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Poverty estimation in India

August 5th, 2013 5 comments

The percentage of the population living below the poverty line in India decreased to 22% in 2011-12 from 37% in 2004-05, according to data released by the Planning Commission in July 2013.  This blog presents data on recent poverty estimates and goes on to provide a brief history of poverty estimation in the country.

National and state-wise poverty estimates

The Planning Commission estimates levels of poverty in the country on the basis of consumer expenditure surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

The current methodology for poverty estimation is based on the recommendations of an Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of Poverty (Tendulkar Committee) established in 2005.  The Committee calculated poverty levels for the year 2004- 05.  Poverty levels for subsequent years were calculated on the basis of the same methodology, after adjusting for the difference in prices due to inflation.

Table 1 shows national poverty levels for the last twenty years, using methodology suggested by the Tendulkar Committee.  According to these estimates, poverty declined at an average rate of 0.74 percentage points per year between 1993-94 and 2004-05, and at 2.18 percentage points per year between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

Table 1: National poverty estimates (% below poverty line) (1993 – 2012)

Year

Rural

Urban

Total

1993 – 94

50.1

31.8

45.3

2004 – 05

41.8

25.7

37.2

2009 – 10

33.8

20.9

29.8

2011 – 12

25.7

13.7

21.9

Source: Press Note on Poverty Estimates, 2011 – 12, Planning Commission; Report of the Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of Poverty (2009) Planning Commission; PRS.

State-wise data is also released by the NSSO. Table 2 shows state-wise poverty estimates for 2004-05 and 2011-12.  It shows that while there is a decrease in poverty for almost all states, there are wide inter-state disparities in the percentage of poor below the poverty line and the rate at which poverty levels are declining.

Table 2: State-wise poverty estimates (% below poverty line) (2004-05, 2011-12)

State

2004-05

2011-12

Decrease

Andhra Pradesh

29.9

9.2

20.7

Arunachal Pradesh

31.1

34.7

-3.6

Assam

34.4

32

2.4

Bihar

54.4

33.7

20.7

Chhattisgarh

49.4

39.9

9.5

Delhi

13.1

9.9

3.2

Goa

25

5.1

19.9

Gujarat

31.8

16.6

15.2

Haryana

24.1

11.2

12.9

Himachal Pradesh

22.9

8.1

14.8

Jammu and Kashmir

13.2

10.4

2.8

Jharkhand

45.3

37

8.3

Karnataka

33.4

20.9

12.5

Kerala

19.7

7.1

12.6

Madhya Pradesh

48.6

31.7

16.9

Maharashtra

38.1

17.4

20.7

Manipur

38

36.9

1.1

Meghalaya

16.1

11.9

4.2

Mizoram

15.3

20.4

-5.1

Nagaland

9

18.9

-9.9

Odisha

57.2

32.6

24.6

Puducherry

14.1

9.7

4.4

Punjab

20.9

8.3

12.6

Rajasthan

34.4

14.7

19.7

Sikkim

31.1

8.2

22.9

Tamil Nadu

28.9

11.3

17.6

Tripura

40.6

14.1

26.5

Uttar Pradesh

40.9

29.4

11.5

Uttarakhand

32.7

11.3

21.4

West Bengal

34.3

20

14.3

All Inda

37.2

21.9

15.3

Source: Review of Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of Poverty (2009) Planning Commission, Government of India; Press Note on Poverty Estimates, 2011 – 12 (2013) Planning Commission, Government of India; PRS.

Note: A negative sign before the number in column four (decrease) indicates an increase in percentage of population below the poverty line.

History of poverty estimation in India

Pre independence poverty estimates: One of the earliest estimations of poverty was done by Dadabhai Naoroji in his book, ‘Poverty and the Un-British Rule in India’.  He formulated a poverty line ranging from Rs 16 to Rs 35 per capita per year, based on 1867-68 prices.  The poverty line proposed by him was based on the cost of a subsistence diet consisting of ‘rice or flour, dhal, mutton, vegetables, ghee, vegetable oil and salt’.

