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Counting the poor - how many do we have?

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Public Agenda dear, here is that intellectually ruminating discussion we said we will have soon. How many poor people do we have in our country? The debate, and understanding the number is important because the classic quote goes - "you can't fix what you can't measure". If you can't count your poor, you can't check how your poverty alleviation programs are working.

Two important things around which disagreements arise are 1) How do you define a poor household? 2) How exactly do you count people using the poverty definition you accept?

First of all, the two popular stats that are quoted to start a discussions like this

  • Arjun Sengupta - 77% of Indians lived on less than Rs 20 a day.
  • Suresh Tendulkar co. - Poverty ratio at the all India level ... 37.2% in 2004-05. Rural poverty ... 41.8% and urban ... 25.7%. Criteria, spend per person per month. Rs446.68 in rural areas. Rs578.8 in urban. (see

Some other notable stats:

  • Total number of ration cards in circulation: 110.8 million (households).
  • Total number of mobile phone subscribers: 618 million. this would be about 52.3% of population. (source:

Will add more, will talk more.


Public Agenda's picture

Two data sources you need to add maybe ?

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SB sirji, 

Two data sources you would need to add  

NC Saxena Committee report on the MoRD based on nutrition criteria submitted last year says 50% of Indians are nutirition deficient -2009

The newest committee is the one on the urban BPL survey which is to give its report in a month or less (totl- 3months)

So if the issue is based on data urban and rural poverty is higher that 40 % (accepted by the Plan Commission last year after Tendulkar com report was accepted reluctantly and with the caveat of rural poor data only, the Urban BPL poor data is being studied again (aa)

Mobiles with the Poor? How do you Guess, right? there could be all kinds of reasons and many people would have more than one mobile or even  5-6 sims with a single handset.

anyway it is tough to calculate how many mobile nos with how many people, so can that be a criteria?

there is also the article on Urban poverty numbers from 1996-2004-05 by Utsa Patnaik in EPW a couple of months ago

the NCUES figures have widespread support from academics who have also contributed to the series of reports brought out and so they are also meticulous

Should the Planning commission only decide the figure for targets under PDS / ration cards and then say that states have more BPL poor than population.

question of weak and strong states! and where possible there are many schemes giving different benefits like in TN for a whole range of disadvantaged sections then there are more cards than popln by count




swamy's picture

World Bank data from wikipedia

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The World Bank estimates that 456 million Indians (41.6 % of the total Indian population) now live under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day (PPP).

Also - some numbers are there in times of india today.

silkboard's picture

That TOI poverty data report - source

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Here is the source from which TOI have been puting out one news report a week.

Their number is 55%. Read the report to understand the definition. Survey year is 2005, though population data taken is from 2007 (not sure).

State wise data:


Rank State Population Proportion of Poor Number of MPI poor
1 Kerala 35 15.90% 5.6
2 Goa 1.6 21.70% 0.4
3 Punjab 27.1 26.20% 7.1
4 Himachal 6.7 31.00% 2.1
5 Tamil Nadu 68 32.40% 22
6 Uttaranchal 9.6 40.30% 3.9
7 Maharashtra 108.7 40.10% 43.6
8 Haryana 24.1 41.60% 10
9 Gujarat 57.3 41.50% 23.8
10 Jammu And Kashmir 12.2 43.80% 5.4
11 Andhra Pradesh 83.9 44.70% 37.5
12 Karnataka 58.6 46.10% 27
13 Eastern States 44.2 57.60% 25.5
14 West 89.5 58.30% 52.2
15 Orissa 40.7 64.00% 26
16 Rajasthan 65.4 64.20% 41.9
17 Uttar Pradesh 192.6 69.90% 134.7
18 Chhattisgarh 23.9 71.90% 17.2
19 Madhya 70 69.50% 48.6
20 Jharkhand 30.5 77.00% 23.5
21 Bihar 95 81.40% 77.3
  India 1,164.70 55.40% 645 comment guidelines

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