According to the 2014 World Urbanization Prospects, released by the Population Division of the Department of Social and Economic Affairs of the United Nations, India is going to add 404 million of people to its urban population by 2050, ahead of the projected additions by China (292 million) and Nigeria (212 million).

That is expected to add to the poverty problem of India, slowing down the rate of poverty reduction in urban areas of the country. The Global Food Policy report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in March said that the trend is bound to bring more poverty to urban agglomerations.

But it is a double-edge sword.

Why are people migrating to cities or urban agglomerations?

Because they are not able to find a sustainable livelihood back home, if they can call the place they come from as home.

The primary reason to move to cities is the additional source of income by finding jobs in the booming infrastructure sector in India. And small jobs that these big urban agglomerations support. Even if they will pay a heavy price. They will have to live on streets, in slums, with no quality of life. Education, health, shelter and amenities like piped water, electricity and roads will remain out of bounds for them. But they will, at least, be able to feed themselves and their families, that was not possible back there in their villages. Even if malnutrition becomes an urban problem with this rural exodus, it is, at least, saving lives.

They were poor back there, in villages. And they will remain poor even if they migrate to cities.

Because the sole aim of such migration is survival and not uplifting the scale of life.

So, if we see from a sociological perspective, it is a fruitful migration, as long as we keep on failing our agriculture that still supports some 45 crore Indians, if we go by an NSSO report which estimates the number of agricultural households in India at 9 crore. It is an established practice that for statistical calculations, we take the average size of an Indian family of five members. The number goes even further if we count the population dependent indirectly on agriculture.

Because the farming distress is very real. It, in fact, has been there for decades. Since 2001, over 2.30 lakh farmers have committed suicide, i.e., 2 farmers per hour, and these are as per the officials records of the government of India (NCRB figures). It is that during the years of crisis, i.e., drought and overproduction years, the problem becomes so intense that it starts spilling over on our conscience.

And it is always a chain reaction, an eco-system built on all of its constituents with faming at the core, be it rural markets, daily wage earners, transportation workers or even service professionals like lawyers and doctors, farming sustains the flow of money in the local eco-system by regulating the purse strings of majority of its stakeholders.

India has to grow and fine tune its process with this reality. It has to find solutions within the existing framework of its problems because it cannot generate millions of jobs, even in coming years, to support and sustain the chunk of population dependent on agriculture.



What is India’s poverty line?

That is a big political issue in a country which houses maximum number of the world’s poor. There have been experts and their panels – many of them – but still we haven’t been able to define who is poor.

There are truckloads of data in statistical wisdoms and in countless luminary minds – yet we regularly form panels of eminent economist(s) to correct the anomaly in the previous poverty line – only to dismiss it – because the result of burning the midnight oil here is always so absurd that you would dismiss it as soon as you are enlightened with it.

In April 2014, the government unveiled its newest poverty line – Rs. 32 a day in rural areas (Rs. 960 a month) and Rs. 47 a day in urban areas (Rs. 1410 a month). That was, in fact, an improvement over the standards set by the Tendulkar committee – Rs. 27 a day in rural areas (Rs. 810 a month) and Rs. 33 a day in urban areas (Rs. 990 a month).

According to this new poverty line, 29.5% Indians are cursed to live below the poverty line. Now that is around 23 crore Indians.

And that is when this newest Indian poverty line is nowhere to the World Bank benchmark for the poverty threshold – $1.90 – a threshold that the World Bank recalibrated in October 2015 – from the earlier benchmark of $1.25. Now, based on current Dollar to Rupee exchange rate, that comes to around Rs.127 – almost four times of the newest rural poverty line in India and almost three times of the urban one.

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We are a nation where the urban poverty line is Rs. 47 a day while we think that the rural folks can survive at Rs. 32 a day and we arrived at this wisdom in 2014. When we had done so, we had graduated from the poverty lines of Rs. 27 in rural areas and Rs. 33 in urban areas. This is when you can’t arrange even a modest one time meal in Rs. 32.

This directly says the proportion of real poor, in qualitative terms, based on the average living conditions today, would be much higher that the projected figure of around 30% or less. When you go assessing this poverty mess keeping in mind ‘what should be and what is’, you see this is another equal India within India (or Bharat of the perennial India Vs Bharat debate).

Some 75% of Indians are without any health insurance cover. Majority cannot afford medicines for a sustained treatment regime, let alone the costly surgical processes. The attitude of doctors and support staff in the government run hospitals is even worse than scavengers. Finding good people there tougher than even finding God. People who can afford and can access, try to ignore the government run health facilities. And it across India including the metro cities.

