Poverty in India
With a population of 1.21 billion, India is the world’s largest democracy and is set to become the most populous country by around 2030. In the past decade, the country has witnessed accelerated economic growth, emerged as a global player with the world’s fourth largest economy in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, and made progress on most of the Millennium Development Goals, but will still miss out on the target of halving poverty by 2015. This is due to two factors: (1) Uneven economic development: the recent high economic growth has remained limited to urban pockets and people in corporate sectors. Rural India where 75% poor live is expected to benefit only through the “trickle down effect”. (2) Population growth: Although the rate of population growth is slowing but is still a concern; it negates the economic development.
India is home to over one-third of poor people in the world. Add to this the poor of Pakistan and Bangladesh and you find that almost half of world poverty exists in South Asia. The next big concentration of poverty is in the sub-Saharan Africa. Certainly India is advancing economically, but there are pockets of poverty that have parallel only in sub-Saharan countries. In comparison, the current decade has seen significant progress in poverty reduction in China and East Asia. For example, World Bank estimates that by 2015 only about 5% Chinese population will be in extreme poverty; India on the other hand will still have over a quarter of its population in dire poverty.
The sheer size of the population coupled with highly unequal development across the country demands a serious attention to the issue of poverty. It is not something that can be wished away.