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Dispelling myths about India's extreme poverty

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/4/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Asian nation is home to one-third of worlds super poor

The world's largest Democracy, the nation of India remains mired in extreme poverty. Facts and figures fail to address the many issues in connection with the nation's almost insurmountable poverty. The Empowerment Line, developed by the McKinsey Global Institute, is pursuing methods in order to eradicate poverty. In order to find solutions for India's poverty, the institute calculated the cost for an Indian household to attain the basics and then compares these benchmarks to actual consumption data to measure needs that are going unmet. What the institute found flew in face of the common "wisdom" concerning the nation's poor.

One myth that needs dispelling about India's high rates of poverty is rising incomes are the key to a better quality of life. This observation is true only up to a point.

One myth that needs dispelling about India's high rates of poverty is rising incomes are the key to a better quality of life. This observation is true only up to a point.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
6/4/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: INdia, poverty, myths, spending poor, unmet needs


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The first myth that needed to be addressed was largely a statistical one.

The first myth, 1# was the figure that just 22 percent of Indians are poor. This figure only applies to those in the most abject circumstances. A casual observation of statistic there suggests even more widespread deprivation. According to the Empowerment Line, 56 percent of Indians, some 680 million, lack the means to meet their basic needs. Above the official poverty line, some 413 million are "vulnerable."

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The second biggest misconception is that #2 Food is the biggest unmet need of India's poor. Hunger remains a daily fact of life. But health care, drinking water, and sanitation constitute 40 percent of the population's unmet needs by value. India's national debate on poverty tends to focus on calorie sufficiency rather than these critical services.

Here is something that may seem contradictory for accepted western wisdom. Myth #3: Rising incomes are the key to a better quality of life. This observation is true only up to a point. People in India who make more money can afford better housing, sanitation, drinking water, and fuel for cooking and lighting. Being able to spend more money is only one side of the equation. The poor also depend on community-level infrastructure such as schools and health-care networks.

Indians lack access to 46 percent of basic services. This number soars up to 59 percent for the most deprived districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Myth #4: Rising welfare budgets were the most important factor in past poverty reduction. India has been committing more resources to social welfare. Public spending for basic services rose by some 11 percent per year in real terms from 2005 to 2012, eventually reaching $118 billion. But about half of this spending did not translate into real benefits for the poor due to waste, corruption, or simple ineffectiveness.

Another bit of misconceived advice is that Myth #5: More subsidies and social transfers can eradicate poverty in the future. The additional consumption required to raise 680 million Indians to the standards of the Empowerment Line is equivalent to about four percent of GDP.

As India's new government takes the helm, the once-elusive goal of eliminating extreme poverty in India finally appears within the country's reach. As we see, this is no guarantee that Indian poor can attain a decent life.

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