Unknown Facts

-Over the past five years, poverty ratios have remained extremely high despite rapid GDP growth; 77 per cent of Indians survive on Rs20 or less a day. While the top 10 per cent earn First World annual incomes such as Rs5 crores, the wretched of the earth must make do with Rs7,000 a year.

-An additional 100 million people have been driven into poverty by two decades of “free-market” or neoliberal policies. India’s Human Development Index rank has slipped from 121 in 1991 to 134.

-In the Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute, India ranks 65 (of 88 nations). Pakistan’s rank is 58.

-Despite two decades of rapid GDP growth, India scores worse than its neighbours, barring Bangladesh, and also worse than over 20 Sub-Saharan African countries which have experienced economic collapse, civil war, famine and genocides during the past quarter-century.

-None of the 17 major Indian states surveyed falls in the “low” or “moderate” hunger category. Twelve states fall in the “alarming” category, and one — Madhya Pradesh —in the “extremely alarming” category. Four states — Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Assam — fall in the “serious” category. On a global scale, India’s best-performing state, Punjab, ranks 34th.

-Food grains availability in India has decreased from 200 kg per person a year at the beginning of the 20th century to under 170 kg. As a result, 33 per cent of Indian adults have a body-mass index (weight in kilogrammes divided by the square of height in metres) less than 18.5. (The normal range is 18.5 to 25. People under 18.5 are malnourished, those above 25 obese.)

-If the Wadhwa Committee’s report is adopted, the number of families treated as Below Poverty Line (BPL) would rise to 200 million, in place of the 105 million estimated by the states and the 92.5 million by another official committee.

The EGoM’s draft is minimalist, reneges on the promise of nutritional security, and perpetuates today’s collapsing PDS which supposedly only targets BPL families. Estimates of their number vary from 28 to 50 per cent of the population. These estimates are based on convoluted methods and are unreliable.

The more reliable National Sample Survey (2004-05) found that only one-half of the poorest households had a BPL card. Worse, many non-poor people use influence to illegally procure a BPL card and corner PDS grain.

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