Physically and Mentally Poor

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Radhanath Pyne

Nearly 60 years from independence it is shameful for a country if the word “poverty” does not lose its currency. What is the life force of this word that despite of several attacks reign cheerfully? Now it is time to question the ways by which the poverty has been measured and countered. The reliance on governmental measures and control has been decried. On the other hand, the experts and scholars are not unanimous in their views. Their suggestions are inadequate and unheard by the appropriate authorities to alleviate poverty. In the mean time the global scenario has changed radically. It pushes many issues up to the surface, like, the urban poverty and its relative impact on human life. As a result the problem persists and it persists with the fluctuating severity and in changing dimension. In this write-up with the history of measurement and control of poverty it is tried to locate some areas, which still remain, untouched in the issue of poverty.
Definition of Poverty :
. By the word “poverty” we mean a state or condition, i.e a state of being poor or a condition of inferiority. The WDR (World Development Report) 1990 defines poverty as the inability to attain a minimal standard of living. According to Prof.A.K.Sen (1981) poverty is of course a matter of deprivation. Economists and sociologists define poverty differently, which bred several concepts. For example The Entitle and Ownership Approach (Sen 1976,1977), the Biological Approach (Rowntree 1901), the Inequality Approach (Miller and Roby 1971), the Relative Deprivation Approach (Atkinson 1970, Kolm 1976, Blackorby and Donaldson 1978,1980) and the Value Judgement Approach (Orshansky 1969) are known to us. These concepts have tried to demystify the term poverty. Taking into consideration that the perception of poverty has evolved historically and varies tremendously from culture to culture (WDR – 1990), we can say that the “basic” and “minimum” need is the common route for identification of poor. The basic needs are judged in terms of commodities (Wheat, Rice, Potato, Clothes, Medicines etc) or in terms of characteristics (Calories, Protien, Vitamin etc). Between these two the latter provides more relevant basic needs (Sen, 1981). Again there are two methods for the identification of the poor on the basis of given set of basic needs, namely, the direct method based on direct consumption and income method, the minimum income ability at which all the specified minimum needs are satisfied is calculated at first and then an imaginary line is drawn. However the qualitative aspects including taste and choice of intakes are ignored in this estimation process (L.Rajaram – 1974).

Measurement of Poverty :
The debate of poverty measurement is as old as the problem is felt. We shall see that in past Indian economists involved in the fieldwork relating poverty has challenged the poverty line from the same source of data. They all used the NSS (National Sample Survey) data to comment differently. Dandekar and Rath did not accept the poverty line drawn by the study group of Planning Commission. In their opinion “that level of consumer expenditure is desirable which sources a diet adequate at least in terms of calories. In 1960 – 61 this was Rs. 170 per capita per anum for rural households and Rs. 271 per capita per anum for urban households.The poverty line of P.K.Bardhan is lower than Dandekar and Rath. He has used Rs. 15 per capita per month at 1960 – 61 for the rural poverty line and Rs. 18 for the urban. He noted that about 55% of rural population and 41% of the urban population was below the line 1968 – 69. Estimation of poverty line of B.S.Minhas was based for the period 1956 – 57 to 67 – 68. He suggested that if the urban poverty line were 240/- per cap per anum the rural standard would be Rs....
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