George Bernard condemned poverty as a crime, Swami Vivekananda said “Him I call a mahatma, a noble soul, whose heart bleeds for the poor”. In this part of India , we had politicians who “saw divinity in the smiling face of the poor” even if while in power, they did not do much to lift from poverty except offer populist freebies.
The problem of poverty is considered as the biggest challenge to development planning in India. High poverty levels are synonymous with poor quality of life, deprivation, malnutrition, illiteracy and low human resource development. Poverty can be defined as a social phenomenon in which a section of the society is unable to fulfill even its basic necessities of life.
There has been a sharp decline in poverty over the last five years with the percentage of population Below Poverty Line (BPL) declining to 26.1% in 1999-2000 from 35.97% in 1993-94. According to the latest estimates of the Planning Commission, while the percentage of rural BPL population has dropped to 27.09% from 37.27%, in urban India, it fell to 23.62% from 32.36% during the five year period. In absolute term too, the BPL population has dropped by over 19% to 26.03 crore in 1999-2000, from 32.04 crore in 1993-94.
The rural poor stands at 19.32 crore while the urban poor stands at 6.71 crore. At the state level, although the percentage of BPL population in Orissa has declined to 47.15% from 48.56%. It has overtaken Bihar to reach the top slot with the highest incidence of poverty. The other big states with highest incidence of poverty were Madhya Pradesh at 37.43% (as against 43.52%), Assam 40.86% (36.09), UP 31.15% (40.85), and West Bengal 27.02% (35.66)
However, the Planning Commission has cautioned that the poverty ratios over the two time period (1993-94 and 1999-2000) are not strictly comparable. The survey methodology has undergone changes over the two survey in 1993-94 and 1999-2000.
Before feeling too good about the drop in BPL, it would be as well to remember...