What is Poverty, Definition, Meaning, Poverty of India, Cause of Poverty

You are currently viewing What is Poverty, Definition, Meaning, Poverty of India, Cause of Poverty

Poverty is a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. In other words, their income level is so low that basic necessities of life such as housing and food are beyond the capacity of individual and families. Each country has its own threshold of defining poverty. For some developed ones like Sweden or Norway ownership of a car or house may be the prerequisite whereas for developing and poor countries even availability of a two square meal is treated as being above the poverty line.

The Human Development Report of 2019 appreciated India’s effort towards bringing 270 million of its population out of poverty from the year 2003 to 2015. However, this significant feat is now facing a grave challenge amid the pandemic caused by Coronavirus. Millions in India are now unemployed and have migrated back to villages from metropolitan cities. The economy is on downturn and many industries which employ huge labours are facing existential challenge. In this regard let’s first understand the number of poor in India and how it is calculated.

Poverty Estimation in India

In India, NITI Aayog is nodal authority for estimation of poverty. It’s precursor, the Planning commission had appointed many committees to decide the benchmark of poverty in India ie the Poverty line. These committees include National Planning Committee (1938), YK Alagh Committee (1979), Suresh Tendulkar Committee (2005) and Rangarajan Committee (2011). The NITI Aayog has accepted Tendulkar methodology for estimation of poverty line in India. This committee recommended to shift away from the calorie-based model and made the poverty line somewhat broad based by considering monthly spending on education, health, electricity and transport also.

India has the world’s largest number of poor people living in it. Out of its total population of more than 1 billion, 350 to 400 million people are living below the Poverty line. The Global Multidimensional Poverty Report of Oxford, Poverty and Human Development Program of UN estimated that there were 36.4 crore poor individuals in India in 2015-16. According to the World Bank estimate, 21.3% of India’s population falls below the International Poverty line of USD 1.90 a day. In the next section we will learn why our country is still poor despite harboring good amount of human as well as natural resources.

Main Causes of Poverty

There are a number of causes of poverty in India which are as follows

• Fast growing population has reduced the per capita income of India. Hence, the standard of living has also fallen considerably. If the country is overpopulated a large part of the income is spent on consumption and very little is saved for development activities.

•Unemployment is one of the important reason for poverty in India. Many people do not have job to sustain themselves and their families.

• 60% of population depends on agriculture in India. But the condition of agriculture sector is bad. Farmers are poor and uneducated. They have no good facilities of irrigation. They do not get seeds and fertilisers on time, all this leads to poor yield.

•The widening gap between the rich and the poor is also responsible for poverty in India. The rich are growing richer while the poor are getting poorer.

• Inflation also leads to poverty because income earned by poor people is not sufficient to buy basic necessities of life. A rise in price of a commodity forces them to remain in poverty.

Adverse Consequences of Poverty

Poverty also has adverse consequences on the country to a large extent. It is the leading cause of insufficient diet and inadequate nutrition. The resources of poor people are very limited and its effect can be seen in their diet. Poverty is often characterised with income disparity and unequal distribution of national wealth between the rich and the poor.

Apart from this women are the worst victims of poverty as it effects greater number of women than men. The total of poor women outnumbers the total population of poor men. They are deprived of proper diet, medicines and health

Poverty is one of the strong reasons for increasing child labour in India. Due to low income of parents, their children are forced to indulge in various jobs which leads to child labour. Thus, poverty passes on to families and it becomes very difficult for children of poor parents to come out of poverty.

Various Poverty Alleviation Programmes

• Integrated Rural Development Scheme (1980)

This was umbrella scheme which included allied programmes like Training of Rural Youth for Self-Employment (TRYSEM), Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA), Ganga Kalyan Yojana (GKY), Million Wells Scheme (MWS) and Supply of Improved Toolkits to Rural Artisans (SITRA). This scheme holistically covered each dimensions of rural development and intended to create employment opportunities and thereby reduce poverty in India. In 1999, this programme was recharacterised into Swarnajayanti Gram Rojgar Yojana.

•Employment Assurance Scheme (1993)

This scheme was launched to create an additional wage employment opportunity during the period of acute shortage of wage employment through manual work for the rural poor living below the poverty line.

• Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Yojana (1993)

The main objective of this scheme was to create and provide sustainable self-employment opportunities to one million educated unemployed youth in the country during the 8th five year plan period. With modification of some parameters of the scheme, it now covers all economically viable activities including agriculture and allied activities but excluding direct agricultural operations like raising crop, purchase of manure etc.

• National Social Assistance Programme (1995)

This programme focuses on old age person, poor families and widows and provide cash assistance to improve thier standard of living. Amid the COVID induced pandemic, the government gave three months of pension in advance to over 3 crore beneficiaries of this programme.

•Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005)

This act is cornerstone among all poverty alleviation measures adopted by government of India. It enhances livelihood security by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

• Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana (2016)

Under the scheme, five crore LPG connections are to be provided to the women of BPL households. It also provides a financial support of * 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households, interest free loan to purchase stove and refill by Oil Marketing Companies

• Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (2020)

This scheme was launched amid the Covid induced pandemic to provide for monetary assistance and food security to millions of households, whose livelihood has been hampered by subsequent job loss and migration. Under this scheme, government will provide ex-gratia sum of 500 to 20.80 crore women Jan Dhan account holder. In addition to it, 80 crore poor people will get 5 kg wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free every month till November.

Futher Steps to Eradicate Poverty in India

Apart from these government initiatives, several steps can be taken to reduce or eradicate poverty in India. The government has promised cheap credit to farmers, direct transfer of money to the poor and eased access to food security programmes through Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan in May 2020. However these measures will help people who have some documentation or are registered.

With millions of impoverished Indians now in transit across the country, the food security situation is dire. India’s economy was already growing at its slowest pace due to pandemic, the subsequent lockdowns has stalled business activities to a large extent. So, 2020 is going to be an extremely challenging year not only for governments and businesses but also for those on the border line of poverty.

Government should develop cottage, handicrafts and other small scale industries in the backward regions of the country. Moreover, this will transfer resources from the areas of surplus to the deficit areas solving the problem of urbanisation.

Therefore, one has to keep a thing in the mind that poverty is a menace and need to be checked. The above steps would be helpful to reduce poverty in India. It is a national problem and hence must be solved on a war footing. Eradication of poverty would ensure a sustainable and inclusive growth of economy and society.


Experts all over world, are predicting that the incredible feat achieved by India to get millions out of poverty in last few years is at risk. However, India has a unique ability to bounce back from any challenge. In this regard the recently launched Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme holds promise as it announces sweeping reforms in various industrial and service sector which will help them hire many unemployed and poor people. Further, the emphasis on MSME industries which remains backbone of Indian economy will also help in eradicating poverty from India,

Thank you very much for reading this article“What is Poverty, Definition, Meaning, Poverty of India, Cause”