Monday, November 14, 2011

New ‘poverty standards’ enrage Indians

The Indian government has announced a drop in the number of poor people in the country by massaging the criteria used to measure poverty. By its reckoning, less than a dollar a day is enough to get by – but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

­In India’s capital city, the sights and sounds of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies are everywhere. But intermingled with the new malls and shopping developments, slums are still home to about 40 million Indians.

Many of the people who live in those slums, however, do not even count as being poor thanks to a new definition that has moved India’s poverty line to 32 rupees – or 60 US cents – per day.

Ram Niwas works 12 hours, six days a week as a cobbler, and can make up to $US 2 per day. He sends most of his money back to his village to support the wife and three children he left behind. The fact that his country does not classify him as poor is shocking to him.

“Putting 32 rupees as the benchmark to decide the poverty line is wrong because one cannot do anything with that amount,” he says. “If someone like me who makes Rs 3000 per months is finding it hard to survive here, how can someone who earns only Rs 32 survive?” Niwas asks.

The people behind the new definition say that it is simply an adjustment based on the current economic climate. more