Literally, poverty means scarcity or few. From social and economic point of view, it refers to that state or condition which fails to provide minimum necessities of life. Thus, poverty leads to extreme lower standard of living, denying even the basic requirements of life to a vast majority of population.
Poverty is a state in which a section of society is unable to get the basic necessities of life. When a substantial segment of population is deprived of minimum standard of living that society is said to be plagued with mass poverty.
Poverty is a relative concept. No individual or country is absolutely poor or rich. A man is poor or rich in comparison to the others. As Adam Smith says “Man is poor or rich according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessaries conveniences and amusements of life”. The form of these minimum necessities however changes, with variation in place and time. There is no uniform standard to define poverty throughout the world.
For example in India and in America the basis of determination of poverty is not the same. In Western developed countries people are poor, not because they lack necessities of life, but only because of their possessions are insufficient according to the prevailing standards i.e., inability to own automobiles or planes etc, in U.S.A a person earning Rs. 50,000/- per month will be called a poor, where as in India, a person earning such amount is called rich.
Therefore it can be said that poverty is the condition of the absence of fulfillment of the minimum necessities of life according to the prevailing standard of the society.
According to GIllin and Gillin, “poverty is that condition in which a person either because of inadequate income or unwise expenditure does not maintain a scale of living high enough to provide for his physical and mental efficiency and to enable him and his natural dependents to function usually according to the standards of the society of which he is a member.
Goddard defines poverty as “poverty is insufficient supply of those things which are requisite for an individual to maintain himself and those dependent upon him in health and vigor.
From these facts it can be said that poverty is the condition of extremely lower standards of living and the man in poverty is unable to gather the means to keep himself and his family members is good physical as well as psychological state.
6 Main Causes of Poverty:
Poverty is regarded as a vicious circle. It is the product of different causes. Some of the thinkers have attributed it to a single cause but as poverty is a multi dimensional problem, multiple factors are responsible for it. According to hennery George, the main cause of poverty is the personal ownership and monopoly of individual on the land. He writes “in great cities where land is so valuable that it is measured by foot you will find extreme of poverty and of luxury.”
Marx said the main causes of poverty are the exploitation laborers by the capitalists. Malthus said, poverty increases because of the fact that, while the food production increases in arithmetical progression, the population increase in geometric progression. These views lay emphasis on a singular cause of poverty but modern social scientists consider that poverty is the result of multiple factors.
1) Personal factors:
Personal factors play important role in economic status of a person. In this modern scientific era, one may not believe in the fate but no one can deny the importance of personal capacity and efforts in his life style and life pattern. The important personal factors cause poverty is as follows.
Due to sickness a person is unable to work or his income decreases. A major portion of his income is spent on the cure of the diseases. Sickness increases poverty. Hunter has rightly pointed out that “Poverty and sickness form a vicious partnership each helping the other to add to the miseries of most unfortunate of mankind.”
ii) Mental disease:
Mental disease and frustration also increase poverty. Owing to this, a man looses the balance of his mind by which he is incapable of doing anything. So his family becomes poor and it aggravates poverty.
Accident of any kind may make a person incapable of working, as a result of which he becomes a parasite on society or his income decreases. When income decreases poverty increases.
iv) Idleness and extravagance:
India is a rich country inhabited by poor. Idle and lazy persons do not work although they are able to work. Hence they remain poor. There are also extravagant persons who can waste any amount of money in no time. So the cause of poverty is not the lower income but excess of expenditure over income. Such persons also spent lavishly during festive occasions like marriage ceremony, many social religious festivals etc, and they always remain poor.
Due to lower morale some person are addicted to drinking, prostitution, gambling and other social evils. Such persons spent high proportion of their income on these evil habits and finally become pauper.
2) Biological factors:
Rapid growth of population is one of the most important causes of poetry. Malthus has pointed out that the geometric progress of population is the root cause of poverty. Due to the development of medical science, reduction of famine, control of epidemics and natural calamities death rate has decreased. At the same time birth rate has not been effectively controlled.
If a man has too many children his standard of living is definitely lowered and he becomes relatively poor.” Besides, other factors like the power of fertility of Indian women, early age of marriage are also indirectly responsible for poverty.
3) Geographical factors:
Geographical factors also create conditions for increasing poverty. The important geographical factors are as follows.
i) Unfavourable climate and weather:
Unfavourable climate and weather hinders the work and production. This increases poverty.
ii) Absence of natural resources:
Natural resources are the wealth of the country. A country cannot progress in the absence of natural resources. It includes fertile land, minerals, natural products etc, and without these a country will remain poor.
iii) Natural calamities:
Natural calamities like flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, typhoons, tornado, and cyclone etc, cause serious damages to humanity. During cultivating season, due to the absence of rain, drought occurs which causes heavy loss to agriculture this increases poverty.
4) Economical factors:
The most fundamental cause of poverty is economics. The important economical factors are as follows.
i) Backwardness of agriculture:
Indian Agriculture is carried on with primitive techniques. Due to the absence of modern machines, tools, implements, improved seeds, manures, inadequate irrigation facilities, constant fragmentation of land and exploitation by the landlords etc. Agricultural production hampers to a great extent. Besides these our agricultural system is not sufficient to provide adequate number of jobs or better price for agricultural products. This increase poverty among the rural farmers.
ii) Slow and defective industrialisation:
In India industrialisation is taking place at a snail’s pace, due to inadequate finance, paucity of skilled and technically trained personnel, irregular supply of power and raw materials etc. Therefore it is not possible in India to provide employment in large scale tot he persons who are willing to work. Further the concentration of industries in urban areas also deprives the rural poor from getting employment in industries.
iii) Unequal distribution:
Distribution of wealth is unequal in India. Wealth is mostly concentrated in the hands of a few. These people after an optimum of investment keep the wealth in iron chests. On the other hand, the people who would have invested it for productive purpose do not get it. This leaves a majority of population in this state of unemployment.
iv) Unwise economic policy:
Indian is rich in respect of natural resources, but poor in making proper utilisation of it. Till now we are not able to make optimum utilisation of resources as a result of which it remains unutilised or misused. Sometimes due to defective policy of the government people remain poor. This is the root cause of economic backwardness of India.
5) Social factors:
Indian social life is tilled dominated by religious and idealistic philosophers. Material achievements are not being given high value. As a result the entire social system with its institution and practices are not conducive for materials advance. The education is more idealistic than realistic. The parents continue to feed their off spring, even during their youth as in case of joint family. At times, they also manage the family of their children.
The so called caste consideration prohibits rural youth to enter into any job. On the other hand before he is able to earn, often his bound by marriage relations which is considered as a socio religious necessity. All these ads fuel to the burning fire of poverty.
6) Political factors:
Before independence, the economy of India was exploited by the British rulers and after independence; our political leaders to some extent are responsible for the ruin of our country. Now-a-days Indian Administration is full of corruption and inefficiency. Many political leaders do not hesitate to enrich themselves at the cost of country’s interest.
Nobody is taking the genuine interest for the economic developments of the country many laws are passed by actions do not seem to be encouraging. Political elites are giving various popular slogans like ‘anti poverty programme, ‘removal of unemployment’ or ‘Bekari Hatao’, ‘Garibi Hatao’ etc but these slogans have not been translated into action. Due to inefficiency and dishonesty of some of the political leaders, no real socio economic development has taken place and Indian Society till sinks in the ocean of poverty and misery.