Indians can have complete meal from 12 rupees or even 1 rupee, depending upon where you live (Mumbai or Kashmir) – at least as per the politicians. I tried to have a complete meal (defined at saturation level, not nutritional or calorie level) in a small town of Dumka, Jharkhand but could not even come […]

Indians can have complete meal from 12 rupees or even 1 rupee, depending upon where you live (Mumbai or Kashmir) – at least as per the politicians. I tried to have a complete meal (defined at saturation level, not nutritional or calorie level) in a small town of Dumka, Jharkhand but could not even come close. So when an ordinary man cannot have complete meal close to 12 rupees in a small town like Dumka how can they have complete meal in such a small amount in metros and capital cities. I am assured Politicians can have (after all they have huge network, in many cases they don’t even have to pay a penny.)

But what has a complete meal to do with poverty? Is poverty all about having a meal or there are some other requirements to fulfill in order to survive (I am considering survival as the lowest degree of poverty; however, morally I would not accept It.) our constitution provides us the right to life with dignity- to survive is by no means right to life, leave alone with dignity.

Let us see what planning commission has to say about poverty

Poverty in India has declined to a record 22% in 2011-12. Over the last decade, poverty has witnessed a consistent decline with the levels dropping from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 29.8% in 2009-10. The number of poor is now estimated at 269.3 million, of which 216.5 million reside in rural India.

Does this figure show the correct number of poor in India? I completely doubt it.

Is poverty absolute or relative?

The concept of poverty has been very complicated since its inception. It had always been defined in terms of financial or socio-economic deprivation. Although there are lots of factor influencing the conceptualization of poverty including, social, cultural, economical and gender. The evolution of conceptualization of poverty can be traced back to the door to door survey in London by Charles booth in 1902, where he defined poverty along the line on income level. Later on in early 20th century poverty was defined on a nutritional basis.

A fixed amount of food consumed by an individual needed for survival was seen as above poverty line. Therefore nutritional requirement was the key to the measurement of poverty. The rise of absolutist poverty is very much in line with this fixed norm of calculation. The absolutist poverty line saw need as constant across individuals and time. It universalized human requirements across places – Whereas critics saw prices and subsistence needs changing across space and time.

The concept of absolute poverty was seen flawed both in its conceptualization and implication. This gave rise to the other form of poverty – the concept of relative poverty. In relative form, poverty was seen as achieving less by an individual in a society as compared to another individual. Hence poverty was seen as comparative deprivation or in another sense inequality in a society – inequality in relative position of different groups. Therefore the relative approach saw poverty not just with what a poor achieved but also in comparison to what others in the society achieved. Relative poverty also talks about the external factors which influence the relative position of different groups. Relative advantages is not important by itself, but because it endow a person with some absolute edge over others. For example, role of information, where a person in a society is well aware of a social welfare scheme unlike another person who is not aware of such a scheme. Such lack of information can impact the endowments of the individuals and hence can impact their income or livelihood. Although relative concept of poverty was extensively applied by researchers and academicians, it also saw many critics as it is seen impossible to eradicate poverty under relative frame because someone will always be better off than someone else.

In India, in between the ongoing slugfest over poverty, there is an increasing problem in defining poverty and determining the poverty line. Various committees led by economists have arrived at estimates of the extent of poverty, which is ridiculous by all means. In fact these unplanned calculations are being used to determine the poverty line and calculate the number who are being helped with subsidized goods and services. The calculation and the methodology are improper because these findings have come up with estimates and figures that are considerably very low. These figures are not able to depict the correct number of people below poverty line. What is strange is that even with these improper and inappropriate estimates and calculation, the committees and government are patting their own back. The abnormally low calculation of poverty is being taken as accurate and being used to declare poverty alleviation programs a success.

Isn’t the government suppressing the poor people ? How can the poor be expected to live on such a low limit decided by the governmet ? Isn’t the ruling class using this as a tool to manipulate votes in the upcoming election. Isn’t it unfair to the citizens, who are barely able to survive and yet are termed as above poverty line (and ineligible for any subsidy) ? The concept of poverty is so vague in India that a real picture of the poor will rarely come up. We certainly need to look beyond the concept of relative or absolute poverty measures and find a new way to determine the correct number of poor in India.

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