Joining the debate over estimation of poverty in the country, an economist has said that the government’s claim of decline in poverty is spurious.
The economist says that three quarters of the country’s population (74 per cent) in contrast to official claim of less than one third (30 per cent) as estimated by the Planning Commission is poor. The economist has calculated the number of poor by applying nutrition-invariant poverty lines.
In her research paper published in the latest issue of Economic and Political Weekly, Utsa Patnaik, an Emeritus Professor Jawaharlal Nehru University shows that during the period from 2004-05 to 2009-10, contrary to the official claim of decline, poverty has actually increased.
“A comparison of the consumption expenditure and associated nutritional intake data for 2009-10 with that of 2004-05 shows worsening poverty in terms of the percentage of people unable to reach the minimum required calories energy intake through their monthly spending on all goods and services,” says Patnaik.
She attributes it to various factors and says: “This result must be seen in the context of neo-liberal policy, the financial crisis and consequent global recession affecting export production, the rapid rise in food prices, declining employment growth, the drought of 2009-10, in spite of a positive development like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
“If we do maintain a constant standard by using the same nutritional norms overtime and across states to obtain poverty lines for India comparable with the Planning Commission’s own 1973-74 nutrition-norm-based poverty line, what are the findings for 2009-10?”
According to her, poverty lines in 2009-10 for rural/urban areas for the 2,200/2,100 calorie intake norms are Rs 1,075/2,000, respectively. The proportion of people below these levels is found to be 75.5 per cent in rural and 73 per cent in urban India, with an overall poverty ratio of 74.7 percent. Thus, three quarters of the population is in poverty.