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The poverty line - how should it be defined?

The poverty line is a criterion which describes the category of people who lives in acute poverty. The person who falls below this line requires government's support.

Generally a person who falls below this line is without any basic amenities, like food, dress and shelter etc.

Every government strives to reduce the number of poor people in the country. There is large number of welfare schemes for this purpose. The poverty line proves to be an important tool in the effective formulation and implementation of such welfare policies.

The poverty line should be defined in such a way that no needy person is left out.

India is a country with limited resources and we must realize that funds should be utilized in a justifiable manner so that maximum number people can be brought to above poverty line. So the specific utilization of welfare fund is of utmost importance in developing country like India.

The poverty line can not be defined by a mechanical definition like only those persons whose income is below $1.25. As this would exclude a person whose income is $2, though he might need assistance too.

So a broad, comprehensive and dynamic approach is needed to define the poverty line.
Only source of income cannot fully define a poverty line.
Poverty line should be defined according to various factors influencing the life of a man like;

  • Whether he has a house of his own.
  • Whether he has a latrine and bathroom in the house
  • Whether he has access to clean drinking water
  • Whether he has a source of income, if yes how much he earns
  • Number of family members
  • Whether he has any land
  • Socio-economic status of the person

Using the above mentioned criteria the entire population can be divided into 10 categories. Each category should be having a grade system.

After that the last two or three categories should be defined as below poverty line. Those under BPL should be given economic assistance.

In developing countries, like India, a proper agency for implementing poverty alleviation schemes is urgently needed. Otherwise corruption may sneak in, and funds may go to those who do not need them.

Anyone who does not have a house, sanitation facility, clean drinking water and source of income should be identified as below the poverty line.

Even if he has a source of income but has large number of family members living in a joint family, should be included into BPL category.

Many states of India have their own poverty line definition, like Kerala. A simple measure like cancelling BPL cards of those who have a Pan card or driving license would prove significant.

A well defined poverty line is very much important in India where majority of population is poor.

A country cannot progress until each and every citizen is brought above the poverty line.

Poverty line is an important tool in the hands of policy makers which enables them to make policy decisions specifically. It should be defined in such a way that every needy person alone get its benefits.

Mrinal Malakar