By Manali Chakrabarti (manalichakrabarti[at]yahoo.com)
According to the World Bank, India’s nominal GDP crossed the $ 2 trillion mark in 2014, and is slated to grow at close to 8 per cent annually in 2016 and 2017. To put this in perspective: In 1991, the year the Indian economy was opened up and we embraced neoliberal policies, the Indian GDP was about $275 billion, which by the turn of the century had doubled to $481 billion. But the really rapid growth of the Indian economy has been in the last 15 years, which saw GDP increase by almost four-and-a-half times. One needs to remember that these include years which saw the greatest global recession since the 1930s. Thus, for the economy as a whole the promised ‘achche din’ seem to be happening and there are numbers to prove it. The policymakers who have been rooting for further opening up and freeing of the economy have been justifiably sporting a smug expression with this quantitative endorsement of their position.
However, one vexing question for them is that some people continue to claim that all this growth has not translated into alleviation of poverty–the ‘poor’ have been stubbornly impervious to this stunning growth of the economy. And this is disturbing, particularly given that the officials have not even been able to decide how many poor people exist and, more importantly, how to identify them.
The ‘Poverty Line’ and a Brief History of Poverty Level Calculation
While definitions of poverty in India have a long history, the last decade has witnessed a flurry of activity among academics and policymakers in trying to determine what constitutes poverty, and where to draw the line below which people can be termed ‘officially’ poor. Popular media and academic journals have produced a plethora of articles on the various definitions of poverty and poverty lines. (more…)