Poverty and Hunger

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        
output themes

“Poverty is the greatest violence. Pacifism that can see the cruelties only of occasional military warfare and is blind to the continuous cruelties of our social system is worthless.” Mahatma Gandhi

Facts and Definition

  • Poverty: A state or condition when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs due to inadequate financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living.
  • Development: Improvement in a country's economic and social conditions to create wealth and improve people’s lives.

International Definition:

  •  According World Bank, Poverty is “pronounced deprivation in well-being”. The poor are those who do not have enough income or consumption to put them above some adequate minimum threshold.
  • As per the updated poverty line by the World bank people earning below $2.15 per day are extremely poor. 

Interesting Facts:

Multidimensional Poverty Index Report by UNDP 2022: Around 1.2 billion people in 111 developing countries live in acute multidimensional poverty.

  • 415 million exited poverty in India in 15 years from 2005 till 2022.

Asian Development Bank figures: In India, 21.9% of the population lives below the national poverty line in 2011.

  • In India, the proportion of the employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day in 2022 is 5.7%.
Global Hunger Index 2022: India ranks 107 out 121 of countries with sufficient data signifying serious hunger level.

Types of Poverty

There are two types of Poverty namely:

  • Absolute Poverty: Measured by taking into context the household income, if it is below a necessary level to maintain basic living standards such as food, shelter, housing etc.
  • Relative Poverty: The percentage of the population with income less than some fixed proportion of median income defining income inequality.

Issues with Poverty

  • No Growth: Poor families experience extra stress without focusing on growth.
  • Health Issues: Poor are prone to a variety of health issues, such as early adult death, mental illness, and infant mortality.
  • Child Labor: Children belonging to poor families are often associated with work from the early age.
  • Persistence of Poverty: Illiteracy perpetuates the cycle of poverty for coming generations.
  • Criminalization: Poor people tend to move towards crime and they also account for the bulk of victims.
  • Dimensions of poverty include:
    • Hunger and malnutrition
    • Social discrimination
    • Social exclusion
    • Lack of participation in decision-making

Feminization of Poverty 

Feminization of poverty refers to a trend of increasing inequality in living standards between men and women due to the widening gender gap in poverty. 

Interesting Fact:

Asian Development Bank figures: In India, the proportion of the employed female population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day in 2019 was 9.8%.

 The consequences of feminization of poverty can have wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, and societies. Here are some key consequences: 

  • Limited access to resources: Women in poverty often have limited access to essential resources such as education, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation.
    • This can result in adverse health outcomes, reduced economic opportunities, and perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
  • Income disparities and economic vulnerability: Women tend to have lower incomes and face wage gaps and unequal pay compared to men. This economic vulnerability can lead to increased financial insecurity and limited ability to meet their own needs and those of their families.
  • Limited educational opportunities: Poverty can hinder women's access to quality education, which can restrict their potential for personal and economic advancement. Limited educational opportunities can further perpetuate gender inequalities and reinforce the cycle of poverty across generations.
  • Health risks and social exclusion: Women in poverty often face higher health risks due to inadequate healthcare access, poor nutrition, and exposure to unsafe living conditions. They may also experience social exclusion and marginalization, which can have negative psychological and emotional effects.
  • Increased caregiving responsibilities: Women in poverty often shoulder disproportionate caregiving responsibilities for children, elderly family members, and the sick. These responsibilities can limit their ability to engage in income-generating activities, further exacerbating their economic vulnerability.
  • Gender-based violence: Poverty and gender inequality are closely intertwined, and women in poverty are more vulnerable to various forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.

Addressing the feminization of poverty requires comprehensive strategies that promote gender equality, women's empowerment, and inclusive economic development.

