India reduced its poverty rate sharply from 55 per cent to 28 per cent in ten years between 2005-06 and 2015-16, according to a new version of the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). In India, a total of 271 million (27.10 crore) people moved out of poverty during these ten years, it said.
“The poorest groups in India — Muslims and Scheduled Tribes — reduced poverty the most over the ten years from 2005-06 to 2015-16,” the report said. The multidimensional poverty index is based on a powerful list of 10 deprivations for poor. The dimensions of poverty range from deprivations of health facilities, education and living standards.
The MPI measures acute poverty and people experiencing multiple deprivations, for example, those who are both undernourished and do not have safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and clean fuel. These indicators are set to minimum international agreed standards in basic functioning. “While progress has been remarkable, the country still has the largest number of people living in multidimensional poverty in the world (364 million people). If one considers the 364 million people who are MPI poor in 2015-16, 156 million (34.5 per cent) are children. In fact, of all the poor people in India, just over one in four-27.1 per cent-has not yet celebrated their tenth birthday,” it said.
But multidimensional poverty among children under 10 has fallen the fastest. In 2005-06 there were 292 million poor children in India, so the latest figures represent a 47 per cent decrease or a 136 million fewer children growing up in multidimensional poverty. “When considering the durable and lifetime consequences of childhood deprivation, particularly in nutrition and schooling, this is a tremendously good sign for India’s future,” it said.
The global MPI covers 105 countries in total, which are home to 77 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.7 billion people. Of this proportion, 23 per cent of people (1.3 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor.
The report said that across the 640 districts in India, the poorest district is Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh, where 76.5 per cent of people are MPI poor,
Among states, Jharkhand had the greatest improvement, with Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland only slightly behind. However, Bihar is still the poorest state in 2015-16, with more than half of its population in poverty. In 2015-16, the four poorest states — Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh — were still home to 196 million MPI poor people — over half of all the MPI poor people. A total of 113 million people — 8.6 per cent of India’s people — live in severe poverty, the report, which also contains a case study in India.
According to the report, while traditional disadvantaged sub-groups such as rural dwellers, lower castes and tribes, Muslims and young children are still the poorest in 2015-16, the landscape has improved dramatically, during the decade. These groups had the biggest reductions between 2005-06 and 2015-16, showing that they have been “catching up”. Significantly, this trend marks a reversal from that observed from 1998-99 to 2005-06. During 1998-99 to 2005-06, these groups had the slowest progress and were left behind.
That being the case, even in 2015-16, half of the Scheduled Tribes are MPI poor, whereas only 15 per cent of the higher castes are. Every third Muslim is multidimensionally poor, compared to every sixth Christian. Two in five children under 10 years of age are poor (41 per cent), but less than one quarter of people aged 18 to 60 (24 per cent) are poor.
The sharp reduction happened in the UPA years (Congress -led UPA was in power from 2004-05 till 2013-14).
The average GDP growth rate during the UPA period was about 7.6 per cent.