advancements and development, the definition of poverty has also changed. People may have been able to feed themselves and their family but education, shelter, health, job security and dignity al are still at a threat. To overcome poverty entirely, all the above-mentioned factors also need to be kept in consideration. To completely remove poverty from the country, the methodology to estimate poverty should also be changed.
3. Describe poverty trends in India since 1973?
Answer: The Economic Survey of 2017-18 shows that although poverty has declined in the country, the number of poor still remains to be very high. The poverty ratio of 1993-94 for both rural and urban areas together was at 45% and the ratio for the year 2011-12 has declined down to 22%. However, the topic of concern still remains that there has not been any massive decline in the number of poor living in the country. From 404 million poor population in both rural and urban areas together in 1993-94. The poor population till 2011-12 remains to be 270 million for both rural and urban areas. The survey clearly tells that the concerned authorities must take some serious steps in order to make India a country free of poverty.
4. Discuss the major reasons for poverty in India?
Answer: The major reasons for poverty in the country are
- The low level of economic development under British colonial rule. The policies of the colonial government ruined traditional handicrafts and discouraged the development of industries like textiles.
- The spread of the Green Revolution created many job opportunities for the people of the country, yet they were not sufficient in comparison to the number of job seekers.
- Unequal distribution of land and resources is another important factor for poverty in India.
- In order to fulfil social obligations and religious ceremonies the poor end up spending a lot which results in poverty.
- Inequality in the income of the people is also a major reason for poverty.
5. Identify the social and economic groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India.
Answer: The social groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India are:
- Scheduled Caste Households
- Scheduled Tribe Households
The economic groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India are
- Rural Agricultural Labour Households
- Urban Casual Labour Households
6. Give an account of interstate disparities of poverty in India
Answer: Poverty in India differs for different states. The success rate of reducing poverty varies from state to state causing inter-state disparities in poverty level. Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the three poorest states in India with their people living below the poverty line being 47, 42 and 37 per cent respectively. Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the three better-off states in India as far as the poverty is concerned. There are various factors that are responsible for these interstate disparities of poverty in India.
7. Describe global poverty trends.
Answer: The success rate of reducing poverty varies from state to state causing inter-state disparities in poverty level. Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the three poorest states in India with their people living below the poverty line being 47, 42 and 37 per cent respectively. Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the three better-off states in India as far as the poverty is concerned. There has been a substantial reduction in global poverty. Poverty declined in China and South-East Asian countries as a result of rapid economic growth and huge investments in the development of human resources. In Latin America, the ratio of poverty remained almost the same. In sub-Saharan Africa, poverty saw an upward trend rather than a downward trend. It rose from 41% in 1981 to 46% in 2001. Poverty has surfaced itself in some of the former socialist countries like Russia, where formerly it was non-existent.
8. Describe current government strategy of poverty alleviation?
Answer: Removal of poverty has been one of the major objectives of Indian developmental strategy. The current anti-poverty strategy of the government is based broadly on two planks, being, promotion of economic growth and targeted anti-poverty programmes. Awareness is being spread across the nation specifying the importance of education, which has resulted in the increase of literacy level. Various schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) and Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana (PMRY) have been introduced by the government with an aim to abolish poverty from the country.
9. Answer the following questions briefly
(i) What do you understand by human poverty?
Answer: Human poverty is a term that means that poverty in India is not just limited to the economic status of the people but rather spreads in various other sectors which include lack of education, negligence of health care system, discrimination and disparity. Abolishing poverty from the country should no be the only aim of the authorities but to abolish human poverty must be the aim.
(ii) Who are the poorest of the poor?
Answer: Women, female infants and elderly are considered to the poorest of the poor. This is because, in a poor household, these people suffer the most and are deprived of the maximum necessities in life.
(iii) What are the main features of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005?
Answer: The main features of the National Rural Employment Act 2005 are as follows:
- To provide 100 days of wage employment to every household to ensure livelihood security
- Sustainable development to address the cause of draught, deforestation and soil erosion.
- One-third of the proposed jobs under this scheme have been reserved for women
Poverty as a Challenge Summary
In this chapter, students will study one of the biggest challenges faced by independent India, i.e., poverty. Also, an urban and rural case of poverty has been discussed in this chapter. Chapter 3 – Poverty as a Challenge from class 9 Economics books also talks about:
- Poverty Line
- Poverty Estimate
- Global Poverty Scenario
- Interstate Disparities
- Causes of Poverty
- Anti Poverty measures
How poverty is estimated in the country has also been discussed in the chapter and what are the global trends of poverty across the world.