Causes of Poverty

Population Rise: The poverty graph (NITI Aayog) of a region is also influenced by its population density. When it comes to poverty, areas with a high density of people are designated red because of resource shortages and overcrowding.
  • According to the analysis, metropolitan regions could account for as much as 70% of this rise. India's urban population would grow by 57% from 377 million people in 2011 to 594 million people in 2036.
  • Social Evils Like Untouchability: Still in practice like Bihar, Tamil Nadu etc., leading to poverty.
  • Inequality of Opportunities: The weaker groups in society suffer an unfair loss of opportunity as a result of inequality, which increases their vulnerability.
  • Casteism: People from lower castes may experience discrimination in the job market despite having comparable qualifications, which could result in lower-paying positions or unemployment.
  • Lack of Education - Without education, poverty is a vicious cycle that doesn’t allow people to improve their situations.
    • UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report: Over 170 million people could be free of extreme poverty if they only had basic reading skills. 
  • Lack of good healthcare -Healthcare is often too expensive or inaccessible to those who need it. If people do seek treatment, the cost often ruins their finances. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Social injustice -Social injustice such as a gender discrimination, racism, or other forms and poverty are directly correlated. People who are victims of social injustice struggle with getting a good education, the right job opportunities, and access to resources that can lift them out of poverty.
Geographical Factor:
  • Lack of Seasonal Rainfall: Any irregularities in the seasonal rains can also result in significant socioeconomic issues. When the forecasted rainfall does not occur, agricultural production is disrupted, which leads to inflation-related poverty.
  • Housing and Homelessness: The poor are, not surprisingly, more likely to be homeless than the not so poor but also more likely to live in dilapidated housing and unable to buy their own homes

As per the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data based on Rajasthan:

 In a drought year, the share of those, who are infrequently poor and are vulnerable to poverty, increases from 19 per cent to 27 per cent, apart from a doubling of those, who suffer from chronic poverty.

 Other factors

  • Rise of Informal Sector: Over 90% population is employed in informal sector that hampers job and income security.
    • According to recent Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2020-21 released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the unemployment rate in India is 4.2%
  • Issues in governance -Problem in implementation of programmes and policies, corruption, etc.
  • Rise in Gig economy: Food delivery apps, cab etc.

Challenges in Estimating Poverty

  • Components of PLB: One of the difficulties in estimating the poverty line is figuring out the components of the poverty line basket (PLB), because the prices of the items that make up the basket change from state to state and from one time period to the next.
  • Variations across states:
    • Some states such as Odisha and West Bengal supported the Tendulkar Poverty Line while others such as Delhi, Jharkhand, Mizoram etc. supported the Rangarajan report.
    • The current official measures of poverty are based on the Tendulkar poverty line, fixed at the daily expenditure of ?27.2 in rural areas and ?33.3 in urban areas is criticised by many for being too low.
  • Demographic and Economic Dynamics: Furthermore, when the macroeconomy and demography change, so do consumption patterns, nutritional needs, and component pricing.
  • The problem of determining threshold: If the poverty line is set too high, many needy people may be excluded, while setting it too low is harmful for the government's fiscal health.

Government Measures to reduce Poverty

Poverty Alleviation programs in India

  • Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP): Aiding the rural poor through subsidy and bank credit for productive employment opportunities.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana: Affordable housing will be provided to the poor families.
  • National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS): Providing pension to senior citizens
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: Providing 100 days of assured employment to every rural household
  • Annapurna Scheme: Providing food grains to senior citizens who cannot take care of themselves
  • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana: Helping the poor by providing skill training
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana: Focusing on skill development for fresh entrants to the labor market
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana: Promoting financial inclusion by opening bank accounts for the unbanked poor.
  • PM KISAN (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi): Providing greater access of credit to the farmers
  • Technology and digital initiatives for poverty alleviation:
    • Mobile banking and digital payments: Enhancing financial inclusion.
    • Aadhaar identification system: Streamlining welfare benefits.
    • Jan Dhan Yojana: Promoting access to banking services.

Major committees dealing with poverty in India:

  • National Committee on Rural Poverty (NCEPR): Eradicating rural poverty.
  • National Committee on Urbanization (NCU): Addressing urban poverty.
  • Committee on Financial Inclusion (Nachiket Mor Committee): Enhancing financial inclusion.
  • High-Level Committee on Food Corporation of India (Shanta Kumar Committee): Enhancing food distribution efficiency.

 Ways to End Poverty 

Ending poverty in all its forms is the first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • Income security: Strengthening Direct income transfer. E.g., Universal Basic Income.
  • Agricultural - Food processing linkage: Agricultural revolution through technological Investment. Since more than 54.6% of the total workforce is engaged in agricultural and allied sector.
  • Social Innovations: Recognising role of women and women’s organizations. For instance, Kudumbshree, Ladli Behena scheme (MP govt)
  • Skilling and reskilling: Intensive and agile skill development process in emerging technologies. E.g., Global skill Parks.
  • Inclusive and Balanced regional Growth through Programmes like Aspirational Districts Programmes.


According to UN India has remarkably in a remarkable lifted around 415 million people out of multidimensional poverty in a span of 15 years between 2005-06 and 2019-21. To eradicate all forms of poverty India’s needs social and administrative innovations, decentralized planning making it a people’s movement.