Next, in 1938, the National Planning Committee (NPC) estimated a poverty line ranging from Rs 15 to Rs 20 per capita per month.  Like the earlier method, the NPC also formulated its poverty line based on ‘a minimum standard of living perspective in which nutritional requirements are implicit’.  In 1944, the authors of the ‘Bombay Plan’ (Thakurdas et al 1944) suggested a poverty line of Rs 75 per capita per year.

Post independence poverty estimates: In 1962, the Planning Commission constituted a working group to estimate poverty nationally, and it formulated separate poverty lines for rural and urban areas – of Rs 20 and Rs 25 per capita per year respectively.

VM Dandekar and N Rath made the first systematic assessment of poverty in India in 1971, based on National Sample Survey (NSS) data from 1960-61.  They argued that the poverty line must be derived from the expenditure that was adequate to provide 2250 calories per day in both rural and urban areas.  This generated debate on minimum calorie consumption norms while estimating poverty and variations in these norms based on age and sex.

Alagh Committee (1979): In 1979, a task force constituted by the Planning Commission for the purpose of poverty estimation, chaired by YK Alagh, constructed a poverty line for rural and urban areas on the basis of nutritional requirements.  Table 3 shows the nutritional requirements and related consumption expenditure based on 1973-74 price levels recommended by the task force.  Poverty estimates for subsequent years were to be calculated by adjusting the price level for inflation.

Table 3: Minimum calorie consumption and per capita consumption expenditure as per the 1979 Planning Commission task force on poverty estimation

Area Calories Minimum consumption expenditure (Rs per capita per month)
Rural 2400 49.1
Urban 2100 56.7

Source:  Report of the Expert Group on Estimation of Proportion and Number of Poor, 1993, Perspective Planning Division, Planning Commission; PRS

Lakdawala Committee (1993): In 1993, an expert group constituted to review methodology for poverty estimation, chaired by DT Lakdawala, made the following suggestions: (i) consumption expenditure should be calculated based on calorie consumption as earlier; (ii) state specific poverty lines should be constructed and these should be updated using the Consumer Price Index of Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) in urban areas and Consumer Price Index of Agricultural Labour (CPI-AL) in rural areas; and (iii) discontinuation of ‘scaling’ of poverty estimates based on National Accounts Statistics.  This assumes that the basket of goods and services used to calculate CPI-IW and CPI-AL reflect the consumption patterns of the poor.

Tendulkar Committee (2009): In 2005, another expert group to review methodology for poverty estimation, chaired by Suresh Tendulkar, was constituted by the Planning Commission to address the following three shortcomings of the previous methods: (i) consumption patterns were linked to the 1973-74 poverty line baskets (PLBs) of goods and services, whereas there were significant changes in the consumption patterns of the poor since that time, which were not reflected in the poverty estimates; (ii) there were issues with the adjustment of prices for inflation, both spatially (across regions) and temporally (across time); and (iii) earlier poverty lines assumed that health and education would be provided by the State and formulated poverty lines accordingly.[1]

It recommended four major changes: (i) a shift away from calorie consumption based poverty estimation; (ii) a uniform poverty line basket (PLB) across rural and urban India; (iii) a change in the price adjustment procedure to correct spatial and temporal issues with price adjustment; and (iv) incorporation of private expenditure on health and education while estimating poverty.   The Committee recommended using Mixed Reference Period (MRP) based estimates, as opposed to Uniform Reference Period (URP) based estimates that were used in earlier methods for estimating poverty.[2]

It based its calculations on the consumption of the following items: cereal, pulses, milk, edible oil, non-vegetarian items, vegetables, fresh fruits, dry fruits, sugar, salt & spices, other food, intoxicants, fuel, clothing, footwear, education, medical (non-institutional and institutional), entertainment, personal & toilet goods, other goods, other services and durables.

The Committee computed new poverty lines for rural and urban areas of each state.  To do this, it used data on value and quantity consumed of the items mentioned above by the population that was classified as poor by the previous urban poverty line.  It concluded that the all India poverty line was Rs 446.68 per capita per month in rural areas and Rs 578.80 per capita per month in urban areas in 2004-05.  The following table outlines the manner in which the percentage of population below the poverty line changed after the application of the Tendulkar Committee’s methodology.

