November 7, 2007EconomyPublic Policy

A universally accepted poverty line…

…does not exist

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

So says the United Nations.

One needs to be careful while making assertions (via Desipundit). The one-dollar-a-day measure just measures the number of people who earn less than one US dollar a day.

Gujarat has found a simple way of showing a decline in poverty figures. It has redefined poverty lines for both rural and urban areas. So you would be counted as poor in a Gujarat town if you earn Rs 541.16 a month ($0.45 a day) or less. In a Gujarat village, the figure is even lower — Rs 353.93 a month or 30 cents a day. Most of the other states, including the poor ones like Jharkhand, keep the poverty net wider. The internationally accepted figure is a dollar a day. This removes large numbers from the BPL list and prevents them from receiving the benefits of poverty alleviation and development programmes. [Shivam Vij/Tehelka]

There is nothing irregular about different figures for rural and urban poverty—all Indian states follow this practice. Also, according to the Planning Commission’s report dated March 2007, the equivalent national figures determining the poverty line are Rs356.30 per month (rural) and Rs538.60 per month (urban). That too is below the internationally accepted figure’. Shivam does not tell his readers that no state in India follows the internationally accepted figure’.

In addition to the academic & policy debate over the right place to draw the poverty line, there are political considerations. The latter lead to some interesting results—like 91% of families in Karnataka declaring themselves below poverty line.

Update: BOK discovers that Poverty Lines for States are set by the Planning Commission and not by the States”. And Mint has a report on (the confusing) poverty lines.

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