How is Poverty Level Measured?

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Calorie consumption expenditure level is an important method to determine poverty line in India. Per capita-daily calorific minimum has been defined as 2400 calories for rural areas and 2100 for urban areas. If we consider this on the basis of sex, a very rough average for the required intake is 3900 for working women.

Though this method appears to be a foolproof method, there are some built in glitches. Since, this particular measures of poverty is based only on consumption of food, access to innumerable other essentials is ignored. Adequate fuel, clothing, housing, drinking water, sanitation, health and education are just a few of the many essential goods and services that are not covered by these measures of poverty.

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The simplest measure of poverty is the Head Count Ratio (HCR) which is calculated by dividing the number of people below the poverty line by the total population. Simply, speaking, this is the proportion of poor in the total population.

Though easy to understand, the formulation of policy on the basis of HCR leads to trouble, as it makes no distinction between people just below the poverty line and those much below the poverty line. Hence, the government can claim to have succeeded in eradicating poverty considerably by spending just enough on the least poor, and spending nothing on the most poor. However, despite this shortcoming HCR is the official method to estimate poverty.

According to the latest survey by NSSO, the poverty in India is estimated at 26.10% for the country as a whole and 27.09% in rural areas, 23.62% in urban areas.

Poverty Eradication Programmes Poverty eradication programmes have been strengthened over the years to generate additional employment, create productivity assets, impart technical and entrepreneurial skills and raise the income level of the poor. For the year 2003-04, Ministry of Rural Development was allocated Rs19200 crores for rural development, provision of drinking water supply, rural employment and poverty eradication programmes etc. Major poverty eradication and employment generation programmes are, the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar, Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana, Antoyodaya Anna Yojana, Indira Awaas Yojana, Swarna Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana, etc.

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The success of the poverty eradication programmes can be seen from the reduction of poverty from 54.9% in 1973-74 to 36% in 1993-94 the poverty ratio declined by the nearly 10% point in the Five Years Plans period between 1993-94 to reach 26% in 1999-2000. While the poor in the rural areas declined from 56.4% in 1973-74 to 27.1% in 1999-2000, the decline in urban areas has been from 49% to 26.3% during this period.

Direct poverty eradication programmes are important and will continue on an expanded scale in the Ninth and Tenth Plan. But, these programmes would be orientated towards strengthening the productive potential of the economy and providing more opportunities for involving the poor in the economic process. Certain schemes concerning income generation through supplementary employment and targeted PDS system to facilitate easy access to food grains, could be successfully implemented to improve the living condition of poor people.

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