Chapter 3. Poverty as a Challenge

• Poverty means hunger and lack of shelter. Poverty means a lack of clean water and sanitation facilities. It means a lack of a regular job at a minimum decent level. Above all, it means living with a sense of helplessness.
• One of biggest challenges of independent India has been to bring millions of its people out of abject poverty.
• Mahatma Gandhi always insisted that India would be truly independent only when poorest of its people become free of human suffering.
• social indicators of poverty are – 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.
• economic indicators of poverty are – income and consumption.

Social Exclusion and Vulnerability
• According to Social Exclusion, poverty must be seen in terms of poor having to live only in a poor surrounding with other poor people, excluded from enjoying social equality of better-off people in better surroundings.
• Social exclusion can be both a cause as well as a consequence of poverty in usual sense. This is a process through which individuals or groups are excluded from facilities, benefits, & opportunities that others enjoy.
• A typical example is workings of caste system in India, in which people belonging to certain castes are excluded from equal opportunities.
• Social exclusion can cause more damage than having a very low income.
• Vulnerability to poverty is a measure, which describes greater probability of certain communities [say, members of a backward caste] or individuals [such as a widow or a physically handicapped person] of becoming, or remaining, poor in coming years.
• Vulnerability is determined by options available to different communities for finding an alternative living in terms of assets, education, health, & job opportunities.
• Vulnerability describes greater probability of being more adversely affected than other people when a bad time comes for everybody, whether a flood or an earthquake or simply a fall in availability of jobs.

Causes of Poverty
• One historical reason is low level of economic development under British colonial administration. policies of colonial government ruined traditional handicrafts and discouraged development of industries like textiles.
• With spread of irrigation and Green Revolution, many job opportunities were created in agriculture sector. But effects were limited to some parts of India.
• Another feature of high poverty rates has been huge income inequalities. One of major reasons for this is unequal distribution of land and other resources.
• Socio-cultural and economic factors are responsible for poverty. To fulfill social obligations and observe religious ceremonies, people in India, including very poor, spend a lot of money.
• Poor people hardly have any savings, so they borrow. Unable to repay because of poverty, they become victims of indebtedness. So, high level of indebtedness is both, cause & effect of poverty.

Poverty Line
• A common method used to measure poverty is based on income or consumption levels.
• A person is considered poor if his or her income or consumption level falls below a given ‘minimum level’ necessary to fulfil basic needs.
• poverty line may vary with time and place. For example, a person not having a car in United States may be considered poor. In India, owning a car is still considered a luxury.
• present formula for food requirements while estimating poverty line is based on desired calorie requirement.
• Food items, such as cereals, pulses, vegetables, milk, oil, sugar., together provide these needed calories.
• calorie needs vary depending on age, sex & type of work that a person does.
• 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. Since people living in rural areas engage themselves in more physical work, calorie requirements in rural areas are considered to be higher than in urban areas.
• poverty line is estimated periodically [normally every five years] by conducting sample surveys. These surveys are carried out by National Sample Survey Organisation [NSSO].
• Many international organisations like World Bank use a uniform standard for poverty line for making comparisons between developing countries.

Vulnerable Groups
• proportion of people below poverty line is not same for all social groups and economic categories in India.
• Social groups, which are most vulnerable to poverty are Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households.
• Among economic groups, most vulnerable groups are rural agricultural labour households and urban casual labour households.

Inter-State Disparities
• Poverty in India has another aspect or dimension.
• proportion of poor people is not same in every state.

Global Poverty Scenario
• proportion of people in different countries living in extreme economic poverty as defined by World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day has fallen from 36% in 1990 to 10% in 2015.
• Poverty declined substantially in China and Southeast Asian countries as a result of rapid economic growth and massive investments in human resource development.
• new sustainable development goals of United Nations [UN] propose ending poverty of all types by 2030.

Anti-Poverty Measures
• current anti-poverty strategy of government is based broadly on two planks: [1] promotion of economic growth and [2] targeted anti-poverty programs.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 [MNREGA]
• It aims to provide 100 days of wage employment to every household to ensure livelihood security in rural areas. It aims at sustainable development to address causes of drought, deforestation and soil erosion. One-third of proposed jobs have been reserved for women.
• share of SC, ST, & Women person-days in scheme is 23%, 17% and 53% respectively.

Prime Minister Rozgar Yozana [PMRY]
• This is another scheme that was started in 1993.
• program aims to create self-employment opportunities for educated unemployed youth in rural areas and small towns. They are helped in setting up small businesses and industries.
• Rural Employment Generation programme [REGP]:
(1) This programme was launched in 1995.
(2) aim of programme is to create self – employment opportunities in rural areas and small towns.

Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana [SGSY]
• This programme was launched in 1999.
• programme aims at bringing assisted poor families above poverty line by organising them into self help groups through a mix of bank credit and government subsidy.

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