A recent research paper, “A Study on Poverty and Hunger in India”, published in Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, MCSER Publishing, Rome-Italy, by Junofy Anto Rozarina N of the Department of Economics, Central University of Tamilnadu, Thiruvarur, India, has calculated, on the basis of a fresh methodology, that Gujarat ranks 9th least poor state of in a list of 22 states, for which it has carried out analysis. Published in October 2013, it has reached the conclusion on the basis of the latest method worked out by the United Nations in association with the Oxford University to calculate poverty, called Multidimensional Poverty Index. A counterview.org analysis
The research paper says, “The Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI is an international poverty measure developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) for the United Nations Development Programme’s flagship Human Development Report in 2010.” Taking this new methodology into account, the research finds that 81.4 percent of the population in Bihar is “multidimensional poor”, adding, “Uttar Pradesh is the home of largest number of poor people – 21 percent of India’s poor people live here.” On the other hand, it underlines, “The multidimensional poverty is lowest for Kerala. The top five states home only 4.5 per cent of the poor, whereas, the five poorest states home more than 50 percent of the poor people.”
The paper explains, MPI uses 10 indicators to measure poverty. Under education, it looks at household members who have completed five years of schooling and enrolment of school-aged children up to class 8. Under health, it looks at child mortality (any child who has died in the family), and nutrition (any adult or child is malnourished). Under living standard, it looks at the households which have no electricity, households not having accessibility to sanitation facilities, and households which do not have access to safe drinking water or it is available at more than a 30-minute walk roundtrip.
Other issues taken into account include the type of house (based on the floor of the household, whether it has a dirt, sand or dung floor), cooking fuel (household cooks with dung, wood or charcoal), and assets (households which do not own more than one radio, TV, telephone, bike, motorbike or refrigerator and does not own a car or truck). Each of these factors have been provided with specific weightage, and “a person is considered poor if he is deprived in at least 33.33 per cent of the weighted indicators. The intensity of poverty denotes the proportion of indicators in which they are deprived.”
The research paper finds that the highest number of poor are in Bihar with 81.4 per cent, and the all-India average is 55.4 per cent. Gujarat — which is being touted as the “development model” — has 41.6 per cent of poor, if calculated under the new multidimensional poverty index scale, higher than as many as eight states. These are Kerala 15,9 per cent, Goa 21.7 per cent, Punjab 21.7 per cent, Himachal Pradesh 26.2 per cent, Tamil Nadu 32.4 per cent, Maharashtra 40.1 per cent, Uttaranchal 40.3 per cent and Haryana 41.5 per cent.
The researcher says, “All the poverty indicators show that India is in a difficult situation. In fact, the entire South Asian region has to improve a lot. The reduction in poverty, especially in Bangladesh and India, from the data analyzed under the WHO’s poverty line is very slow. The Global Hunger Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index ranking coupled together shows that India is very backward compared to the other western and Far East countries. Unless strong and immediate measures are taken in large and small scale, the poverty in India will become unrestrained. So, the government has to bring about valuable changes in its policy structures and its implementation.”
Saying that poverty in India is widespread, with the nation estimated to have a third of the world’s poor, the researcher says, “In 2010, the World Bank reported that 32.7 per cent of the total Indian people falls below the international poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day while 68.7 per cent live on less than US$ 2 per day.” He adds, “Poverty in India is mainly due to lack of proper government policies and the exploitation of the financially weaker section by the richer class. The main outcome of poverty is hunger. Hunger’s seriousness can be understood easily from the fact that every year, 5.8 million children die from hunger related-causes around the world — 16,000 children die each day.”
The researcher says, “80 million households in India are in income levels of Rs. 45,000– 90,000 per year. These numbers also are more or less in line with the latest World Bank’s estimates of the below-the-poverty-line households that may total about 456 million individuals. In 1947, the average annual income in India was US$ 619, compared with US$ 439 for China, US$ 770 for South Korea, and US $936 for Taiwan. But, by 1999, the average annual income became US$ 1,818 for India; US$ 3,259 for China; US$ 13,317 for South Korea and US$ 15,720 for Taiwan.”
Pointing out that poverty is normally defined with respect to poverty line, the researcher says, “Poverty line is a cut-off point on the line of distribution which divides the population as poor and non-poor. There is a huge discrepancy in fixing the poverty line. The World Bank has fixed the international poverty line as US$1.25 per day while the World Health Organization considers people living below US $2 a day as poor. According to the latest data, the number of people living below the international poverty line in 2005 was 1.4 billion, or close to 500 million.”
The researcher says, “The Indian Planning Commission has taken efforts to reduce the number of people living below poverty line by reducing the standards from the international $1.25 per day to $0.50 a day instead of improving their standard of living. However, recently, after a lot of criticism, the poverty line had been increased to about a dollar per day (Rs 65) in urban areas and a little lesser (Rs 50) in the rural areas. This income is the bare minimum to support the food requirements and does not provide much for the other basic essential items like health, education etc.”
Pointing out that “that is why some times the poverty lines have been described as starvation lines”, the researcher says, this is one reason why the Global Hunger Index is calculated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
“The GHI ranks countries on a 100-point scale. Zero is the best score (no hunger), while 100 is the worst, although neither of these extremes has been reached practically. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) combines three equally weighted indicators into an index number to reflect the multidimensional nature of hunger. The indicators are undernourishment, child underweight, and child mortality.”
“To know the status of India in the regional level”, the researcher says, “An inter-country study has been attempted. India and its few neighbours’ hunger index are studied. The countries taken into consideration are Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China. Bangladesh ranks the lowest among the countries taken into consideration based on the hunger index even though it shows good improvement. India’s record shows unsteady trend and has not shown much improvement. Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka also show slight decrease in hunger index. The hunger level in China is remarkably low compared to the other countries taken into consideration.”