"India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan...In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh (17.2%) and Pakistan (20.7%) have much lower levels" Colin Hunter, Center for Research on GlobalizationIncreases in per capita income and human development index are often used as indicators to represent improvements in the lives of ordinary people in developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Both of these have significant limitations which are addressed by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)'s MPI, multi-dimensional poverty index.
The MPI brings together 10 indicators, with equal weighting for education, health and living standards (see table). If you tick a third or more of the boxes, you are counted as poor.
|Source: Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative|
Eradicating poverty in South Asia requires every person having access to safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, health and education.
According to the MPI, out of its 1.2 billion-plus population, India alone is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after war-torn Afghanistan, according to Colin Hunter of Canada-based Global Research.
Some 640 million poor people live in India (40% of the world’s poor), mostly in rural areas, meaning an individual is deprived in one-third or more of the ten indicators mentioned above (malnutrition, child deaths, defecating in the open).
In South Asia, Afghanistan has the highest level of destitution at 38%. This is followed by India at 28.5%. Bangladesh and Pakistan have much lower levels. The study placed Afghanistan as the poorest country in South Asia, followed by India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, according to Hunter.
Afghanistan is the poorest country in South Asia in terms of multi-dimensional poverty with 66% of its people being poor, followed by India with 54%, Bangladesh with 51%, Pakistan and Nepal at 44%, Bhutan at 27%, and Sri Lanka and the Maldives at 5%, according to Oxford researchers. Among 104 countries ranked by OPHI, Nepal ranks 82, India 74, Bangladesh 73, Pakistan 70, Sri Lanka 32 in MPI poverty.
Why has India lagged behind its neighbors in spite of rapid economic growth in recent years? Here's how Hunter explains it: "The ratio between the top and bottom 10% of wage distribution has doubled since the early 1990s, when India opened up it economy. According to the 2011 Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development report ‘Divided we stand’, this has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies. The poverty alleviation rate is no higher than it was 25 years ago. Up to 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997 due to economic distress and many more have quit farming."
What Colin Hunter hasn't clearly articulated is the fact that India remains home to the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterates who lack even basic sanitation 67 years after the nation's independence from British colonial rule.
As the new Hindu Nationalist government under Narendra Modi begins its anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan campaigns so soon after inauguration, an Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra reminds Indians in a recent New York Times Op Ed that that "India’s reputation as a “golden bird” flourished during the long centuries when it was allegedly enslaved by Muslims. A range of esteemed scholars — from Sheldon Pollock to Jonardon Ganeri — have demonstrated beyond doubt that this period before British rule witnessed some of the greatest achievements in Indian philosophy, literature, music, painting and architecture".
It's time for Mr. Modi to shun his bellicose rhetoric (boli nahee goli--India's guns will do the talking) against Pakistan and focus on much more important issues of deep deprivation of his people.
Here's a video on Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India:
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