Apr 9, 2009

Poverty Line or Starvation Line?

I had always known that poverty is widespread across India. But never felt that poverty was so extreme. Since last 12 days I was hopping trains travelling in buses and visited some rural areas of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

And on my way back, I asked myself a question, if there is so much poverty in India then how come only 26% of our population is below poverty line. I could immediately smell a fraud and misinterpretation of facts by Indian Government.

Let’s check what the definition of poverty in India is. It says that anyone earning below Rs 368 per month in rural areas and Rs. 559 per month in urban areas is considered below poverty line. This is approximately USD 7-10 a month!! Now the billion dollar question is .. Is this amount sufficient to lift you above poverty line?

The government feels a person earning merely 19 Rs a day is urban area is not poor. What all can you do in Rs 19. You can’t even buy a kilogram of vegetable for your family in this amount. How will you buy medicines? Where will you live? Even Kerosene will cost you 18 Rs / Litre. But our politicians feel 19 rupees is a good amount for you not to be called poor.

In 19 Rupees you can’t even get 2400 calories a day below which you UNICEF says a person is starving. It is not poverty line. India has defined ‘Starvation Line’. And so the fact is that 26% of the Indians are starving to death slowly. Surviving on less than a meal a day. But according to our politicians only 26% people are poor.

I tried to calculate the minimum amount that a person needs to survive in India.

If I take the current prevailing rates of food items in urban India

Rice = 20 Rs/Kg
Wheat = 17 Rs /Kg
Staple Vegetable = 12 Rs / Kg

For 1 person the Food expense alone come at around 700 Rs per month.

Cooking and fuel expenses comes at 50 Rs / month

Minimum clothing / sleeping requirement = 50 Rs / Month (Assuming that person sleeps on streets / roads and at least needs 1 blanket and mat)

A poor person labours hard and lives in unhygienic conditions which also mean that he will also fall ill. Going by current medicine rates at least 20 Rs a month should be kept aside for medicine & doctor fee

So Just to survive a person needs 820 Rs / Month.

So by this estimate approximately 68% people are below Poverty Line in India

And what do our politicians do? Give away subsidies to build a car when the same amount of money can be used to feed Indian poor.

37.7% of Indian households do not have access to a nearby water source. But we have world class mineral water companies.

49% do not have a proper shelter. But we have our ministers living in 5000 sq yard bungalows in Lutyen’s Delhi

69.5% do not have access to proper toilets. But we have the malls with Gucci and Reebok brands.

85.2% of Indian villages do not have a secondary school. But higher education of is subsidised.

43% of Indian villages do not have a pucca road connecting them. But Delhi government buys flats from builders for common wealth games.

Satyam was nothing. Ever seen bigger frauds than this.


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  2. However, those wantonly denied education, basic needs and kept in poverty , at times do come up with brilliant ideas by default.

    A senior bank official in India once peremptorily proceeded to confiscate “the piece of land” pledged by the poor ( someone like Muni in Horse & Goats of R.K.Narayan) loan defaulter ….only to discover that it was the Railway Platform !

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