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India that is not shining

The 11th Five Year Plan document has sounded an alert on increasing poverty in a season of gravity-defying surges, reports Chetan Chauhan.
Hindustan Times | By Chetan Chauhan, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 31, 2007 03:54 AM IST

The 11th Five Year Plan document has sounded an alert on increasing poverty in a season of gravity-defying surges that saw the Sensex scale beyond 20,000 points on Monday.

The plan draft has shown that in five states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Orissa — the number of poor people has risen, although overall poverty has fallen from about 44 per cent in 1983 to 27.5 per cent.

The document would be discussed at a Planning Commission meeting on November 8.

It showed that Uttar Pradesh had 5.5 crore people living in poverty in 1983, which increased to 5.9 crore by 2004. In the corresponding period in Bihar, the number increased from 3.6 crore to 3.69 crore. In Maharashtra, the 1983 figure was 2.9 crore which increased to 3.17 crore by 2004 and in Orissa from 1.54 crore to 1.78 crore. Uttarakhand, which had about 20 lakh people in poverty in 1983 — the region was still part of Uttar Pradesh then — had 32 lakh poor people by 2004.

All these states have a higher poverty percentage than the national average. Though statistics have shown a dip in the percentage, the number of poor people has increased in these states.

For instance, Orissa had 65 per cent of its population below the poverty line in 1983. This has come down to 46 per cent now. Similarly in Bihar, which has second highest percentage of poor people in India after Orissa, 42 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line now compared with 62 per cent in 1983.

The Planning Commission document also showed that if an urban-rural comparison was done, it would show that a greater percentage of people in urban centers had scrambled out of poverty than in rural parts. In states like Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, the addition of people in the poverty basket was much more than those who had managed to climb out of it.

The Planning Commission document also pointed out that after two decades of poor-friendly measures, the poverty burden had transferred to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes — a sign that class and caste discrimination was blocking government programmes from including all.

Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra account for 75 per cent of the country’s rural poor, most of them being Scheduled Castes.

In Orissa, 73 per cent of the poor are Scheduled Tribes while in Bihar, their figure is 59 per cent and in Madhya Pradesh 57 per cent of the total poor in the state.

The plan panel documents suggested two remedies. The first was to implement land reforms, the second, improve agriculture services.

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