Poverty in India and Pakistan
Overall, the latest World Bank data shows that India's poverty rate of 27.5%, based on India's current poverty line of $1.03 per person per day, is more than 10 percentage points higher than Pakistan's 17.2%. Assam (urban), Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the only three Indian states with lower poverty rates than Pakistan's.
Although consumption poverty has steadily declined in India, the number of people who actually consume calories above the minimum level associated with the poverty line—2,400 and 2,100 kilocalories per day in rural and urban areas, respectively—has not risen. As of 2004–05, as many as 80 percent of rural households were estimated to be “calorie poor.”
India’s middle-class lives barely or not far above India’s poverty line of $1.02 a day, and well below international poverty lines, especially in rural areas.
Large differences in poverty levels persist across India’s states and indeed are growing in urban areas. The rural areas of India’s poorest states have poverty rates that are the highest in the developing world. In contrast, urban areas of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have poverty rates that are similar to those found in countries such as Turkey or the richer Latin American countries.
The World Bank findings are consistent with the 2008 India State Hunger Index study by Purnima Menon, Anil Deolalikar, Anjor Bhaskar. It showed that Assam and Punjab have much less hunger than the rest of India. Madhya Pradesh has the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69 on the World Hunger Index.
The World Bank report discusses various causes of poverty in India, particularly discrimination against certain castes and tribes who make up most of the poor. It describes exclusion based on caste (SC or scheduled caste) and tribes (ST or scheduled tribes) and describes it as follows:
The Hindu hierarchy is said to have evolved from different parts of the body of Brahma—the creator of the universe. Thus, the Brahmans, who originated from the mouth, undertake the most prestigious priestly and teaching occupations. The Kshatriyas (from the arms) are the rulers and warriors; the Vaishyas (from the thighs) are traders and merchants. The Shudras, from the feet, are manual workers and servants of other castes. Below the Shudras and outside the caste system, lowest in the order, the untouchables engage in the most demeaning and stigmatized occupations (scavenging, for instance, and dealing with bodily waste).
Similarly, the scheduled tribes are also referred to as the Adivasis. .... we use the terms SC and ST, as these are standard administrative and survey categories. In
the text we use the terms Dalits and Adivasis or tribals interchangeably with SCs and STs, respectively.
The report acknowledges that "the Indian Constitution set the stage for almost unparalleled affirmative action and other forms of positive actions. These have been translated into laws, programs, and procedures".
The authors explain that "the combination of identity politics, inflexibility of the very systems that seek to promote inclusion, and the attendant poor implementation has resulted in patchy impact, affecting some groups more than others. To state the real challenge is to state a truism—that the implementation of policies and of reforms of institutions is the key to ensuring that growth becomes more equitable".
Here's a video clip on grinding poverty in resurgent India:
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