Quarter of the world’s poor live in eight Indian states: Report

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 28, 2015 09:07 IST

A little over a quarter of people living in extreme poverty in the world live in eight Indian states, says a new Oxford university analysis, sparking concerns about social and economic development in Asia’s third-largest economy.

The 2015 global multidimensional poverty index (MPI) of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative says Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal account for nearly 440 million of the world’s 1.6 billion poverty-stricken people — equivalent of 25 African countries together.

The figures are based on data from 2005-06, raising questions on their utility as well as underscoring India’s poor record in collating social-indicator figures despite running many welfare schemes. In comparison, other South Asian countries have data for 2009, 2011 and 2013.

“It is really shocking and disappointing that a country like India does not have better survey data about the poverty of its citizens in non-monetary dimensions like malnutrition. To me it seems odd that a country as rich and capable as India fails to enquire how poor people’s lives are going,” said Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative that developed the MPI.

But analysts said the data were good enough to show broad indicators. The MPI is unique in capturing simultaneous disadvantages experienced by poor people, such as malnutrition, education and sanitation. The UN and other international organisations turn to the MPI to prepare policies.

By these parameters, Bangladesh is better off than India, which is second only to war-torn Afghanistan.

“Our measure of destitution, which identifies a subset of poor people as destitute if they experience a number of extreme deprivations like severe malnutrition, losing two children, having all primary-aged schoolchildren out of school, and using open defecation,” Alkire said.

In 2010, the Oxford analysis said there were more poor people in India than in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, it said the most number of people classified as “destitute” in developing countries live in India.

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