Over 340 million destitute people live here, mostly in rural areas

India is home to over 340 million destitute people and is the second poorest country in South Asia after strife-torn Afghanistan, says a poverty estimation study by Oxford University, UK.

Forty per cent of all poor in 49 countries live in India, mostly in rural areas, according to the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2014, a tool used by Oxford researchers to measure poverty.

The researchers classified one-half of all the poor in 49 countries as destitute by using MPI 2014, which identified a person as ‘multi-dimensionally poor’ if he or she is deprived in one-third or more of 10 indicators, such as severe malnutrition, losing two children, and defecating in open.

In South Asia, Afghanistan had the highest level of destitution at 38 per cent, followed by India at a ‘troubling’ 28.5 per cent. Interestingly, India’s immediate neighbours Bangladesh and Pakistan had much lower levels of destitution at 17.2 per cent and 20.7 per cent respectively.

The study placed Afghanistan as the poorest country in South Asia, with 66 per cent (based on 2010-11 data) of its people being MPI poor, followed by India with 54 per cent (2005-06), Bangladesh (2011) with 51 per cent, Pakistan (2012-13) and Nepal (2011) at 44 per cent, Bhutan at 27 per cent, and Sri Lanka and the Maldives at 5 per cent.

The researchers also named Bihar as the poorest region among 49 countries, followed by South Afghanistan. It said the poorest eight large Indian States were home to more MPI poor than the 28 poorest African countries, while admitting that India’s data were from 2005-06 and needed an update, whereas those for the 25 African countries were more recent.

In a positive, the study recognised that India reduced multi-dimensional poverty faster than income poverty.

The Oxford analysis of multi-dimensional poverty reduction in India was done using National Family Health Survey datasets from 2005. The MPI was created by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative Director Sabina Alkire and Research Associate Maria Emma Santos, now at Universidad Nacional del Sur and CONICET, Argentina. In 2014, the MPI has been widely updated and expanded, including substantial new analyses of rural-urban poverty, inequality among the poor, destitution and changes to poverty over time, an Oxford release said.

(This article was published on June 16, 2014)
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