Current Affairs in English

22 June 2021 The Hindu Editorial

1) The state of India’s poor must be acknowledged

GS 2- Issues relating to poverty and hunger

Context: The writer in the given article talks about right measurement of poverty using specialised data collection techniques.

An imperative

  • If the state of the decrepit Indian economy is to be repaired, is to be able to meticulously count the number of the poor and to prioritise them.
  • The World Bank $2-a-day (poverty line) might be inadequate but it would be a start and higher than the last line proposed by the C. Rangarajan committee.
  •  A survey in 2013 had said India stood at 99 among 131 countries, and with a median income of $616 per annum, it was the lowest among BRICS and fell in the lower middle-income country bracket.

There has been a slide

  • Three important data points have made it clear that the state of India’s poor needs to be acknowledged if India is to be lifted.

i. the fall in the monthly per capita consumption expenditure of 2017-18 for the first time since 1972-73, which the Government withheld citing concerns with the quality of data collected,

ii. Fall of India in the Global Hunger Index to ‘serious hunger’ category and India’s own health census data

iii. National Family Health Survey or NFHS-5, which had worrying markers of increased malnutrition, infant mortality and maternal health.

  •  If we do not bother to know of the increased numbers sliding into poverty, there would be little possibility of moving toward a solution.
  • In 2019, the global Multidimensional Poverty Index reported that India lifted 271 million citizens out of poverty between 2006 and 2016.
  • Since then, the International Monetary Fund, Hunger Watch, SWAN and several other surveys show a decided slide.
  • The last time that ‘India reported an increase in poverty was in the first 25 years after Independence, when from 1951 to 1974, the population of the poor increased from 47% to 56%’.
  • So, India is again a “country of mass poverty” after 45 years. This has thrown a spanner in the so far uninterrupted battle against poverty since the 1970s.
  •  Urgent solutions are needed within, and the starting point of that would be only when we know how many are poor.


Poverty line debate

  • In India, the poverty line debate became very fraught in 2011, as the Suresh Tendulkar Committee report at a ‘line’ of ?816 per capita per month for rural India and ?1,000 per capita per month for urban India, calculated the poor at 25.7% of the population.
  • C. Rangarajan Committee, which in 2014 estimated that the number of poor were 29.6%, based on persons spending below ?47 a day in cities and ?32 in villages.

Reasons why numbers count

  • Knowing the numbers and making them public makes it possible to get public opinion to support massive and urgent cash transfers.
  • The second argument for recording the data is so that all policies can be honestly evaluated on the basis of whether they meet the needs of the majority.
  • This would be possible to transparently evaluate only when the numbers of the poor are known and established.
  • It may be more realistic to expect the public debate to be conducted on the concerns of the real majority and create a climate that demands accountability from public representatives.
  • Indians must have the right to question whether there is a connection and if the massive rise in riches is not coincidental, but at the back of the misery of millions of the poor, whose ranks are swelling.
  • If billionaire lists are evaluated in detail and reported upon, the country cannot shy away from counting its poor.

See the ‘bread line’

  • The late Arjun Sengupta, as Chairman of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector in 2004, had concluded that 836 million Indians still remained marginalised.
  • The ‘bread line’ ostensibly owes its origins to the economic depression in the United States in the 1890s and charity by New York restaurants which organised soup kitchens.
  • The massive slide into poverty in India that is clear in domestic and international surveys and anecdotal evidence must meet with an institutional response.


The Government must girdle up and unflinchingly quantify the slide from the ‘fastest growing economy’ to the country with the largest rise in the number of poor people. That it is “abject poverty” we are talking about; almost a sub-human level of existence of the majority of fellow Indians we cannot continue to be blasé about. Counting them would be a much-needed start to convey that each life matters.

22nd June, Mains Expected Questions

Q.1) The poverty line estimation in India is long debated. Crtically examine the poverty line concept given by govt. of India.


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