Strides in eradicating poverty
The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report released by the United Nations on Thursday augurs well for India citing upliftment of a staggering 271 million people out of poverty in ten years. Published by the UN Development Programme, the report shows that across 101 countries, as many as 1.3 billion people–equivalent to India's population–are "multi-dimensionally poor". Including a variety of indicators such as poor health, poor quality of work, the threat of violence, education, and standard of living; multidimensional poverty goes beyond income to track poverty and deprivation faced by people in their daily lives. India registered the fastest absolute reduction in MPI value among ten countries with Jharkhand among the poorest regions in the world, improving the fastest. As per the report, significant reductions in deprivations were recorded in several indicators, especially assets, cooking fuel, sanitation, and nutrition–which happen to be the targetted segments for several schemes flagged by the government in rural India. The report asserted, "among the selected countries with a significant reduction in MPI value, India demonstrates the clearest pro-poor pattern at the subnational level: the poorest regions reduced multidimensional poverty the fastest in absolute terms". It lauds Jharkhand, which reduced multidimensional poverty from 74.9 per cent to 46.5 per cent in ten years between 2005-06 and 2015-16 as a prominent example of the poorest region improving the fastest. Following Jharkhand and not far behind were Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland, though Bihar continued to be the poorest state in 2015-16 with more than half of its population living in poverty. In fact, in 2015-16, the four poor states of India, viz. Bihar, Jharkhand, UP and MP constituted more than 196 multidimensionally poor people which is more than half of all multidimensional poor residing in India. MPI aids us in outlining crucial facts as to where poverty plagues the most, who are deprived and how are they deprived. This is an important input for the Indian dispensation to target these states in particular regarding pro-poor schemes and programmes which will focus on bringing them out of poverty. The report highlights India as one of the three nations where poverty reduction in rural areas outpaced those in urban areas which is indicative of pro-poor development. MPI also cuts across religions and castes to identify exactly which ones are reeling under poverty. To this extent, the poorest groups–Muslims and Scheduled Tribes–reduced poverty the most over the ten years, however, they continue to be the poorest in the lot. The report also shows how the least poor states have also registered a reduction in poverty with Kerala–one of the least poor regions in 2006– cutting its MPI by an impressive 92 per cent. MPI will be helpful in forming an indigenous report that can direct policymakers to target the segments and offer insight on how to uplift more and more out of poverty. Several schemes that involved sanitation, hygiene, cooking gas, health et al, have fared well since it is due to those very schemes that we see ourselves faring well in the MPI. Moving forward, as much as it is a pride for us to note a positive shift visible in our country, it should serve as a motivation in a bid to achieve more. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN viz. No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Clean Water and Sanitation, etc., this UN report shows that India is progressing in the right direction. With the current objective of resolving the water crisis that the country is facing, India, step by step, is targeting all those goals in a concerted effort to achieve sustainable development as it eyes a $5 trillion economy by 2025.
MPI is one of the several indicators that put India on a fast-progressing developmental trajectory in line with SDGs. The UNDP report also mapped Indian districts for collecting data on poverty. The mapping cites deep pockets of poverty present but impressive progress as well. District mapping revealed Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh as the poorest district in India having 76.5 percent of poor people which resembles Sierra Leone in West Africa. Data mapping is also beneficial for India since, again, targeting the poorest of the poor would then take precedence. The goal is to not stop till everyone is lifted out of poverty and MPI report is an appreciation of a work-in-progress effort being carried out by the Indian government in the interest of its people.