Table 4: Percentage of population below poverty line calculated by the Lakdawala Committee and the Tendulkar Committee for the year 2004-05

Committee

Rural

Urban

Total

Lakdawala Committee

28.3

25.7

27.5

Tendulkar Committee

41.8

27.5

37.2

Source: Report of the Expert Group on Estimation of Proportion and Number of Poor, 1993, Perspective Planning Division, Planning Commission; Report of the Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of  Poverty, 2009, Planning Commission; PRS

The Committee also recommended a new method of updating poverty lines, adjusting for changes in prices and patterns of consumption, using the consumption basket of people close to the poverty line.  Thus, the estimates released in 2009-10 and 2011-12 use this method instead of using indices derived from the CPI-AL for rural areas and CPI-IW for urban areas as was done earlier.  Table 5 outlines the poverty lines computed using the Tendulkar Committee methodology for the years 2004-05, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

Table 5: National poverty lines (in Rs per capita per month) for the years 2004-05, 2009-10 and 2011-12

Year

Rural

Urban

2004-05

446.7

578.8

2009-10

672.8

859.6

2011-12

816.0

1000.0

Source: Report of the Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of Poverty (2009) Planning Commission; Poverty Estimates 2009-10 and Poverty Estimates 2011-12, Planning Commission; PRS

Rangarajan Committee: In 2012, the Planning Commission constituted a new expert panel on poverty estimation, chaired by C Rangarajan with the following key objectives: (i) to provide an alternate method to estimate poverty levels and examine whether poverty lines should be fixed solely in terms of a consumption basket or if other criteria are also relevant; (ii) to examine divergence between the consumption estimates based on the NSSO methodology and those emerging from the National Accounts aggregates; (iii) to review international poverty estimation methods and indicate whether based on these, a particular method for empirical poverty estimation can be developed in India, and (iv) to recommend how these estimates of poverty can be linked to eligibility and entitlements under the various schemes of the Government of India.  The Committee is expected to submit its report by 2014.


[1] While private expenditure on education and health was covered in the base year 1973-74, no account was taken of either the increase in the proportion of these in total expenditure over time or of their proper representation in available price indices.

[2] Under the URP method, respondents are asked to detail consumption over the previous 30 days; whereas under the MRP method five low-frequency items (clothing, footwear, durables, education and institutional health expenditure) are surveyed over the previous 365 days, and all other items over the previous 30 days.

 

Guesstimating Access to Food Security

April 7th, 2010 1 comment

The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) met recently to review the draft food security bill. Two issues have been reported to have gained prominence in their discussions – the exact number of poor families that are likely to be beneficiaries under the Food Security Act and reforming of the targeted public distribution system.

On the issue of estimating poverty, it is reported that the Planning Commission has been asked to submit a report in three weeks on the number of  (BPL) families that are likely to be legally entitled to food under the said Act.

The Minister of Agriculture is reported to have said “It is up to them [Planning Commission] whether they base it [BPL list] on the Tendulkar Committee report or the earlier N.C. Saxena panel or the Wadhwa committee.”

The estimation of poor persons in India involves two broad steps:

(i) fixing a threshold or poverty line that establishes poverty, and

(ii) counting the number of people below this line.

Estimating these numbers is a contentious issue – ridden by debates around norms and parameters for defining poverty, methodology to estimate poverty, etc.

The Planning Commission estimates the percentage and number of BPL persons separately in rural and urban areas from a large sample survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) which operates under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

In addition various government social sector schemes are targeted specifically at the poor and require the government to identify BPL beneficiaries.  For this purpose the Ministry of Rural Development designs a BPL census and that is conducted by the States/UTs.  The BPL census website gives data on BPL households for 2002 based on the poverty estimates for 1999-2000, by state, district and block.

The targeted public distribution system was recently subjected to scrutiny by a Supreme Court appointed vigilance committee headed by Justice D P Wadhwa. Amongst many issues, the committee reported that “the PDS is inefficient and corrupt.  There is diversion and black-marketing of PDS food grain in large scale.  Subsidized PDS food grain does not reach the poor who desperately need the same.  These poor people never get the PDS food grain in proper quantity and quality.”

The two issues highlighted here are important to ensure that the proposed legislation on food security is not a leaky bucket in the making.   As the draft food security bill is not in the public domain it is difficult to comment on how the government is thinking on length and breadth of issues that govern giving access to food security.