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Fewer poor in our big cities

The survey by the UDD reveals that families living below the poverty line in cities have reduced by 9.03 per cent, reports Ketaki Ghoge.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2008 03:16 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

Urbanisation may be the key to reducing poverty, if the state government’s survey on urban poverty is anything to go by.

The results of the survey carried out in 225 towns and 18 big cities (results of Mumbai and Thane are not yet released) by the urban development department (UDD) reveals that families living below the poverty line (BPL) in cities have reduced by 9.03 per cent, but BPL families in smaller towns have risen by 12.52 per cent in the last decade.

“We need urbanisation at all costs in the state. The survey has revealed a decrease in poverty in cities and in developed towns,” said TC Benjamin, principal secretary, UDD.

The door-to-door survey, which is yet to be officially released, identified around 6.98 lakh families that earn less than Rs 591 per person per month — the cut-off decided by the Union government to identify BPL families. The survey used 54 socio-economic parameters including housing, profession, family background to identify them.

What’s good is that urban poverty in the state has gone up by only 3.46 per cent since 1998 when the last survey was done; 13.51 per cent of Maharashtra’s urban population lives below the poverty line.

That’s better than National Sample Survey Organisation’s prediction that 18-20 per cent of the urban poor will be below poverty line.

The bad news is that poverty has gone up in smaller towns — facing the brunt of rural migration — by 12-13 per cent.

Smaller towns in Vidarbha and Marathwada have 23 per cent BPL families but bigger towns like Ambernath, Lonavala and Baramati have only six per cent BPL families. Cities like Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Navi Mumbai have shown a nine per cent dip in poverty levels since 1998.

“In Mumbai’s hinterland [like Ulhasnagar, Kalyan-Dombivli, etc], many people listed in the 1998 survey as BPL said they were not in that bracket anymore,” said Prachi Jambhekar, survey official and deputy director of municipal administration directorate.

However, the income criteria of Rs 591 may not give an accurate picture of poverty in the cities.

“For cities the income criteria has to be higher. The cut-off income works out to Rs 20 per person per day. It is even lower than the minimum wages paid to unorganised labour,” said Sharit Bhowmick, professor of labour studies with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The results of poverty survey in Mumbai and Thane may change the overall picture in the state.