Officially, India’s literacy rate is around 75%. But again, if we see qualitatively, it is the same old story of an equal sized Bharat within India. Our primary school system is languishing with deep holes and leakage in the ambitious Universal Elementary Education programme. Our higher education probably produces the maximum proportion of inept professionals and higher education graduates.

Our economy is consistently witnessing a falling gross savings to GDP ratio – from 34.6% in 2011-12 – to – 31.3% in 2015-16. One way to look at it would that people don’t have wealth in that proportion to save – something that is, naturally, very random and without substance. Or it means people are saving less.

But that doesn’t mean the government should use to a stick to discipline people – like the proponents of the EPF tax proposal including Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said – as a report the Economic Times put forward – “The government had justified the move by saying that it was meant to steer private sector employees towards a pensioned retirement by discouraging lump sum withdrawals, especially for, as experience suggests, conspicuous consumption.”

The finger is being pointed at it rightly – that who is the government to discipline us with our personal preference. Yes, it is good for us when we save more – but then, on a macro scale, it is good for the nation’s economic health as well. But, in the name of that, taxing a man’s life’s savings can never be justified especially when you give people dreams save taxes and build a corpus by investing in the Provident Fund scheme.

And from where this thought of ‘disciplining’ the salaried taxpayer came? When you have such ridiculous poverty lines, when you have millions poor to feed, when you have millions poor to heal, when you have millions poor to educate?

India and Bharat cannot become synonymous until we address these existential questions. Subsidy is now addressed as a ‘burden’ in the lingo being used by the economists but this ‘burden’ is lifeline for India’s millions poor who find it hard even to earn Rs. 47 or Rs. 32 a day.

The government is duty-bound to serve them first – with honesty – with integrity – with consistency. Taxing the middle class with another ‘tax burden’ would not serve any purpose here.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


I had written on Indian achievement on reducing poverty on July 24, 2013

In a huge, huge achievement, in a trademark Montek Singh Ahluwalia style, packaged and presented in the Manmohan Singh style, yesterday, all of a sudden, we the Indians were told by the economy wizard of the nation that his government had lifted almost 15 per cent of the Indians above the poverty line since 2004-05.

So, the school of Montekonomics, the Planning Commission of India has announced: “The percentage of persons below the Poverty Line in 2011-12 has been estimated as 25.7% in rural areas, 13.7% in urban areas and 21.9% for the country as a whole. The respective ratios for the rural and urban areas were 41.8% and 25.7% and 37.2% for the country as a whole in 2004-05. It was 50.1% in rural areas, 31.8% in urban areas and 45.3% for the country as a whole in 1993-94. In 2011-12, India had 270 million persons below the Tendulkar Poverty Line as compared to 407 million in 2004-05, that is a reduction of 137 million persons over the seven year period.”

And it is one year to July 24, 2013 – Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia are not there to steer the Indian policy to decide on the poverty politics and poverty economics.

But the Rangarajan Committee appointed by the Manmohan Singh government has come out with Poverty Lines that undermine the glory of the moments Manmohan Singh had tried to project on patting his back for making India less poor and more Indians ‘poverty free’ – by assigning them a day of life on Rs. 33 in cities and Rs. 27 in villages – the exercise behind this relative realization of poverty was highly contagious – if it got Manmohan’s goodies, it also attracted public outrage and a huge political controversy like it had been the case a year earlier, in 2012.

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The extreme levels of poverty indicators by the United Nations say there are 1.2 billion extreme poor in the world.

The UN study (UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2014) estimated 400 million or 40 crore of it in India.

That is 1/3rd of the Indian population of around 120 crore.

So, the UN says around 40 crore of the Indians are extremely poor – they survive on less than US$ 1.25 a day, i.e., almost Rs. 75 a day (@Rupee to US$ exchange rate of 60).

Now let’s talk on some more numbers – on how India counts its poor and reduces the poverty ‘found’ among its citizens.

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40 crores of Indians are extremely poor – if we go by the estimates and the extreme poverty line of the United Nations.

The only catch is – if we go by the Indian estimates – many of them are not poor and most of them are not ‘as extremely poor as the UN finds’ – as propounded by the by the Indian Government standards – an exercise that began with a Planning Commission working group in 1962, continuing with four other exercises, to come again to the ‘unacceptable’ Poverty Lines (Urban/Rural) of the Rangarajan Committee which submitted its report last month, a report that got public this month – but has failed to come with logical and sociologically viable Poverty Line(s) for a society that has the maximum number of world’s poor (including the ‘extreme’ poor).

