28 September 2011

the economics (and politics) of india's poverty

the following letter was sent to India’s Planning Commission by civic groups in Madhya Pradesh:
Dear Shri Montak Singh,

I am writing a very small note, because you have no time for poor usually.

What I have learned about Planning Commission is that, this institution do not hear voices of the poor. As these people are considered to be burden on economic growth. But let me assure you that Poverty Line prescribed by Planning Commission will certainly kill hundreds of thousands of people silently.

Hunger and Hungry do not make noise. They live short life silently and die with silence. They are left with no energy to express their own concerns over what India's Planning Commission is doing with them.

I would, anyway, like to request you to think over it again that why you want people to keep Hungry and Malnourished!! What is your feeling and belief behind this? I am of firm understanding that you just don't want society to decide what is poverty and who is poor. You want to decide at your level because you want to justify, wrongly, that economic growth policies have contributed in decreasing poverty, hunger and vulnerability in India. Whereas the truth is just opposite to your efforts.

If you don't agree with me, I would request you to live on this amount for six months and show that survival is possible on this expenditure, if you can do so, at least I would join your concept. Otherwise for the sake of humanity please don't play with the vulnerability of people living with hunger and poverty.

short and sweet (ignoring the grammatical errors of course).

a bit more description on the poverty line by ranjani mohanty:
The poverty line for a given individual can be defined as the money the individual needs to achieve the minimum level of ‘welfare’ to not be deemed ‘poor,’ given its circumstances.

This is how Martin Ravallion, director of the Development Research Group at the World Bank, defines the poverty line. In 2005, the World Bank revised the international poverty line up from $1 a day to $1.25 a day, but countries are allowed to set their own national poverty line. The Planning Commission has set India’s national line at 578 rupees a month, or the equivalent of 43 U.S. cents a day.

Even assuming only a charitable (to the government, that is) 30 days a month, that works out to less than 20 rupees a day. A half-litre packet of milk at Mother Dairy costs 10 rupees. One mango, those in season and heaped on carts by the side of the street, costs 10 rupees. And a cabbage …but no, your 20 rupees a day has already been spent. If you spend more than that, even on clothing or education or fuel, you cannot be termed as below the poverty line and therefore you are not eligible for BPL-related benefits and subsidies on food, shelter, and medical treatment. And note that the luxurious 20 rupees a day is for city dwellers; rural people have to spend less than 15 rupees a day in order to be below the poverty line.

The absurdity of such a low poverty line is astounding. Even the World Bank, which does not usually comment on national poverty lines, feels that India’s is too low and was hoping for a more realistic peg at $1.17 a day. Many concerned individuals have called India’s poverty line the “starvation line.” In fact, it is tending more toward the flat-line on a cardiac monitor.
and a much more detailed description of how the poverty line came about, its faults and so forth can be found here.

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