Poverty may be known as a state symbol in less developed countries. Laster R. Brown in his book 'World Without Borders' explains poverty thus; "Unfortunately it is not an economic abstraction, it is a human condition. It is despair, grief and pain. It is the despair of a father with a family of seven children in a poor country when he joins the, swelling ranks of unemployed with no prospects of unemployment compensation. Poverty is the longing of a young boy playing outside a village school but unable to enter because his parents lack a few rupees needed to buy text books. Poverty is the grief of parents watching a three year old child die of a routine childhood disease because they cannot afford any medical care." This is the grim, spectacle of poverty. India is a poor country. We can see easily this picture of uneducated, hungry and poverty stricken people also in India. Mass poverty is one of the important characteristics of the Indian economy. In India, due to abject poverty about half of our population lead a miserable life.
By poverty we generally mean a situation in which a person fails 10 earn income sufficient to purchase his bare means of subsistence. A poor man is one who does not have command over the basic needs of life like enough food, clothing, drinking water and shelter on the material level. On the nonmaterial level a poor man is deprived of basic social needs like health and education.
Three broad concepts of poverty can be identified. Poverty can be defined as subsistence, inequality and externality. But poverty is mainly viewed in two ways absolute and relative. In absolute sense, poverty relates to subsistence. It means absence of the minimum physical quantities of food required for an individual daily. People are considered poor if they fail to attain minimum standard of consumption and nutrition necessary for their bare existence.
Absolute poverty can be measured through income levels. Besides, progress in health and nutrition, literacy levels, consumption of essential goods and services etc. may indicate the level of absolute poverty also. Thus, it relates to the minimum standard of living. This may be expressed in terms of income or consumption expenditure.
Relative poverty means difference in the relative standard if living of the people. It stands for the large inequalities of income and wealth. In short, it relates to inequality in the level of living. It is due to mal distribution of national income. Some people are of high income group and some are of low income group. Hence the later are relatively poorer than the former. This relative poverty is found in all the countries, developing and developed more or less. In India, we are mostly concerned with absolute poverty. Absolute poverty has been expressed in terms of minimum calories intake or recommended nutritional requirements.