Defence Study Notes: Poverty line in India

By Dhruv Kumar|Updated : September 15th, 2020

Poverty in India is an important topic for UPSC CDS and other Defence exams questions are asked from this topic related to efforts made by the Government to eliminate poverty from the country. In this article, we will know about the Poverty line in India and the committees established to measure the poverty in the country.

Poverty Line and India

Poverty is one of the most dangerous social evil that continues to plague the world. The globalised economy which envisioned prosperity for all has led to the growth of inequalities between rich and poor. Ending Poverty in all its forms is first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations.

What is Poverty:

  • Poverty refers to a condition in which the individual or the community doesn’t have adequate resources to secure and maintain a minimum standard of living.
  • Poverty is also a multi-dimensional phenomenon; it includes lack of access to basic necessities of life (food, shelter and cloth), basic health care, education and if often characterised by hunger, malnutrition, social exclusion and discrimination.
  • Poverty is measured by determining a minimum level of income (or expenditure) required to meet a minimum standard of living (known as the Poverty Line). All those living below that are considered as poor.
  • The International Poverty line is fixed by World Bank at $1.90 a day, meaning those who earn less than $1.90 a day are considered poor. Each country has its own poverty line, depending upon the standard of living in that country.
  • The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is observed on 17 October annually.

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Poverty in India:  

India has shown a remarkable reduction in the poverty rate since Independence. The British drained all the resources of India and they left India with more than 75 % of its population in poverty. As per the latest data, about 22 % of Indians continue to live in poverty.

  • The SDG Index 2019 released by NITI Aayog highlighted that 6 states (Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Sikkim) and 6 UTs have achieved the national target of reducing the poverty rates to below 10.95 % by 2030.
  • Goa with a poverty rate of 5.09 % and Chhattisgarh with a poverty rate of 39.93 % have the lowest and highest poverty rate among Indian states.


Measuring Poverty:

India uses consumption expenditure as a method of determining poverty. Till 2020, Six official committees have been set up by the Central Government to estimate the number of Indians living in poverty. These Committees are:

  1. The working group of 1962
  2. V N Dandekar and N Rath committee (1971)
  3. Alagh Committee (1979)
  4. Lakdawala committee (1993)
  5. Suresh Tendulkar committee (2009)
  6. Rangarajan committee (2012)
  • Until the 1990s the calorie method recommended by Alagh committee was used the measured poverty. The committee determined a poverty line based on a minimum daily requirement of 2400 and 2100 calories for an adult in Rural and Urban area respectively.
  • The Tendulkar committee (2009) recommended to shift away from the calories-based calculation of poverty and devised a new method based on the calculation of spending on health, education, sanitation, travel, clothing etc. The committee stipulated a benchmark daily per capita expenditure of ₹ 27 and ₹ 33 in rural and urban areas.
  • The Rangarajan Committee, which submitted its report in 2014 raised the daily per capita expenditure to ₹ 32 from ₹ 27 for the rural poor and to ₹ 47 from ₹ 33 for the urban poor. However, the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee were not accepted by the Government.
  • The Poverty is currently measured by the terms of the Tendulkar committee.

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* It is to be noted that the Poverty line is not the basis of identification of poor in India. The number of poor people is calculated on the basis of BPL Census.

Reducing Poverty:

Although India has achieved remarkable progress in combating poverty, still a substantial portion of its population lives in poverty. NITI Aayog’s report on “Eliminating Poverty: Creating Jobs and Strengthening Social Programs” highlighted the fact that poverty in India can be achieved through employment-intensive sustained high growth and effective implementation of anti-poverty programmes. Increasing productivity in agriculture and related activities could also lead to a reduction in rural poverty.

Some of the major governmental schemes to combat poverty in India are Integrated Rural Development Programme, National Social Assistance Programme, Indira Awas Yojana (Rural Housing), Annapurna Scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), National Rural Livelihood Mission: Aajeevika and National Urban Livelihood Mission, etc.

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