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The poverty line - how should it be defined?

Different countries have adopted different methodologies to count poverty. Some countries adopt calories of food consumed by a person as a method to define poverty. Some take into account possessing of resources. In this category falls destitute, shelter less, penny less people and those who do not have any purchasing power.

The various international agencies have adopted different methodologies to provide scientific and statistical analysis to define poverty.

Among them the most widely accepted is the one given by the UNDP. The UNDP has taken Human Development Index (HDI) to define broader meaning of poverty. The HDI index has taken some parameters that are basic needs of common man and allocated ranks according to them. The basic needs includes education, portable water, public health care, subsidized food grains, loans at low interest etc.

The HDI method blames corruption for ensuing poverty. It is because of corruption the funds allocated for poverty alleviation programmes are siphoned off and hence is a factor for poverty. The unequal distribution of wealth among the people is also cause of poverty.

The HDI method was proposed by famous eminent economists Amatya Sen and Mohd. H. Huq in 1990. This report is widely taken into consideration to measure the exact poverty line.

The planning commission which formulates five years plans for our economy, constituted Tendulkar committee to come with innovative idea to define poverty. The committee gave the report based on purchase power of the people residing in urban and rural areas. It said that people who spend less than 35 rupees in urban areas comes under poverty line and in rural areas those spending less than 15 rupees come under poverty line. This report was highly criticized and was kept in abeyance.

Amatya Sen, has described poverty in a more rational form and is of the opinion that onus should be on government to formulate new programmes to alleviate the poverty from the poorer section of the society.

He advised the government to provide basic infrastructure and amenities in the rural and urban areas where economic backwardness persists.

It is expected from a democratically elected government to first clearly define the poverty line and then through good governance alleviate the section the society that are below the poverty line.

Dwarakanadha Reddy Bayana