Even as India once more self-declares its “arrival on the world stage” with a symbol for the Indian rupee, a global assessment presents a depressing picture of India’s actual economic performance. In a study whose conclusions were to be expected, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI) has revealed that an appropriate index of poverty (and deprivation) finds its incidence in India and elsewhere to be much greater than estimated by the controversy-dogged measures of “income poverty” that abound.
Commissioned by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme to evolve a multi-dimensional approach to and define a more appropriate index of poverty for inclusion in the 20th anniversary edition of its flagship Human Development Report, the OPHDI has recently completed its study that provides a new assessment of the level and distribution of global poverty.
Authored by Sabina Alkire and James Foster, the new measures of poverty go beyond the income measures to capture the range of deprivations individuals suffer because of factors varying from inadequate education to ill health and poor standards of living. Thus, besides the conventional head-count of those below a certain income or calorie-consumption level the Alkire-Foster index attempts (as the Human Development Index had done) to aggregate measures of a range of deprivations. It also attempts to measure the intensity of poverty in terms of the average number of deprivations individuals in households suffer.
It is to be expected that as we move from purely income measures to more multi-dimensional indices the incidence and intensity of poverty would increase. But what is noteworthy in the evidence on the Indian case is not just the gap between measures of income poverty and societal deprivation, but the story it tells about the incidence of poverty in certain Indian regions when compared with other poor countries of the... [continues]
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