If we take the Tendulkar Committee’s Poverty Lines, being used by the Government of India and the Planning Commission so far, before Mr. Rangarajan’s figures were reached at – as expected, at Rs. 75 a day (with US$ to Re. exchange rate of 60), this extreme UN Poverty Line is almost double to the new urban Poverty Line of Rs. 47 as decided by the noted economist C. Rangarajan after almost 2 years of work.

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Is it the hundreds of millions of people hovering around the ambiguous line, otherwise ‘termed’ the ‘poverty-line’, a line that is as controversial as the second tenure of Manmohan Singh as India’s prime minister?

Or is it the politicians who, in collaboration, with bureaucrats and number-crunchers, define who should be poor and who should not be poor and who should not be ‘so poor’, obviously, more on the paper?

Or is it the Indian democracy that has come to evolve as an exploitative System where the millions of the poor, who are as important in the eyes of its Constitution, the world’s most extensively written Constitution, as the elite politicians hibernating in the plush environs funded by the pubic money, but have been pushed to the extremes of the periphery where they are not seen even as the entities to be co-opted to mitigate the chances of emerging threats?

Or is it the multitude of the hundreds of millions of ‘poverty-line’ stricken Indians who seem to have forgotten or seem to have never known what should be the ‘quality’ of their ‘quality of life’?

Or is it the multitude of the hundreds of millions of ‘poverty-line’ stricken Indians who have come to reconcile with the developments making them subservient to the political class?

Over 1200 millions of Indians that make India the world’s largest democracy – more or less, it is a functional democracy it is said!

But this functional democracy is yet to find how to count its poor. There are many ways. There are definitions. There are methodologies. And there is confusion. Huge sums are spent on finding how to define the ‘poverty-line’ yet the controversy remains. The Rs. 30 a month ‘poverty-line’, the average of all the expertise involved. Why?

Because, the poor here are not seen as human beings by the prevailing political thought process. They are yet another votebank, a significantly large votebank that cuts across the layers of religion, regionalism and caste.

This significantly large votebank has the tendency to act most impulsively of all the votebanks. Impoverished they have been, impoverished they are, and it can be understood. They don’t know what to expect from life than to survive every coming day. They are not expected to expect from life.

Poor, they are, but they do not own their poverty. They would do all to get rid of it provided they are given the help they need to do so.

But that help is not extended to them by those who own their poverty.

Those, who run the System, the politicians, the policymakers, the elite, the business people, and the likes of them, they own their poverty.

Instead, they are given occasional shots of calculated empowerment, empowerments that gives them borrowed moments of hunger-free and relatively easier days when elections approach. A food security bill is announced in 2009 but is put in motion in 2013 when elections are due in 2014. Farm debt waiver was announced in 2008 when elections were due in 2009.

The borrowed moments of hunger-free and relatively easier days push the voters from this votebank to react impulsively to cast their votes in favour of the political outfit doling out the ‘largesse’, something that should rightfully be their fundamental right.

Those, who run the System, their interest is in keeping this votebank poor.

Once out of poverty, the prospect to get the votebank react impulsively gets a certain negative hit. Why to take this risk?

They, who run the System, own the poverty in India and they don’t look in the mood to bequeath it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


The enlightening comments by our dear lords, the evergreen kings, the valiant usurpers of fiefdoms, the rigorous practitioners of duplicity, our very own, near and dear politicians continue unabated enlightening us on what we should do, what we should think and how we should perceive.

But, at times (and at regularly random intervals), there come some observations, some statements, that stand tall, that look apart, that sound to set a precedent, of a vision that our dear politicians want to project for us.

Last week has given us more than one such thoughtful observation by our dear lords. Two are important for us to understand that given their long-term impact. Unfortunately, as has been the case, most of us have misunderstood, and so have reacted negatively.

The first and the foremost is from one of the leading claimants to the prime-ministerial chair in the next parliamentary elections, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, who came with a simple yet innovative measure to reduce poverty (read chronic poverty) found in Indians of a not-so-poor country India.

He proposed: “Poverty is just a state of mind. It does not mean the scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence, then one can overcome poverty.”

See! So simple!

Just follow Mr. Gandhi and start believing that you are not poor and see the miracle happening. A panacea to address the billions of dollars of the fiscal deficit and the billions of dollars of the subsidy burden that have their genesis in the large base of thankless economically backward and poor Indians!

Next in the line is a comment about and at the behest of one of the youngest chief ministers in India who is currently at the top of the affairs in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

Here, a young and brave IAS officer (Indian Administrative Service) could not understand the vision and intent of the young chief-minister and took on the sand-mining mafia.

She could not understand the modern-day political symbolism of the tradition ‘family comes first’ and that too, when every politician in the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh is like a family member of Akhilesh Yadav’s government.

