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Urban poverty drops 47% in state in just two years

Economists say numbers suggest discontinuous growth

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Mumbai | Updated: April 8, 2014 5:33:19 pm

In what could actually be the fastest reduction in poverty numbers ever over a two-year stretch since Maharashtra came into being in 1960,the state has recorded a 47 per cent dip in urban poverty.

According to data released by the Planning Commission,the number of urban poor in Maharashtra stood at 47.36 lakh at the end of 2011-12,down 47 per cent since 2009-10,when 90.9 lakh people were below poverty line (BPL).

During this two-year period,the state is estimated to have grown by an average 8.65 per cent.

The all-India reduction in urban poverty during the same period stands at 31 per cent.

Incidentally,it had taken the state five years,from 2004-05 to 2009-10,to reduce the number of urban poor by 20 per cent,from 114.6 lakh to 90.9 lakh. This despite the fact that the state’s economy grew by 10 per cent annually during this period.

As per the 2011 census,Maharashtra’s population stands at 11.3 crore. Of the 5.1 crore people living in urban areas,47.36 lakh or 9.12 per cent of the urban population are below poverty line. And of 6.2 crore people living in rural areas,1.5 crore or 24.22 per cent are below poverty line.

Any person in the state who earns less than Rs 37.5 in urban areas and Rs 32.2 in rural area is categorised as being below the poverty line.

The reduction in the numbers released by the Planning Commission was met with skepticism by economists,who claimed such sharp reductions put a question mark on the methodology itself.

“The present system of deciding poverty is very unrealistic and these figures expose that,” said Sharit Bhomik,chairperson,Centre for Labour Studies,Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

Other economists said the numbers suggested a discontinuous growth. It took a good five years for the poverty numbers to reduce by 20 per cent. However,it took only two years for the numbers to dip by 47 per cent. “Such reductions in poverty numbers can’t be very discontinuous,like these figures are. However,there is a possibility that due to the performance of the state economy where the GSDP in 2011-12 was substantially good,these numbers could have been attained,” economist Ajit Ranade said.

Those associated with the government,however,said it was because of the Central government’s large number of schemes to alleviate urban poverty. “The state has been doing well economically. The Central government has also started a number of schemes to alleviate urban poverty. The results of these efforts are now being seen in the reduction of urban poverty,” former chairman of the State Planning Board and Congress member Ratnakar Mahajan said.

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