Counting India’s poor: Numbers suggest the need for a welfare state

Source– The post is based on the article “Counting India’s poor: Numbers suggest the need for a welfare state ” published in The Indian Express on 6th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Poverty and hunger

Relevance– Estimation of poverty

News– The article explains the issues of estimation of poverty in India and its implications for government.

What are different approaches used in India for calculating the prevalence of poverty?

The first is the calorie intake approach. 2400 calories per day was taken as a standard and converted into monetary value.

The World Bank uses the concept of income per day. It is now at $1.90. It translates into Rs 160 a day in India.

The third approach is use of income tax data.

What are the shortcomings of this approach?

Calorie approach– People can not live with just calories. They need other amenities like housing, clothing and education.

World bank– Using a universal yardstick across the world is not right. A weak currency can give a higher value in India.

Income tax data– It captures only a small segment as it leaves the big universe of rural people.

How can we calculate the number of vulnerable populations that need support?

The concept of poor needs to be broadened to represent the needy or vulnerable section of the society.

The government has been aggressive in reaching out to vulnerable populations that require support to maintain their minimum needs during the pandemic.

PMGKY covered 800 million people. It means 60% of the population needed support from the government. The National Portal of India in 2020 had put out a static that 42 crore people benefitted from PMGKY. It is around 30% of the population.

136 million families were covered under MGNREGA.

The PM Kisan Yojana covers 110 million farmers. It yields a number close to a third of the population, assuming that families comprise four members. This does not cover vulnerable non-farming classes, especially in urban areas.

By putting all these numbers together, the proportion of the vulnerable population in the economy would range between 30% to 60%.

What is the way forward for fulfilling the needs of the vulnerable section?

The government has to assume the role of a welfare state.

The focus has to be on job creation. Agriculture has to be commercialised. Manufacturing has to be revived.

A joint effort between centre and states is needed.

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