She took on the sand-mining mafia in an area where the activity was being patronized by the local SP leaders, one of whom is a claimant of a chair in the highest policy-making body in the country, the Lok Sabha.

Also, establishing an empire needs some sacrifices and what if some SP leaders are earning wealth from some the so-called illegal activities. They, in fact, are creating assets to build loyal party cadres and votebanks to build stabilized political base in a time when nothing else but money speaks and commands. That leaves them with no other chance.

The lady IAS officer could not understand this underlying necessity and did all to scuttle this serious ‘fund-raising’ work.

See! How naive she was that she took on this politically pious family tradition!

The young chief minister ignored it for almost a year before he was ‘unwillingly’ forced to take some stern action.

And, ‘we, the stupid Indians’ did not understand the spirit of his act. We should learn from Mr. Naresh Agarwal, a senior SP leader who so beautifully defended the ‘selfless’ act of the young chief minister of India’s most populous nation.

He said in an interview: “King can do no wrong” justifying suspension of the 28-year old IAS officer.
In fact, it is such an enlightening and refreshing interview that all of ‘we, the stupid Indians’ must watch it. (Here is the link:

Why, we, as a nation, are still suffering?

It is exactly because we fail to understand (time and again) the intent of our dear politicians like Rahul Gandhi or Akhilesh Yadav.

When would we understand?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


Rahul Gandhi has spoken, once again – for us, for you, for me, for everyone concerned (and not ‘concerned’).

And, ‘we, the stupid Indians’, fail to understand him once again.

And, ‘we, the stupid Indians’, rush to criticise him once again.

And, ‘we, the stupid Indians’, miss the opportunity to get our lives levitated once again.

Silly, miserable, creatures we are!

We do not want to come out of the shackles of poverty and ignorance no matter how hard our dear politicians toil.

Here come some golden words, once again, showing the intent and the efforts, from one of our future prime-ministerial nominees – the scion of the ‘crowned first political family’ of India and the only hope (if at all) of the grand old party of India, Congress, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, who believes in speaking out selectively (obviously, to hit the target more precisely).

Let’s see what his selectivity has brought us this time. During an event in Allahabad, Rahul Gandhi reportedly said (as put in the words of the organizers of the event – as the media reports say):

“Poverty is just a state of mind. It does not mean the scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence, then one can overcome poverty.”

So philosophical, so proverbial, so poetic, isn’t it?

And so metaphorical, the Rahul Gandhi way! O Beehive! O Beehive!

And bravo! If it is indeed true, if Rahul proposed so, it solves the problems of hundreds of millions of Indians struggling daily to make the ends meet (and could be effectively extended to the billions of the poor living in different pockets of the world).

So simply, so subtly, he is giving us the solution to one of the most pressing problems of Indians (not of India) – POVERTY!

Just follow Mr. Gandhi and start believing that you are not poor and see the miracle happening, like we have been believing in voting for this or that politician from the same set of political formation in India hoping (against the hope like running after a mirage) that the next fellow would work for why he was voted in the office.

No doubt then we have policymakers like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and a prime minister like Manmohan Singh in this government who ‘work’ to make us ‘confident’ when they proclaim the UPA government has reduced poverty by this or that many million headcounts by sighting Poverty Line figures hovering around Rs. 30 a day.

No doubt that driven by such a luminous thought process the Congress party spokespersons are already on the job, taking pain to reduce the pangs of poverty by making millions below the Poverty Line self-confident that they are not poor.

We rush to criticise a Rashid Masood or a Raj Babbar for saying that one can have a one-time meal in Rs. 5 or Rs. 12 but we fail to see the underlying philosophy and the wisdom behind such statements.

Poor us! They are taking so much of pain in making us self-aware and self-confident by telling us to change our mindset.

Mindset change, the toughest quest to have! And our dear politicians are putting their sincere efforts in this hard-work.

Hearing is Believing! Shouldn’t we follow that!

So enlightening has become the overall political atmosphere of the country that irrespective of party (ideology is long dead) affiliations, every politician looks to follow the similarly placed sentiments on solutions to the miseries of ‘we, the Indians’.

Yes, India, being a diverse country with many cultures, dialects and languages, the expressions may vary and may sound culturally rude for some, but we should understand such a ‘learned’ and ‘practical’ philosophy attached with the words of our dear politicians.

If there is problem, a pressing need, try and forget it and try to move on. If someone is hungry and has no means to buy a meal the person should believe he is not hungry and slowly his hunger will fade away.

Change mindset folks, mindset!

But pity us! We are, yet again, criticising Rahul Gandhi (and so, deterring our other caring politicians spread across the different political parties.)

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –