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Poverty In India In The 20th Century.

Updated on March 30, 2013

Who Are The Poor?

You should have noticed in all localities and neighbourhoods, both in rural and urban areas, there are some who are rich and some who are poor. Pushcart vendors, street cobblers, vendors and beggars are some examples of the poor. They possess very little assets. The poorest of them even does not even have a house to live in or enough money to buy a square meal a day. Some of the poor in India who possess land, which is either waste or bad land. The poor lack basic literacy and skills and hence have very limited economic opportunities. Most most of the poor are either agriculturists or casual workers who are the most vulnerable sections of the society. Malnutrition is alarmingly high in these sections. They do not get proper health care facilities and serious illness makes them physically weak and forces then to stay home, rather than doing their job to earn a living. The poor also haven't got the money to perform their day to day activities, so they borrow money from moneylenders who charge very high rates of interest. In the course of time these money lenders manipulate the accounts to leaves the poor borrowers in dept traps. The poor in many areas doe not have access to clean drinking water. The mortality rates both the infant and maternal are high in these section due to low nutritional levels and the inadequate health care facilities.

Scholars identified the poor on the basis of their occupation and the assets they owned. They said that the rural poor consisted of mainly landless labourers or cultivators with very small land holdings and those who engaged in various non-agricultural jobs. The urban poor largely consisted of the rural poor who migrated for jobs to urban areas. They did various casual jobs and others became self employed and sold goods in roadsides and are engaged in various activities.

How Was The Poor Identified?

If some way was to be found to eliminate poverty, first of all it was necessary to understand the number of poor and the concentration of poor i various areas of India. In pre-independent Dadabhai Naoroji was the first one to discuss the concept of a Poverty Line. He used the menu for a prisoner and appropriated prevailing prices to arrive at what may be called the 'jail cost of living'. However, only adults stayed in jail and in the real society there where children too. He, therefore, adjusted this cost of living to arrive at the Poverty Line.

In post independent India, there have been several attempts to work out a mechanism to identify the poor in India. In 1962 the Planning Commission of India formed a study group. In 1979, another body called the Task Force on Projects of Minimum Needs and Effective Consumption Demand, was formed. In 1989 an Expert Group was formed for the same purpose.

For the purpose of defining poverty the people were divided in to two categories; the poor and the non-poor and the poverty line separated the two. The poor were then divided into certain sub groups. In one such way the people who are always poor and those whose are usually poor are grouped together as the chronic poor. Another group are the churning poor who regularly move in and out of poverty and the occasionally poor who are rich most of the time but may have a patch of bad lick at some point. They are called the transient poor. And then there are the the ones who are never poor and they are the non poor.

The poverty line divide the poor in many ways one such way is on the basis of the monetary value of the intake of calories that was estimated at 2,400 calories for a rural person and 2,100 calories for an urban person. Based on this, in 1999-2000, the poverty line was define for rural areas as consumption worth Rs 328 per person a month and for urban areas it was Rs 454.

But the scholars stated that this was not a good way to identify the poor as it only took into account the monetary values and not that concerned with literacy, healthcare, sanitation facilities etc. They also stated that only limited goods where included in the consumption basket of the poverty line and did not include many of thee necessary consumer goods of daily use.

What Caused Poverty In India?

Poverty in India was caused due to several reasons which included historical causes like the British colonial rule. The colonial period was indeed the time when the poverty in India increased this fast and wise. The de-industrialisation the British initiated in India is one of the main reasons for the poverty in India. The deindustrialisation ment the reduction of the number of industries in India so as to make India a mere exporter of raw materials and the consumer of finished products manufactured by the British factories. This resulted in the people getting jobless in large numbers. They became unable to meet their daily requirements and hence became poor.

The zamindari system, which was also initiated by the British, also improved the number of the poor in the country. Under this system the farmers were to cultivate under zamindars who were given ownership of the land by the British, in return of the payment which were collected from the farmers as tax. This resulted in the stagnation of agriculture and the cultivators who were not the owners of the land did not benefit from what they produced as all that they got from the land where to be given as tax.

Landlesness was another reason for poverty in India. The land was concentrated mainly in the hands of rich agriculturalists. Since a large section of the poor in India were dependent on agriculture, landlesness was a serious issue. It is one major player which contributed in increasing the poverty in India. Indebtedness and casualisation of labour was another reason for poverty in India along with the ignorance of the scheduled caste and tribe.

As the reasons and the number of poor was found the Government of India took various steps to alleviate poverty from the country. This included a 3D approach, which include alleviation of poverty through growth in G.D.P(Gross Domestic Product), alleviation through various alleviation programs like the NREGA(National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and the 3rd dimention for addressing poverty was through providing basic amenities like,sanitation etc.


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