One of the most difficult challenges faced by independent India is poverty. According to the statistics of 2011–12, around 270 million people in India live in poverty.
Two Typical Cases of Poverty
From the cases of Ramsaran and Lakha Singh we understand that poverty means hunger and lack of shelter.
It also is a situation in which parents are not able to send their children to school or a situation where sick people cannot afford treatment.
Poverty also means lack of clean water and sanitation facilities.
Poverty as seen by social scientists
Social scientists measure poverty using many indicators like the levels of income and consumption, 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.
Social exclusion is a process in which poor people are barred from enjoying certain basic facilities, benefits and opportunities that the rich enjoy.
Vulnerability describes the increasing probability of certain backward communities or individuals of becoming of remaining poor in coming years.
In India, the poverty line is defined by a minimum level of food, clothing, footwear, fuel and light, educational and medical requirements.
The present formula for food requirement while estimating the poverty line is based on the desired calorie requirement.
The poverty line was fixed at Rs 816 per month for rural areas and Rs 1000 per month in urban areas in 2011-12.
The poverty ratios in India have declined from 45% in 1993-94 to 37.2% in 2004-05.
In 2011-12, there were 22% people below poverty line.
The number of poor people decreased from 470 million in 2004-05 to 270 million in 2011-12.
The average annual decline was 2.2% during 2004-05 to 2011-12.
Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe are most vulnerable to poverty, among social groups.
Rural agricultural labour households and urban casual labour households are most vulnerable among the economic groups.
A secular decline has been observed in state level poverty from the early 1970s.
However, the success rate varies between states.
Global Poverty Scenario
In developing countries the proportion of people living in extreme economic poverty has decreased from 35% in 1990 to 10.68% in 2013.
Rapid economic growth and huge investments in human resource development were made in China and Southeast Asian countries that witnessed substantial decline in poverty.
Causes of Poverty
In India, poverty propagated due to failure of economic growth and population control.
Growth rate of per capita income was quite low.
Poverty spread to urban areas in addition to rural areas.
Huge income inequality is another cause of high poverty rates.
The present strategy for eliminating poverty is based on promotion of economic growth and targeted anti-poverty programmes.
Some significant anti-poverty programmes are:
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005
Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana (PMRY)
Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP)
Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY)
Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yozana (PMGY)
Antyodaya Anna Yozana (AAY)
The Challenges Ahead
Rural and urban areas and even various states show widespread differences in poverty.
Some social and economic groups are still more vulnerable to poverty.
Improvements would result from economic growth, universal free elementary education, declining population growth, increasing empowerment of women and economically weaker sections of society.
Poverty would be eradicated only when challenges like low income, inadequate healthcare, education and job security and gender disparity and disrespect for the poor are overcome.