Dr. Parveen Kumar Poverty in simple words refer to a condition in which a person or a community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. Poverty is the state of not having enough material possessions or income for a person’s basic needs. Poverty results in diverse social, economic, and political causes and effects. India is being categorized as a developing nation. Of the many challenges the country is being confronted with, poverty is still a major one. India has not counted its poor since 2011. But the United Nations estimated the number of poor in the country to be 364 million in 2019, or 28 per cent of the population. All the estimated new poor due to the pandemic is in addition to this. Although, poverty is on the decline in India, still around 84 million people are living in extreme poverty in the country and this makes up about 6% of its total population as of May 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic is further estimated to push an additional 90 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 400 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction. According to United Nations Development Programme administrator Achim Steiner, India lifted 271 million people out of extreme poverty in a 10-year time period from 2005–2006 to 2015–2016. A 2020 study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found ‘some 220 million Indians sustained on an expenditure level of less than Rs 32/day, the poverty line for rural India by the last headcount of the poor in India in 2013.’
Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day and is likely to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population in 2020 according to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report. This would represent a regression to the rate of 9.2% in 2017. Had the pandemic not convulsed the globe, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020. On the other hand, multidimensional poverty has significantly reduced from 54.7% in 2005 to 27.9% in 2015–2016.
While poverty is often defined by one dimensional measure usually based on income, multidimensional poverty represents a new paradigm which encompasses the various deprivations experienced by poor people in their daily lives such as poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, disempowerment, poor quality of work, the threat of violence, and living in areas that are environmentally hazardous, among others. A multidimensional measure of poverty can incorporate a range of indicators that capture the complexity of this phenomenon in order to inform policies aimed at reducing poverty and deprivation in a country. Depending on the context of a country and the purpose of the measure, different indicators can be chosen to reflect the needs and priorities of a nation, as well as its constituent regions, districts, provinces, etc. To measure the multiple dimensions of poverty, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) came out with the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in 2010. MPI is based on the idea that poverty is not single dimensional (not just depending on income and one individual may lack several basic needs like education, health etc.), but multidimensional. The index shows the proportion of poor people and the average number of deprivations each poor person experiences at the same time. MPI uses three dimensions and ten indicators. The two indicators under education include years of schooling and child enrollment. Child mortality and nutrition indicators are put under dimension of Health and six indicators under Standard of Living include electricity, flooring, drinking water, sanitation, cooking fuel and assets. A person is multi-dimensionally poor if she/he is deprived in one third or more (means 33% or more) of the weighted indicators (out of the ten indicators). Those who are deprived in one half or more of the weighted indicators are considered living in extreme multidimensional poverty. MPI is significant as it recognizes poverty from different dimensions compared to the conventional methodology that measures poverty only based on the income or monetary terms.
Recently, Global Multidimensional Poverty Index, 2021 was released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) by considering the data from 109 countries and 5.9 billion people. The data has come up with shocking figures and facts. At the global level 1.3 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor and of these about half (644 million) are children under the age of 18. Nearly 85% live in Sub-Saharan Africa (556 million) or South Asia (532 million). There has been also a periodic reduction in poverty. Of the 80 countries and five billion people for which there is data over time, 70 reduced MPI in at least one period, with the fastest changes coming from Sierra Leone (2013-2017), followed by Togo (2013/2014-2017). There has also been an absolute reduction in poverty. Some countries saw the fastest absolute reductions in their poorest regions-helping to fulfill their pledge to leave no one behind. Multidimensional poverty also concluded that education has a bearing on multidimensional poverty. Worldwide about two-thirds of multi-dimensionally poor people (836 million) live in households where no woman or girl completed at least six years of schooling. One-sixth of all multi-dimensionally poor people (215 million) live in households in which at least one boy or man has completed six or more years of schooling but no girl or woman has. The report also finds that women and girls living in multidimensional poverty are at a higher risk of intimate partner violence. As far as living standard is concerned, 1 billion people are exposed to solid cooking fuels, another billion live with inadequate sanitation and another billion have substandard housing. 788 million live in a household with at least one undernourished person. 568 million lack improved drinking water within a 30-minute round trip walk. The Multi-dimensional Poverty Index has also has exposed the weaknesses in social protections systems, education, and workers’ vulnerability around the world particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Indian scenario where castes and tribes are a more prevalent line of social stratification in India, this index has also come up with the incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty among castes and tribes and among individuals who are not members of any caste or tribe. In the country, five out of six multi-dimensionally poor people are from lower tribes or castes. 9.4% of the Scheduled Tribe group lives in multidimensional poverty whereas 33.3% of the Scheduled Caste group lives in multidimensional poverty.27.2% of the Other Backward Class group lives in multidimensional poverty.
Poverty, which until a few decades back was just confined being related with the income has now became a global challenge with a new paradigm representing deprivations of basic necessities of life. One type of deprivation gives rise to another one ultimately resulting in this vicious cycle of poverty going on continuously. It is high time we fought this challenge with a holistic approach and a more inclusive and participatory approach involving all the member countries. The author s a Scientist at KVK-Leh, can be reached at [email protected]