An Insight Into India’s Legacy Of Poverty

A day in the life of poor is difficult to understand. Image source: India Today

“Is India really poor? Where are the statistics?”

One-third of the world poor live in India. Yes, you read that right. It’s a damning statistic. India, home to over 132 crores people, is the second most populous nation on earth, with a large part of their population living below poverty line.

Erstwhile, Planning Commission defined the poor as a person earning less than ₹ 47 in cities and ₹ 32 in villages. Isn’t it disturbing to hear that these ‘poor’ earn less than ₹ 32 per day? Among rising India, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur have been the most severe poverty hit states since independence.

“Was India always a poor? What about the pre-British period?”

For 1850 years out of 2000 years, India was the richest country in the world and had the biggest economy in the world.

India was the leading economic power of the world from the first year of the first millennium till 1700 – with 32% share of world’s GDP in the first 1000 years and 28% to 24% till 1700. India lost its economic might due to colonial conquests only.

As per The Economist, India has been a major contributor to GDP until the 17th century. Today, owing to British Raj, it inherited poverty.

200 years of British rule had reduced India from its glory of one of richest countries in the world to the poorest one and their claims of bringing development and political unity were false as the British had done nothing intended for the benefit of India or Indians. Honestly, we are carrying this legacy of poverty!

“Then how badly India has been affected by poverty?”

It is surprising to note that as per the poverty profile issued by World Bank in 2011:

  • Around 27 crores people, that is, 22% of Indian are poor. Roughly, one in every five is poor.
  • 80% of India’s poor live in rural areas.
  • Only 28% of Indians are SC and ST but 43%  of poor are SC and ST.
  • 45% poor are illiterate against the 26% illiterate population of non-poor.

Apart from these, poor have lower access to basic services like latrines, electricity and tap water. They own fewer assets and primarily spend on food, fuel and light.

As per UN Human Development Index issued in 2008, India is one among the top nations where more than 80% people earn less than $2 per day.

Inter alia, the ill-effects of poverty include illiteracy, lack of nutrition and diet, child labour, unemployment, social tensions, diseases and so forth. More population means more food, money and houses. In the lack of basic facilities, poverty grows more rapidly. Becoming extra rich and extra poor creates a huge widening gap between the rich and the poor people.

“Cut the crap and tell why the government is sleeping”

The government has come up with three major hard-hitting initiatives:

Rural scheme:

Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana: Now this initiative goes a long way in helping the poor. This is technically a long-term plan. So far, more than 30 crore accounts have been opened under the scheme.

Agriculture and Insurance scheme:

Pradhan Mantri Faisal Bima Yojana: We know that a major contributor to our GDP is agriculture. This scheme provides insurance cover to poor farmers. About 17,000 crore rupees have been allocated till now which is expected to grow further.

Employment scheme:

National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: As per the programme, 100 days of work are guaranteed to people in villages across the country. It has been a successful programme as far as increasing the income levels of poor people in the rural areas is concerned.

There are about 100 more schemes launched by the government to help poor.

“So what’s the conclusion then?”

Amidst talks of touching Mars, hitting a top place on development list and the glare of city-lights, we must be cognizant of the fact that India is poor. India has a long fight to alleviate poverty and ensure that the government benefit reaches to the person standing last in the queue.

Mahatma Gandhi once quoted “Poverty is the worst form of violence”. While you might be reading this alarming post currently on your smartphone or laptop, someone in the sub-rural outskirts of Mumbai would be desperately planning a square meal of his poor family.

Author | Kshitij Chitransh